La Grande Place, Arras & World War One

‘Northern France – Arras – La Grande Place’

L.L.

c.1910

arras grand place c1910

‘Arras – La Grande Place’

c.1918

la grande place arras 2

‘Arras – La Grande Place’

c.1918

arras grande place 1

‘Les Arcades de la Grande Place’

c.1918

arcades of the grande place

Arras is known primarily for four things: its tapestries, its two vast public squares, its late Gothic town hall and belfry and the fact that it was severely damaged during World War One. The stereoviews show houses on the Grande Place, the largest of the squares, before and after the war. Together the two squares were lined with 155 merchant houses, all with their upper stories elevated on stone pillars to create a continuous arcade around the perimeters of the squares. The oldest house on the Grande Place dated to 1467 but most of the others dated to the 17th and 18th centuries. They were constructed in a beautiful Flemish Baroque style, the facades adorned with statuary, carvings, scrolls and pilasters. Nearly all of them were either destroyed completely or badly damaged by the German bombardment of the city in October 1914. The medieval town hall with its colossal Renaissance belfry was obliterated. Fortunately, in an act for which we should be forever thankful, France’s Historic Monuments Commission restored most of France’s war-damaged cities and towns back to their pre-war state, including the houses on the Grande Place. The work on the ruined squares and town hall at Arras was completed by 1924 and the city remains one of the most lovely in Europe.