Last modified: 2006-12-23 by ivan sache
Keywords: nord | bailleul | belle | cross (vair) |
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Flag of Bailleul - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 7 November 2005
The municipality of Bailleul (14,136 inhabitants in 1999; 4,342 ha) is
located 15 km north-west of Lille and 10 km south-west of Ieper. It is a border city who kept its traditional relations with the Belgian cities of Ieper, Izegem and Poperinge (Iseghem and Poperinghe according
to the ancient Flemish written forms).
Bailleul is the capital city of the region of Mounts of Flanders. These mounts are indeed a series of hillocks spreading across the border with Belgium, from west to east: Mont Cassel (176 m a.s.l., the highest of the Mounts of Flanders, located near the small city of Cassel and a strategic place in the Quatre Jours de Dunkerque cyclist race), Mont des Récollets (in Dutch, Wouwenberg; 159 m, named after a Récollet convent set up there from 1615 to 1870), Monts des Cats (164 m, topped by the Trappist abbey Sainte-Marie-du-Mont), Mont Noir (159 m, straight north from Bailleul, the "black mount" because it is covered with woods, topped by the chapel Notre-Dame de Lourdes built in 1876 and a former customs post), Mont Rouge (143 m) and Mont Kemmel (159 m). The latter two mounts are located in Belgium.
Bailleul was a small, industrial town (textile and food industries)
before its nearly complete destruction during the First World War
(April 1918). The city was awarded the War Cross and was rebuilt in
brick according to the traditional Flemish style. The only significant
remains of the ancient town are the Gothic hall (XIIIth century) on
which the belfrey was rebuilt after the war, and the Présidial de
Flandres, built in 1776. After the Treaty of Utrecht, a justice court
was located there for la Flandre française du côté de la mer (French
Flanders near the sea).
In the XVII-XIXth century, Bailleul was famous for its bobbin lace; the city still has a lace museum and school (Maison de la Dentelle). The carnival of Bailleul, taking place every year in February, features the giant Gargantua.
Bailleul and the Monts of Flanders are the scenes of several works by
the writer Marguerite Yourcenar (1903-1987). Born Marguerite Cleewerck
de Crayencour in Brussels, she spent all her summer vacations until
1913 with her father in the castle of Mont-Noir, near Bailleul. She
traveled a lot in Europe (Greece, Italy, Central Europe) and published
her first novel, Alexis ou le traité du vain combat in 1929, a few
months after the death of her father. In 1938, she met Grace Frick and
settled in the USA, where she taught French and art history; she took
the American nationality in 1948 and bought with Grace the domain of
"Petite Plaisance" in Northest Harbor, on the coast of Maine. The
publication of Mémoires d'Hadrien in 1951 earned her international
fame, as did her later works, such as L'œuvre au noir (1968, Femina
Prize). Marguerite Yourcenar was elected at the Royal Academy of
Belgium in 1970 and started a kind of personal investigation on her
ancestors, whose result was a series of three books called Le
labyrinthe du monde (Souvenirs pieux, 1974; Archives du Nord,
1977; Quoi ? L'Eternité, unfinished, 1988). On 6 March 1980, she was
the first woman elected at the French Academy. Since she was a woman, a
lesbian and an American citizen, her election caused a huge fuss she
had not expected: Yourcenar was indeed very discrete and hardly showed
up in the medias. Some said that she could not refuse her election,
whose campaign had been initiated without her consent. The election was
a very ironic and shameful deal, because she was elected at the Academy
along with Michel Droit, an ultra-conservator journalist known for his
servile allegiance to the political power rather than for his writing
skills. Since then, a few more women have been elected at the Academy,
the last one being the Algerian novelist and movie maker Assia Djebar.
In 1977, Louis Sonneville, an inhabitant of the village of Saint-Jans-Cappel, located close to the former Crayencour family house of Mont-Noir, sent to Marguerite Yourcenar a few bulbs of hyacinth and a handful of soil from Mont Noir. A great friendship started and a museum dedicated to Marguerite Yourcenar was opened in 1985 near the church of Saint-Jans-Cappel. The writer visited the museum in 1986. The General Council of the department of Nord bought a part of the Mont Noir and made of it the Marguerite Yourcenar Departmental Park.
Ivan Sache, 7 November 2005
The flag of Bailleul, as hoisted on the town hall of the twin
city of Izegem, is red with a cross vair. It is a banner of the
municipal arms (GASO), de gueules à la croix de vair (gules a cross vair).
The arms are based on those of the lords of Bailleul, who bore a bend gules. Red is said to recall the production of red cloth in the city. A seal dated 1237 shows municipal arms with a cross vair.
Ivan Sache, 7 November 2005