Soissons in Picardie (Aisne département), France   

As one of the most ancient towns of France, Soissons is probably the ancient capital of the Suessiones, a tribe of the Belgæ peoples of north-eastern Gaul that lost their land to Roman conquest in 57BC. Cæsar names their capital, Noviodunum, in his book about the Gallic Wars, derived from the celtic term for a new fort situated on a hill. Its other Latin name: Augusta Suessionum. The site again fell to the Frankish King Clovis I in the Battle of Soissons, one of four so named for the town. Cæsar's conquest was not one of these, because the locals surrendered rather than face a much greater force.

The territory of Soissons and Laon played an important political part under the Merovingian dynasty, and it became a major medieval city before falling into near oblivion for centuries. In 751, Pepin the Short, having ousted the last of the Merovingian Rois, is anointed the King of the Franks in Soissons by Saint Boniface, Archbishop of Mainz (Mayence). The last Comte de Soissons, Eugène-Jean-François de Savoie-Carignan, died heirless at the age of 20 in 1734. In that 1000 years the city became a great artistic and commerce center (12th and 13th centuries), then declined as it passed through numerous noble families.

Expandable views of pages of the early ninth-century Gospels of Saint-Médard of Soissons On ne sait pas grand'chose de cet Evangéliaire, qui tire son nom de l'abbaye Saint-Médard de Soissons, à qui Louis le Pieux, fils de Charlemagne, et sa femme Judith, l'offrirent en 827. Il serait le dernier Evangile produit par la Cœur de Charlemagne. Le manuscrit mesure 36,2 x 26.7 cm environ et proviendrait de Reims ou d'Hautvillers, où il aurait été réalisé vers 805. Il est conservé la Bibliothèque Nationale de France à Paris, sous le code Ms lat 8850. Tradition makes Saints Sixtus and Sinicius the earliest apostles to Soissons, as direct envoys of Saint Peter. Saints Crispin and Crispinian were martyred (286) at Soissons for preaching Christianity to the Gauls. In addition, within the present Diocese of Soissons was the town, Augusta Vermanduorum, where Saint-Quentin died under Diocletian terror. Saint Lupus of Soissons (540) has a Feastday on October 19th. He was the onetime Bishop of Soissons, related to a relative of Saint Remigius of Reims. Abbaye St-Médard à Soissons, founded in 557 by Clotaire I to receive the body of St. Médard, was considered the chief Benedictine Abbey in France. Over the course of time it collected many other relics from the sanctified servants of the church. In this abbey, Louis the Pious, imprisoned in 833, and underwent his public penance there. On August 27, 841, in the presence of Charles the Bald, seventy-two prelates consecrated a new building. Charles personally bore the body of St. Médard into the new basilica. This strucure was pulled down but rebuilt. Pope Innocent II reconsecrated it in 1131. Only the crypt of Saint Médard Abbey has survived the furies of the revolutionaries.

The late 12th century Cathédrale Saint-Gervais et Saint-Protais (1197-1479), as well as Abbaye Saint Jean des Vignes (only a ruin now) remain two of its most important historical structures. Saint Léger Abbey was founded 1139, and rebuilt after 1200.   It now houses the municipal museum. In contrast to the area around the cathedral, Place Saint Pierre retains a little of the ambience of one of the largest nunneries in Northern Gaul, the Abbey of Our Lady of Soissons. The abbey included three churches: Saint-Pierre (pictured right), which looks like a converted Roman-era structure, Sainte-Geneviève (which has disappeared due to the Revolution) and Notre Dame, of which today only remain two windows of the Romanesque style of very high quality and some ruins. The Benedictine Abbaye Notre Dame de Soissons was founded in 660AD

The Vase of Soissons was a semi-legendary sacred vessel that was protected in a church at Soissons during the end of the Western Roman Empire (par Gregory of Tours). Clovis' troops took the vessel at a time when he was a pagan (first Battle of Soissons) and it was destroyed, although legend says he tried to save it.

The original British Expeditionary Force crossed the Aisne in August 1914 a few kilometres west of Soissons, and re-crossed it in September a few kilometres east. For the next three and a half years, this part of the front was held by French forces. The city remained within the range of German artillery. At the end of April 1918, five divisions of British Commonwealth forces (IX Corps) were posted to the French 6th Army in this sector to rest and refit, following the German offensives on the Somme and Lys. Here, at the end of May, these troops found themselves facing an overwhelming German attack. Despite fierce opposition, the Germans pushed the Allies back across the Aisne to the Marne. The Soissons Memorial commemorates almost 4,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom forces who died during the Battles of the Aisne and the Marne in 1918, and who have no known grave. By August 17th the tide has turned and the German Empire now was headed for defeat (New York Times article).

The town of Soissons stands on the left bank of the River Aisne (descending), approximately 100 kilometres north-east of Paris (Isle-de-France), in easy reach by car from the airport rentals at Charles Gaulle. Trains from Paris Nord take 1 hour to 1h20min, while those from Laon make the journey in about half an hour. Trains from Reims require a change at Laon. Those from Beauvais must transit through Paris. The bean, Le Haricot de Soissons, is the largest French white bean available while it also packs the most flavor. from Lucy's Kitchen  More Pictures HERE and HERE

Senlis is another town of Picardie in the Oise département. It has a Roman history, too.

Map showing Soissons, Compiègne, Senlis and Paris
Metz -- Belfort -- Troyes -- Colmar -- Mulhouse -- Poitiers -- le Saint-Suaire -- Lörrach -- Compiègne -- Beauvais -- Lens, Arras & Cambrai -- Boulogne-sur-Mer, Dunkerque, Calais & Lille -- Amiens, Albert and Abbeville -- Reims -- Trier / Trèves -- Aachen / Aix-la-Chapelle -- Mainz / Mayence -- Senlis -- Saint-Quentin and Laon

Celtic/Frank History -- Germaniæ Historicæ -- Anglo Saxons

Reformation from a French-Protestant point of view

Avignon -- Narbonne -- Carcassonne -- Toulouse -- A look at Lanuguedoc's Fab Four -- Montpellier -- Nimes -- Arles -- Orange -- Castres & Castries

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