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Lillers (Municipality, Pas-de-Calais, France)

Last modified: 2020-09-12 by ivan sache
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Flag of Lillers, current and former versions - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 18 July 2020

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Presentation of Lillers

The municipality of Lillers (10,011 inhabitants in 2009; 2,689 ha; municipal website) is the center of the small region of Lillerois, limited in the north by river Lys, here the border between the departments of Pas-de-Calais and Nord, and watered by the canal of Aire and a network of small rivers.

Lillers is remotely linked with the Irish saints Lugle and Luglien. In year 700, on their way to Rome, the two missionaries were murdered by rascals near Ferfay, c. 8 km south of Lillers, and were buried in the valley of river Scyrendale. However, a thunderstorm miraculously transported the bodies of the two saints to Hurionville, near the manor of the Bishop of Thérouanne, who ordered to bury them there. Since the region was threatened by the Normans, the inhabitants decided to transport once again the saints' bodies to a safer place, a chapel erected on a small island isolated in the middle of marshes. A few years later, Lilia, the sister of the two saints, visited the island, which was named for her. Therefore, Lillers has nothing to do with the capital of the north of France, Lille.

In the Middle Ages, the domain of Lillers was successively ruled by several families, including Wavrin - Seneschal of Flanders -, Berlettes and Croÿ. The St. Omer collegiate church, erected in the 12th century, iq is the sole monument of significance from that time still standing in the north of France. The miraculous statue of the Christ of the Holy Blood of the Miracle is kept in the church, which was a popular place of pilgrimage, as was Sts. Lugle and Luglien's grave.
The domain of Lillers became a Marquisate in 1726.

The oldest house in Lillers is the Maison de l'Argentier, built in 1631 and decorated with a wooden sundial. The house was portrayed by the writer Louis Aragon (1897-1982) in the book La semaine sainte. The novel, written in 1958, is a complex historical story a la Stendhal relating the flight to Ghent of Louis XVIII's partisans after Napoleon's return from Elba during the Holy Week in 1815. Louis XVIII's pathetic flight made the fortune of the neighbouring town of Estaires.
Shoemaking industry was initiated in Lillers in the 19th century by Ovide Fanien. Before the Second World War, Lillers was one of the three French capitals of shoemaking, together with Romans and Fougères. After the Secodn World War, Lillers stopped the production of smart shoes and specialized in utility shoes, until the closure in 1966 of the last shoe factory. Shoemaking is recalled by the giants of Lillers, the shoemaker Ovide, named for Ovide Fanien, and his wife Marie. They married on 1 May 1995 and their daughter Lilia was christened on 1 May 2000. Lilia symbolizes the cultivation of watercress, once important in the past in that wet region. The giants parade through the town during the Lillierades festival, held every year on 1 May.

Ivan Sache, 11 April 2004

Flag of Lillers

The flag of Lillers (photo, 2009; photo, 2019) is white with the municipal logo.

The flag seen in the town in 2004 was white with the municipal coat of arms, "Gules three chevrons or", and the name of the town written beneath the shield.
The arms were the alleged arms of Enguerrand of Lillers, lord of the town and founder of the Benedictine abbey of Ham-en-Artois. The Armorial du Pas-de-Calais (1996) reports that Enguerrand's recumbent effigy, kept in the Saint-Sauveur church of Ham-en-Artois, represents the lord "holding a shield gules three chevrons or". The statue, however, was designed in the 16th century and the shield is not colored.
[Jacques Dulphy. Armorial des villes et villages de France]

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 18 July 2020