Boulogne-sur-Mer et ses environs (département Pas-de-Calais) -- Calais, Bourbourg & Dunkerque

The Morins (name is related to living by the sea) were a tribe gauloises belges. The Morins were mentioned for the first time by Jules César, because he had difficulty controlling them. Boulogne had a small Morin settlement, but originally was named Gesoriacum (ville-basse) or Bononia (ville-haute), and probably also should be identified with the name Portus Itius or Portus Britannicus. By the 4th century it was known to the Romans just as Bononia. For nearly 300 years it served as the major port connecting the rest of the empire to Britain, the Emperor Claudius using this place as a base for his invasion of Britain . It also has been suggested that Julius Ceasar also assembled some type of a fleet here.

In the late third century, the prefect Carausius, commander of the fleet at Gesoriacum allied with the Franks and left the empire. He took control of Britain (many coins were minted in Londonium with his likeness) and northern Gaul. The new Tetrarch Constantius fails to recapture Gesoriacum (294), and it will take two years of hard fighting to eliminate the rest of the troops in Gaul who revolted and prepare for an invasion of Britain. Two fleets leave here, on returns due to weather, the other (under Asclepiodotus) is successful. Boulogne remained famous in the Middle Ages for its masonry lighthouse located on the high bluff just north of the city. The Romans built this great tower during the reign of Caligula (according to Suetonius).

Port de pêche français, Boulogne-sur-Mer throughout history remained a primary destination for those from Britain or a departure point, along with Calais and Dunkerque for those with England on their mind (less than 30 miles from the countryside of Kent). Boulogne occupies the summit and slopes of a ridge of hills skirting the right bank of the river Liane. The town consists of two parts, the Haute Ville (corresponding with oldest (Roman) fortified portion) and the Basse Ville. Perhaps its most famous structure is the belltower, part of which dates from the 13th century and is one of many varied towers in the region. Then there is the 13th century château. In August 1840, Prince Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (later Emperor Napoléon III) secretely landed from England near Boulogne. The soon to be emperor was confined at this Haute Ville château after this abortive insurrection. General San Martin, one of the liberators of Argentina (1816), Chile (1817), and Peru (1821), died in exile in Boulogne in 1850 in the Casa San Martin (now a museum). see also As an aside, Boulogne-Sur-Mer is also a town in the Buenos Aires Province of Argentina.

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame was built on a hill upon the site of the older structure destroyed in the Revolution. An extensive crypt still remains (a few portions come the earliest 7th century church). Today's Cathedral has a dome that is the most massive in Europe, aside from St. Peter's Basilique in Rome. Some say it was inspired by Cristopher Wren's masterpiece in London town.

Among the objects of most tourist interest in the city, is the Colonne de la Grande Armée. It honors Napoléon I, on occasion of his proposed invasion of England from Boulogne. The pillar, which is of the Doric style 60 meters tall, is topped with a statue of the Napoléon, crafted by A. S. Bosio. Although begun in 1804, the monument was not completed until 1841. On the edge of a cliff east of the port remain some rough brick foundations of an olde structure today called Tour d'Ordre, said to be the ruins of the lighthouse first built by Caligula at the time of his intended invasion of Britain. Its counterpart is at Dover, built when the Romans were in Britain.

The town was destroyed by the Viking Normans in 882, but restored by 912. Matilda of Boulogne (1105-1152) was acountess of Boulogne and also Queen of England. Stephen of Blois, who became King of England married Mahaut, daughter and heiress of Eustace, a Count of Boulogne. Their daughter Mary in turn married Matthew of Alsace, and her daughter Ida married Renaud of Dammartin. Of this last marriage was issue Mahaut, countess of Boulogne, wife of Philip Hurepel, a son of French King Philip Augustus. Then life gets really complicated with mariages and seiges In 1550, The Peace of Boulogne ended a war of England with Scotland and France. France bought back Boulogne for 400,000 crowns, in whose hands it has remained, except for the occasional forray by the Germans. Many people in Boulogne speak French with an accent influenced by the olde Picard tongue.

