the IXth century, Bergues was created on a promontory - le
Groenberg 22 metres high - bordering marshy ground. In 882 A.D. it was
fortified against the Normans by Badouin the Bald, count of Flanders, to
whom were entrusted in 900 A.D., the relics of
St. Winoc. He came to carry the Word
to the region at the end of the VIIth century.
In 1022, it was endowed
with an abbey, gifted by ‘Baudouin with the Fine Beard’. Thereafter, it set
about the daunting task of clawing back the marshy soil and establishing
itself in the way of Flemish towns as a centre of linen manufacture.
the XIth century the town had its own mint, while in the XIIIth
century Bergues became part of the league of commercial towns, known as the
"Hanse". With the great activity of its weaving looms, this enterprise
Headquarters of an
important "châtellenie" comprising a château and surrounding land, Bergues
obtained a charter or "keure" from the Countess Jeanne in 1240. It was she
who erected its first belfry as a symbol of their
liberty. The town now had its magistrates court, its "halle" (large covered
market place), its seal and its armorial bearings - The Lion of Flanders.
Thereafter Bergues became one of the more important towns in the west of
Flanders. History shows that the town was ravaged by fire seven times,
notably in 1383 and 1558 when, on both occasions it was razed to the ground.
Wars raged incessantly around its sturdy walls.
Captured in 1297 by
Robert d’Artois, then surrendered to Flanders, occupied by the English, it
was besieged, taken and burned down by the French in 1383. Subsequently it
was besieged several more times, the last being in 1940 in Operation
Dynamo. Annexed to France by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1668, the
town’s defensive walls were strengthened by Vauban.
Following the sad episode of the revolution which saw the destruction of
the powerful Abbey of St. Winoc and its
associated convents, Lamartine,
the poet and politician made his mark on the town when he was elected to
office in 1833.
Attacked with huge torpedo-shaped bombs in 1915,
80% of Bergues was ruined in the 1940-45 war,
losing in particular its superb belfry which was dynamited by the Germans.
Today, Bergues is a welcoming place, where one can enjoy ‘The Good Life’.
Sensitive restoration has enabled the little town to retain its Flemish
character while its ramparts, built in the past
to repel the enemy, serve now to enclose "The other Bruges in Flanders".