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Lille (Municipality, Nord, France)


Last modified: 2022-02-27 by ivan sache
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Flag of Lille - Image by Ivan Sache, 2 July 2014

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Presentation of Lille

The municipality of Lille (in Dutch, Rijsel; 227,533 inhabitants in 2011, therefore the 10th most populous French municipality; 3,951 ha; tourist office website) is the traditional capital of northern France and of French Flanders, and the official capital of Region Nord-Pas-de-Calais. Located close to the border with Belgium, Lille is part of Eurométrople / Eurometropool Liile-Kortrijk-Tournai, a European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation established on 28 January 2008.
Lille is made of the boroughs of Bois Blancs, Centre, Faubourg de Béthune, Fives, Lille-Sud, Moulins, Saint-Maurice Pellevoisin, Vauban-Esquermes, Vieux-Lille and Wazemmes, and of the two former municipalities of Hellemmes (in Dutch, Hellem; 17,601 inh.; 334 ha), incorporated in 1977, and Lomme (in Dutch, Olm; 27,607 inh.; 931 ha), incorporated in 2000.

Lille was allegedly founded in the 7th century by Lydéric. In 620, prince Salvaert was expelled from Burgundy by a people's uprising; on his way to England, he was killed in an ambush set up by the rascal Phynaert in the Ruthless Wood. Phynaert's den was a castle built on the bank of river Deûle. Princess Ermengaert, the only survivor, fell asleep under a willow located near a fountain; the Blessed Virgin appeared to her, predicting she would give birth to a son able to take revenge. The child, Lydéric, was raised by an hermit and fed by a doe, while Ermengaert was jailed by Phynaert. Twenty years later, Lydéric defeated Phynaert in a single combat arbitrated by the king of France. Ermengaert was released while Lydéric was granted the title of first Prince of Flanders and Phynaert's castle, which would be the cradle of the town of Lille. Lydéric and Phynaert are now the two emblematic giants of Lille.

Lille was mentioned for the first time in a charter signed in 1066 by Baldwin V, Count of Flanders (1035-1067). The town is named Isla, which means "an island", from Latin, insula. The town was indeed established in a marshy meander of river Deûle; in spite of being a secondary river with limited flow, the Deûle was a main axis of communication between the Flemish towns and the wealthy fairs of Champagne. Accordingly, Lille emerged as a river port where the ships had to be unloaded and goods transported on land to the next navigable section of the river.
In the Middle Ages, Lille developed around the market square (today, Grand Place) and the castrum (toady, Vieux-Lille). The castrum, a citadel protected by a belt of waterways, included the old castle and the manor of the Count of Flanders. The power of the Counts of Flanders was quickly challenged by the Kings of France; in 1214, Count Ferdinand (1212-1233) was captured during the battle of Bouvines, so that Countess Joan (1205-1244) had to rule the county on his name. She established in Lille and in the surrounding towns several religious institutes, charities and hospitals, which yielded her the nickname of "Good Countess Joan".
Margaret of Dampierre, the last Countess of Flanders (1384-1405), married in 1369 Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (1363-1404); accordingly, Lille would belong to the Duchy of Burgundy until the end of the 15th century. The dukes made of Lille one of the capitals of their wealthy state, at par with Dijon and Brussels. Several official events were organized in Lille such as two Chapters of the Order of the Golden Fleece (1431 and 1436) and the famous Feast of the Pheasant (17 February 1454). To accommodate a court that counted up to 1,200 members, Duke Philip the Good (1419-1467) built in 1453 the big Rihour Manor (today, the Lille Tourist's Office).
In 1477, Duchess Mary of Burgundy (1477-1482), the daughter of the last Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold (1467-1477), married Maximilian of Austria, the son of Emperor Frederick III (1452-1493). Incorporated to the Habsburg domain, Lille belonged to the Spanish Low Countries from 1500 to 1667. in 1598, King of Spain, Philip II (1556-1598), awarded the Low Countries to his daughter Isabella Clara Eugenia. This event initiated Lille's Gilded Age. The town was embellished and significantly increased from 1605 to 1606 and 1618 to 1621.