In about 633, while Saint Omer was a bishop, legend tells of a mysterious boat carrying a luminous statue of the Virgin Mary, which appeared in the estuary of the river Liane at Boulogne, without oars, sails or crew !!! Townsfolk carried the image to the church on the hill. As one may expect, miracles soon were attributed to its presence. The church and Notre Dame became a well-known pilgrimage. Among the crypt's treasures today are a pile of round stones, cannon balls from when Henry VIII besieged Boulogne in 1544. Other Cathedrals to visit in the area: Arras - adjoining the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille - the newest in France, Saint-Omer (the Saint-Omer Cathedral was one of the few major gothic churches to survive the Revolution) and Therouanne - (archæological ruins). The ruins of Saint Bertin's Abbey at Saint-Omer (near Calais) displays the richness of another victim of the Revolution, along with those of the abbey at Saint-Amand-les-Eaux.®ion=Nord-Pas-de-Calais&s=6

> DUNKERQUE: A one-time competitor in the cross-Channel passenger business, Calais has won the race, primarily because of the Channel Tunnel (when it's not on fire). Yet, Dunkerque remains France's third largest port as well as a massive industrial center (petrochemicals). As one might expect, little is left that has not been restored after the damage from World War II. In May 1940 during the battle of France, the British Expeditionary Force in France to aid the French, were cut off from the rest of the French Army by a German advance south of the troops. Encircled by the enemy the force retreated to an area around the port of Dunkirk. The city again was in harms way (1944-45) after the Normandy landings. The Second Canadian Division attempted to liberate the city in September, as Allied forces surged northeast. During the German occupation, Dunkirk was largely destroyed by Allied bombs as the Nazis refused to relinquish control of the city. Fortress Dunkerque, until May 9, 1945, remained in German hands.Place d'Armes 
Tour Guet et Belffroi

CALAIS: The French still refer to it as the most English town in France, an influence that began after the Battle of Crécy in 1346, when Edward III seized it for use as a beachhead in the Hundred Years War. It remained in English hands until 1558, when its loss caused Queen Mary (Tudor) to lament: When I am dead and opened, you shall find Calais lying in my heart. The grim Tour du Guet, on place d'Armes, is the only medieval building in Calais-Nord to have survived wartime bombardment. From the Tour, rue de la Paix leads to the church of Notre-Dame, where Charles de Gaulle married a young local, Yvonne Vendroux in 1921. For a full record of Calais' wartime travails you can consult the fascinating Musée de la Deuxième Guerre Mondiale (Calais-Sud). Situé dans le parc Saint Pierre, le Musée de la Guerre servait jadis de poste de commandement de la Marine de Guerre pour le Port de Calais et de centre de transmission pour toute la région Nord-Ouest de la France. see also

The Christmas Eve issue (2008) of The Wall Street Journal had an article in the last section about the chapel at the Église St-Jean-Baptiste pictured to the left below. It begins by saying that Bourbourg is a town typical of the region, which until now was not alone a reason to get off the road from Calais to Dunkerque to visit. The attraction featured involved the intersection of sculpture and architecture, a merger of beauty and functionality, the work of Anthony Caro. Visit the region before Feb. 22 and it's possible to see an excellently chosen survey of Mr. Caro's work from the 1960s to the 1990s, divided among the museums of Calais, Gravelines and Dunkerque.

In the reign of the French King Clovis, the annual summer-solstice pagan event became a religious celebration of the birth of Saint John the Baptist, who is known as the Precursor of Christ, the light of the world – thus the link with the solstice and the bonfires. The festival of Saint-Jean-Baptiste had particular importance for France. The King of France would light the bonfire in the nights of June 23 and 24 in Paris. Once in America, those of French heritage continued to celebrate, by then in a very pious, religious festival with processions, such as in the streets of Quebec City. St-Jean Baptiste became the patron saint of French Canadians as a result of the centuries of recognition and influence from the time of early colonization (1615).

Bourbourg, dont le nom signifie « castel des marais » (du flamand Brouckbourg), était depuis le Haut Moyen-âge le siège d’une châtellenie. Travaux de restauration du choeur de l’église Saint-Jean-Baptiste (pdf-1.42mb)

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Pictures by Barford Sculptures

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