For lovers of history
The history of Beauvais, capital of Oise and a "City of Art and History", is rooted deep in Antiquity. Founded following the Roman conquest during the 1st century A.D. in the heart of the Bellovaci tribe's territory, the town was originally named Caesaromagus or "Caesar's market".
Surrounded by ramparts in the early 4th century as protection against barbarian invasions, the town that would one day become Beauvais remained an important strategic, political and commercial hub. In the early 11th century, Beauvais's bishop became a count, thereby accumulating worldly and spiritual powers, which he would have to share with the canons and the Commune up until the French Revolution of 1789.
Beauvais prospered during the Middle Ages thanks to its textile industry, and built prestigious monuments symbolic of its wealth. Saint Peter's Cathedral (construction of which began in 1225), the bishop's palace (today housing the rich collections of the Oise Departmental Museum), Saint-Barthélemy Collegiate Church, Saint-Etienne Church, the Saint-Lazare Lazaret and the Boileau Tower all date from this golden age of architectural heritage. In 1664, the Royal Tapestry Workshop was created on the initiative of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Controller-General of Finances under King Louis XIV. This institution reached its peak during the 18th century under the painter Jean-Baptiste Oudry, supplying all of Europe with Beauvais-crafted tapestries. Beauvais therefore adorned itself with a new town hall commensurate with the fame of its art.
While the town rather withdrew from the world during the 19th century, the 20th century represented an unprecedented turning point in its history. In June 1940, Beauvais was bombed by the German aviation, resulting in a gigantic fire that destroyed 80% of the current city centre. An immense reconstruction programme was implemented following the war and would last some thirty years, ultimately increasing the city's surface area by forty-fold.
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The vertiginous Beauvais Cathedral is a masterpiece of Gothic art. It boasts the highest vaulted ceiling, soaring 48 metres. Exceptional in numerous respects, the edifice also stands out for being a "double cathedral". In 1225, when Bishop Milon of Nanteuil decided to rebuild his church, the master masons began dismantling the early cathedral as the work progressed. However, as the Gothic church was never completed due to diverse unexpected events, a portion of the old cathedral dating from the year 1000, Notre-Dame de la Basse-Oeuvre, was preserved, serving to this day as a rare example in Europe of the cathedrals of this early period.
The end of the Hundred Years' War is famous for its epic heroine Joan of Arc. Beauvais also had its own heroine: Jeanne Laisné, known as "Jeanne Hachette". In June 1472, she seized the standard of a Burgundian soldier during Charles the Bold's siege of the city. This act of bravery lent renewed courage to the inhabitants, who succeeded in repelling the enemy. Ever since, the city of Beauvais has celebrated this famous historical event by hosting an annual weekend of festivities.
The city's streets are dotted with brass studs adorned with small salamanders. Emblem of Beauvais, this legendary animal is capable of rising from its ashes, just like Beauvais, several times destroyed by war. The salamander can often be seen on the city's historic monuments, including the doors of the cathedral, where it represents King Francis I who helped finance the construction of this edifice. The animal has also been mistakenly associated with the chameleons adorning the façade of the Gréber House.