Lille was seized by Louis XIV in 1667, during the War of Devolution. Vauban built from 1667 to 1670 the "Queen of the Citadels", aimed at protecting the northern border of the kingdom. The town was partly rebuilt in French classical style; the Royal borough was set up in 1670 while the old town was revamped. Conquered by the Dutch during the War of the Spanish Succession, Lille was eventually incorporated to the Kingdom of France by the Treaty of Utrecht, signed in 1713.
In the 19th century, Lille became an industrial town, where metallurgical, chemical, and, mostly, textile (cotton and flax) industry thrived. The area of the municipal territory increased twofold and its population increased threefold in 1858 with the incorporation of the former municipalities of Wazemmes, Esquermes, Moulins and Fives.
Hit by the industrial crisis in the 1970s, Lille reverted to its medieval commercial activity, boosted by the inauguration of the Paris- Lille TGV line (1993), the set up of the Euralille business borough, and the establishment of the Eurostar railway line (1994).

Gustave Delory (1857-1925), Representative of the department of Nord (1902-1925), was elected Mayor of Lille in 1896, being one of the first Socialist mayors in France. Defeated in 1904, he was elected again Mayor in 1919. He was succeeded in 1925 by Roger Salengro (1890-1936), Representative of Nord (1928-1936), who was re-elected Mayor in 1929 and 1935. Appointed Minister of the Interior on 4 June 1936 in Léon Blum's first government of the Popular Front, Salengro announced the signature of the Matignon Agreements (7 June 1936) and presented the law dissolving the far-right leagues (18 June 1936). Defamed by the far-right press, especially the weekly Gringoire, Salengro committed suicide on 18 November 1936.
Pierre Mauroy (1928-2013), Mayor of Lille from 1973 to 2001, was the first Prime Minister of François Mitterrand (1981-1984) and presided the Socialist International from 1992 to 1999. He was succeeded in Lille by Martine Aubry (b. 1950), who was re-elected in 2008 and 2014. M. Aubry was Minister of Work in 1991-1993 and 1997-2000. She pushed the controversial law adopting the 35-hour working week, adopted in February 2000.

The Braderie de Lille (official website) is organized every year in early September, from Saturday, 14:00, to Sunday, 23:00. The event is the biggest flea-market un Europe, attracting between one and two millions visitors. The Lille flea-market was mentioned for the first time in 1127, when servants were allowed to sell once a year their master's worn-out clothes. The market was regulated in 1523, starting on 30 August and lasting 7 days. Transformed into a mass-market in the 1950s, the Braderie recovered its original spirit in the 1970s.

Ivan Sache, 2 July 2014

Flag of Lille

The flag currently hoisted in front of the Town Hall of Lille (photo) is made of the municipal logo, in its version with a white background.
The municipal logo, designed by the graphèmes brand design agency for a cost of 42,000 euro, was unveiled on 24 May 2013 (Grand Lille TV). It exists into two counter-coloured versions (images):
- white background, "ville de" in gray, "lille" and the fleur-de-lis in red;
- red background, "ville de lille" and the fleur-de-lis in white.

According to the graphèmes agency (portfoloio), the logo of the town of Lille had not been changed for the last 30 years; therefore, it was necessary to upgrade the town's identity and to connect it with today's reality.
The name of the town is put forward to symbolize the town's affirmation and the respect of the institution.
Red is the heraldic colour of Lille. The fleur-de-lis has been preserved and modernized to highlight the temporal connection with history.
The typography symbolizes a moving town, lively and dynamic. This modern typography is a reference to the one used for the European Capital of Culture, Lille 2004.

The final version of the logo, and therefore, the flag, slightly differs from the agency's original proposal. The fleur-de-lis and "ville de" are placed on the left of "lille", horizontally centered.

Ivan Sache, 2 July 2014

Former flags of Lille

Flag of Lille, 1987-2013


Flag of Lille, 1987-2013 - Image by Ivan Sarajčić, 18 October 2005

The flag in previous use (photo, photo, photo, photo), adopted in 1987, was white with the red stylized fleur-de-lis, taken from the previous municipal logo.
This flag was still used on 10 June 2013, during the mourning of former Mayor Pierre Mauroy (photo, photo).

