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Armoiries de Bergues In 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.

In 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 thrived.

 

Abbey of St Winoc
The belfry in 1939 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".

Translation E.L. Chelmsford French Circle, U.K.

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Mise à jour : jeudi 07 août 2008


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