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Valenciennes

VALENCIENNES, a town of northern France in the department of Nord on the Scheldt, at its confluence with the Rhonelle, 30 m. S.E. of Lille by rail. Pop. (1906), town, 25,977; commune, 31,759. The Scheldt here divides into two branches, one of which flows through the town, while the other, canalized and forming a port, skirts it on the west. Of the fortifications, dismantled in 1892, and replaced by boulevards, the Tour de la Dodenne (13th and isth centuries) and the citadel (i?th century) are the chief remains. Valenciennes is the centre of a rich coalfield, to which Anzin (q.v.), an industrial town a little over a mile to the north-west, has given its name. To this fact is due the existence of the important foundries, forges, rolling-mills, wire-works and machine shops which line the bank of the Scheldt. There is also an extensive beetroot cultivation, with attendant sugar-works and distilleries, and glass, starch, chemicals and soap are produced. Hosiery, trimmings and handkerchiefs are manufactured and cotton weaving and printing are carried on, though little of the famous lace is now made. Other industries are brewing and malting. There are a sub-prefecture, courts of first instance and of commerce, a chamber of commerce, a board of trade arbitration, and a branch of the Bank of France, a lycee, a school of music and a school of fine art (founded in 1782). The town hall is a fine building of the early 17th century, but its facade was rebuilt in 1867 and 1868. The museum contains galleries of painting and sculpture, with works by Antoine, Louis and Francois Watteau, Carpeaux, all of whom were natives of the town, and by Rubens and other Flemish artists. Opposite the museum there is a monument commemorating the defence of the town in 1793. The principal church is that of Notre-Dame du Cordon, a fine modern building in the Gothic style surmounted by a tower 272 ft. in height. The church of St Gery preserves a few pillars dating from the 13th century. Near it stands the statue of Antoine Watteau, and there is also a statue of Jean Froissart, born at Valenciennes.

Valenciennes is said to owe its name and foundation to one of the three Roman emperors named Valentinian. In the middle ages it was the seat of a countship which in the 11th century was united to that of Hainaut. In the 16th century Valenciennes became the stronghold of Protestantism in Hainaut, but was conquered by the Spaniards, who committed all sorts of excesses. In 1656 the Spaniards under Conde made a successful defence against the French under Turenne; but in 1677 Louis XIV. took the town after an eight days' siege, and Vauban constructed the citadel. Valenciennes, which then became the capital of Hainaut, has since always belonged to France. In 1793, after forty-three days' bombardment, the garrison, reduced to 3000 men, surrendered to the allied forces numbering some 140,000 or 150,000 men, with 400 cannon. In 1815 it defended itself successfully.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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