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 2 July 2014

Flag of Lille, 1945-1987


Flag of Lille, 1945-1987 - Image by Ivan Pascal Vagnat, 2 July 2014

The flag of Lille used from the end of the Second World War to 1987 was red with a white fleur-de-lis, therefore a rectangular banner of the municipal arms.

Pascal Vagnat, 2 July 2014

Flag of Lille, 1926-1939


Flag of Lille, 1926-1939 - Image by Ivan Pascal Vagnat, 2 July 2014

The first modern flag of Lille was a square banner of the municipal arms, therefore red with a white fleur-de-lis, with a red and white fringe. The flag, designed by Émile Théodore, Curator of the Museum of Art, was inaugurated in 1926, as reported by Le Grand Écho, 14 July 1926.

Pascal Vagnat, 2 July 2014

Coat of arms of Lille

The arms of Lille are "Gules a fleur-de-lis argent".
The arms are shown on a medallion decorating the Porte de Paris (photo), a triumphal arch erected from 1685 to 1692 by the architect Simon Vollant to commemorate the incorporation of Lille to the Kingdom of France - which is represented by the arms "Azure three fleurs-de-lis or" shown on the other decorative medallion (photo).

The oldest known representation of the arms of Lille is a seal used to stamp a charter dated 1199 (image). The fleur-de-lis, represented with five pieces (petals and leaves) is quite similar to the Florentine giglio. The seal appended to a charter signed in 1235 by Countess Joan shows the fleur-de-lis with three pieces; the municipal seal ("SIGILL SCABINORVM ILLIETIVM"), also dated 1235 shows the same fleur- de-lis accosted dexter by a lion. On the municipal seal dated 1434, the fleur-de-lis is flanked by two lions affronty and a much smaller fleur-de-lis placed in chief (image). Municipal seals featuring the fleur-de-lis and the lions would be used until the 18th century.
The standing-alone fleur-de-lis already appeared on coins in the 13th-14th centuries. The fleur-de-lis is the single charge of the shield of arms shown on the Coutumes de Lille, a book printed in 1533, on the plan of Lille designed by Guichardin around 1580, and on the map of the domains of Lille, Douai and Orchies released at the end of the 16th century.
The municipal assembly decided on 11 May 1697 to have the arms of the town registered on the Armorial Général and to pay the required fee, 100 French pounds. The arms "Gules a fleur-de-lis argent" were officially granted on 24 January 1698 by an Ordinance of the Commissioners General of the Council of Arms, signed by d'Hozier [Brun-Lavainne, Armes de Lille, L'Artiste, No. 35, 2 February 1851).

All feudal symbols, arms included, were forbidden in June 1790. When visiting Lille, Emperor Napoléon I decided to re-establish the arms. Since the old fleur-de-lis would convey Royalist feelings, brand new arms were granted by a Decree signed on 6 June 1811: "Per fess, 1. Azure a flag argent in bend sinister orled or, 2. Gules a fortified and bombed town argent, a chief of the Good Towns of the Empire, that is Gules three bees or". The scene represents the siege of Lille by the Austrians in 1792, highlighting the Porte de Paris.
The traditional arms of Lille, restored in 1816, were suppressed again in 1830. During the Second Empire, the Mayor re-established the arms granted by Napoléon I; these arms can still be seen on some buildings of the time (photo).
The Third Republic maintained the arms of Lille, replacing the Imperial bees by three stars (photo).

