Thursday, November 8, 2012

Arras (Pas-de Calais), France

Arras, the capital of Artois, is renowed for its tapestries of the late Middle Ages. The town is very busy and there is a lot to see in the centre the flemish style houses and shops.

Arras became one of the richest towns in medieval Europe thanks to its dynamic merchants and its thriving international markets, held on its huge squares. Among the luxuries produced in town were fine tapestries, exported across Europe – one even features as a celebrated, fatal stage prop in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Central Arras looks so much the historic part, so well restored, that it is hard to imagine the war damage from which it suffered. The town spent its accumulated wealth on its 16th century Gothic town hall - Hôtel de Ville (rebuilt in a slightly less grandiose style after the war) and on adorning its two squares, the Grand' Place and the Place des Heros, with the dignified Flemish gabled houses. Beneath it all run the extensive cellars which sheltered the citizenry during the devastating bombardments of World War I. Many of the town’s 16th century houses that surrounded the squares were destroyed.


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