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Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise (Municipality, Pas-de-Calais, France)

Last modified: 2021-01-11 by ivan sache
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Flag of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 25 March 2004

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Presentation of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise

The municipality of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise (5,125 inhabitants in 2009; 824 ha; unofficial website) is the capital of the small region of Ternois.
Saint-Pol is one of the 337 French municipalities located on the Méridienne Verte (Green Meridian Line). On 25 November 1999, 100,000 trees were planted in all the municipalities to materialize the Line. The Green Meridian Line project was promoted by the mathematician and novelist Denis Guedj (1940-2010), who related In his book La Méridienne the expedition set up by the astronoms Pierre Méchain and Jean-Baptiste Delambre in 1792 to measure the length of the meridian running from Dunkirk to Barcelona.

The first settlement in Saint-Pol was probably established on a small hill over river Ternoise, known in early ages as Lhena, Terna, Thernois or Ternois. The town was initially called Terrana or Tervana. Old writers claim that Tervana was a syncopated form of "Terra avenae" (Land of Oats), a name given by the Romans to the area where they sent the cavalry to recuperate. The name of the region, pays tervanois, was later shortened to Ternois. Other writers with an equally low reliability mistook Tervana (Saint-Pol) for Tervanna, today the town of Thérouanne, located c. 30 km north of Saint-Pol.
Lambert d'Ardres says that the name of the town was changed from Tervana to Saint-Pol in 881. One year after the invasion of Artois by the Danes and the looting of its capital, Arras, the Counts of Boulogne and Flanders, helped by duke Rudolf of Burgundy, expelled the invaders. The only town that had not been attacked was Tervana, allegedly hidden by a thick cloud provided by its patron saint, St. Paul. The written form "Pol" is not common in France (except in Brittany; Saint-Pol-de-Léon) and might have been adopted during the Spanish occupation of the area (see below), as a corruption of Paolo.

The County of Ternois appeared in 543. Count of Boulogne Rulf (or Rudolf), grandson of the first count of Boulogne Léger (or Léodgard, 511), married his daughter to Léodegond and offered her the County of Ternois as her dowry.
The Count of Ternois built a castrum in Saint-Pol at the end of the 10th century, maybe on the remains of a Gallo-Roman oppidum. The castrum was a wooden tower surrounded by a fence, with a hut village located inside or outside the fence. In the beginning of the 11th century, Count Roger dit de Saint-Pol lived in the castrum. He founded a collegiate church dedicated to the Saint Saviour, appointed 12 canons and built a brewery and bread ovens.
In the 12th century, count Hugues II de Campdavène challenged his powerful neighbour, the Count of Flanders Charles the Good. Not so good, Charles attacked Saint-Pol and burned the old castle and the village. The castle was rebuilt, as a donjon made of square stones, during the second half of the 12th century, and the hill was surrounded with a stone wall with several towers. In the middle of the 13th century, Count Hugues de Châtillon decided that the fortress was too big and therefore too difficult to protect. He dug a deep ditch and abandoned the eastern part of the fortress, known as the Old Castle (Château Vieux). The south-western part of the fortress, dominating the town, was rebuilt and called the New Castle (Château Neuf). In the 14th-15th centuries centuries, the counts of the family of Luxembourg increased the castle.
In 1202, Count Hugues IV de Campdavène joined the Crusade called by Pope Innocent III and King of France Philip II Augusttus. Before leaving, Hugues granted the town of Saint-Pol a municipal charter. Hugues died in Demotica in 1205; his successors confirmed the charter, for instance Hugues de Châtillon in 1227.

In the 16th century, war broke out in Artois between King of France Francis I and King of Spain Charles V. In 1537, Charles V's mercernaries seized Saint-Pol, destroyed the walls and the tower of the castle and burned down the town. Most of the 4,000 inhabitants were slaughtered. The town re-emerged in 1569 and specialized in textiles.
In the 17th century, Saint-Pol traded with Flanders and the Dutch United Provinces. Reincorporated to France in 1659 by the Treaty of the Pyrenees, Saint-Pol was administratively incorporated to the Intendancy of Picardy.

During the French Revolution, Saint-Pol adopted the new ideas. A People's Society was created to spread republican and anti-religious ideas. The churches and chapels were destroyed, except the White Friars' chapel, used by the People's Society as a meeting hall, and the Black Sisters' chapel, used as a jail. The town was ruled by Joseph Lebon, a friend of Robespierre, whose wife was born in Saint-Pol. Within two months, 140 were arrested and 100 guillotinized. Lebon himslef was executed in 1794 after the fall of Robespierre.

According to old abbey rolls, grapevine was grown in Saint-Pol until the 15th century. In the 1990s, a brotherhood called Les Échansons popolitains was created, with the aim of producing wine in Saint-Pol. The then Minister of Agriculture, Philippe Vasseur, Mayor of Saint-Pol, authorized the plantation of 875 stocks. The first wine harvest was made in October 2000 and 200 liters of wine were produced.

Ivan Sache, 25 March 2004

Flag of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise

The flag of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise, hoisted over the Town Hall, is white with the municipal coat of arms.

The municipal coat of arms of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise, also reproduced on the side wall of the Town Hall, is "Per pale azure a garb or and gules three pallets vair a chief or a label of three points azure".
The garb of oats comes from the arms of the Campdavène family, ruler of Saint-Pol in 1067-1240. The arms are canting since Campdavène can be read Champ d'Avoine (Oats Field - see above the origine of the name of Ternava).
The pallets vair come from the arms of the Châtillon family, ruler of Saint-Pol in 1240-1370.
The label azure on or comes from the arms of the Luxembourg family, ruler of Saint-Pol in 1371-1546.

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 25 March 2004