When the re-establishment of the medieval arms was discussed, the fleurs-de-lis were called "iris", once again to prevent any monarchist suspicion. In 1882, the opposition group at the Municipal Council tabled a bill proposing the adoption of "Gules an iris flower argent" as the municipal arms. The bill was defeated but the press started to popularize the "iris flower". As an example, the commemorative festival organized in Lille in 1892, in the presence of President of the Republic, Sadi Carnot, was the opportunity to highlight the arms of the town. Max Deulard (Chronique des Fastes de Lille, La Revue du Nord, 236-252, 1892) mentions "the iris flower, which is part of the arms of Lille". Armand Vallette (M. Carnot aux fêtes de Lille, Le Gaulois, No. 3,611, 10 October 1892) writes "everywhere is seen the iris flower, the sumptuous flower featured on the arms of Lille".
The fleur-de-lis appeared as a main decorative element (murals and spires) of the Museum of Art, inaugurated in 1892, and of the buildings subsequently designed in Art Nouveau style (photo, photo, photo, photo).
The restoration of the medieval arms was pushed again in 1900, when President of the Republic Émile Loubet granted the Légion d'Honneur to the town of Lille. The issue re-emerged in a session of the Municipal Council held in 1901; it was recalled that the Treaty of Pérone, signed in 1190, bore the arms of Lille, still presented as "an iris flower argent". Deputy-Mayor Charles Debierre insisted that the flowers were indeed fleurs-de-lis, without any particular connection with the Capetian monarchy, since Lille then belonged to the County of Flanders.
The Decree of 13 March 1902 prescribed the arms of Lille as "Gules a fleur-de-lis argent the Cross of the Légion d'Honneur in dexter chief", contradicting the heraldic use that recommends to append the decorations to the shield. The arms shown in 1909 by Lauridan (Armorial des communes du département du Nord) have the fleur-de-lis flory, therefore similar to the Florentine giglio. After the First World War, the Cross of War and the Collar of the Order of the Tower and Sword (Portugal) were added to the shield.

Mayor Roger Salengro commissioned in 1924 Émile Théodore, Curator of the Museum of Art, to establish the "genuine" arms of Lille. The arms eventually adopted in 1926 feature a fleur-de-lis slightly different from the 1698 grant and closer to the medieval seals - and to the Royal fleur-de-lis; all the decorations were moved out of the shield. An official drawing of the arms was released on 1 March 1948 by the municipal services, after Théodore's study (image).
The three decorations appended to the shield are:
- the Légion d'Honneur, awarded by a Decree of 9 October 1900, for "the behaviour of the population during the 1792 siege";
- the French Cross of War, awarded by an Order of 19 April 1920, for "the behaviour during the 1914-1918 War";
- the French Cross of War 1939-1945, awarded by an Order of 11 November 1948.
The shield is surrounded by the Collar of the Portuguese Order of the Tower and Sword, awarded on 17 October 1920, for "the support granted to the Portuguese soldiers during the 1914-1918 War".

The origin of the arms of Lille is unknown. A local tradition claims that the arms are canting, a lily being called in Picard fleur de lille. The oldest representation of a fleur-de-lis in Flanders is found on coins minted in the very beginning of the 12th century by the St. Winnoc abbey at Bergues.
Eugène Woillez (Iconographie des plantes aroîdes figurées au Moyen Âge en Picardie, Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de Picardie, 9, 1848) claimed that the fleur-de-lis was derived from arum lilies, common in the wet areas of Picardy; his interpretations of the floral iconography of the Gothic period were subsequently turned down, since the "arum lilies" could as well have been emerging grapevine or acanthus leaves.

- Les armes de la ville de Lille, by François Becuwe
- Promenade héraldique à Lille, by Dominique Delgrange & François Becuwe

The greater arms of Lille are shown on a postage stamp (40 c + 60 c; Y&T 527), designed by Henry Cheffer, released on 15 December 1941 and withdrawn from sale on 6 July 1942.
The arms of Lille are shown on a postage stamp (5 F; Y&T 1186), designed by the heraldist Robert Louis, released on 17 November 1958 and withdrawn on 18 February 1961.
The arms of Lille are shown on a postage stamp (0.05 F; Y&T 1186), designed by the heraldist Robert Louis, released on 2 June 1960 and withdrawn on 13 May 1961.

Ivan Sache, 2 July 2014

Lille Olympique Sporting Club (LOSC)


LOSC supporters' flag - Image by Ivan Sache, 30 June 1998

Supporters of Lille Olympique Sporting Club (LOSC), one of the oldest football clubs in France, use flags with various designs incorporating a red fleur-de-lis.

Ivan Sache, 30 June 1998



Flag of Hellemmes - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 12 December 2020

The former municipality of Hellemmes (18,438 inhabitants in 2017; 334 ha) was incorporated to Lille in 1977, with the status of associate municipality. Prescribed by the Municipality Merger Act promulgated on 16 July 1971, the status of associate municipality maintain certain institutions such as a delegate mayor, a registrar, a criminal investigation officer, a mayor's office, a community center...

The flag of Hellemmes (photo) is white with the municipal logo.

Olivier Touzeau, 12 December 2020