Amiens is a city and commune in northern France, north of Paris and south-west of Lille.
Amiens is a city and commune in northern France, north of Paris and south-west of Lille. It is the capital of the Somme department in Picardy. The city had a population of 136,105 according to the 2006 census.
The first known settlement is Samarobriva ("Somme bridge"), the central settlement of the Ambiani, one of the principal tribes of Gaul. The town was given the name Ambianum by the Romans, meaning settlement of the Ambiani people. The town has been much fought over, being attacked by barbarian tribes, and later by the Normans. In 1113 the city was recognized by the King of France, and joined to the Crown of France in 1185. In 1597, Spanish soldiers held the city during the six-month Siege of Amiens, before Henry IV regained control. During the 18th and 19th century, the textile tradition of Amiens became famous for its velours. In 1789 the provinces of France were dismantled and the territory was organised into departments. Much of Picardy became the newly created department of Somme, with Amiens as the departmental capital. During the industrial revolution the city walls were demolished, opening up space for large boulevards around the town centre. The Henriville neighbourhood in the south of the city was developed around this time. In 1848, the first railway arrived in Amiens, linking the city to Boulogne-sur-Mer. During the 1870 Battle of Amiens, when the Somme was invaded by Prussian forces, Amiens was occupied.
The town was fought over during both the First and Second World Wars, suffering much damage, and being occupied several times by both sides. The 1918 Battle of Amiens, was the opening phase of the Hundred Days Offensive, which led directly to the Armistice with Germany that ended the war. It was heavily bombed by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. The city was rebuilt according to plans, with a focus on widening the streets to ease traffic congestion. These newer structures were primarily built of brick, concrete and white stone with slate roofs. The architect Auguste Perret designed the Gare d'Amiens train station and nearby Tour Perret.
Amiens Cathedral, the tallest of the large, classic, Gothic churches of the 13th century and the largest in France of its kind, is a World Heritage Site. The author Jules Verne lived in Amiens from 1871 until his death in 1905, and served on the city council for 15 years. During December, the town hosts the largest Christmas market in northern France. Amiens is known for a few local foods, including "macarons d'Amiens", almond paste biscuits; "tuiles amienoises", chocolate and orange curved biscuits; "pâté de canard d'Amiens", duck pate in pastry; "la ficelle Picarde", an oven-baked cheese-topped crêpe; and "flamiche aux poireaux", a puff pastry tart made with leeks and cream.
The first known settlement is Samarobriva ("Somme bridge"), the central settlement of the Ambiani, one of the principal tribes of Gaul, who were issuing coinage, probably from Amiens, in the 1st century BC. The Ambiani derive their name from the Gaulish word ambe meaning river – a reference to the Somme that flows through Amiens. The town was given the name Ambianum by the Romans, meaning settlement of the Ambiani people. By tradition, it was at the gates of Amiens that Saint Martin of Tours, at the time still a Roman soldier, shared his cloak with a naked beggar. The prosperity of the city made it a target for barbarian tribes such as the Alans, the Burgundians or the Vandals, who attacked the city several times.
During the 5th century, Chlodio rose to power among the Franks, and Merovech was elected in Amiens by his comrades in arms. Saint Honorius (Honoré) (d. 600 AD) became the seventh bishop of the city. Normans sacked the city 859 and again in 882. During the second sacking, the city's cathedral was burned. During the early part of the 10th century, Count Herbert de Vermandois united the regions of Amiens, Vexin, Laon, and Reims. In 1095, the people of Amiens began to form a rough municipal organization. In 1113 the city was recognized by the King of France; the city was joined to the Crown of France in 1185.
In 1264, Amiens was chosen as the seat of arbitrations when King Louis IX of France settled the conflict between King Henry III of England and his rebellious barons, led by Simon de Montfort. The arbitrations led to Louis deciding on the Mise of Amiens – a one-sided settlement in favor of Henry. This decision almost immediately led to the outbreak of the Barons' War.
In 1435 the city was among the possessions granted to Philip the Good of Burgundy by the Congress of Arras. It was re-acquired again by King Louis XI in 1477 after the death of Charles the Bold. In 1597, Spanish soldiers disguised as peasants entered the city and mounted a surprise attack. After the six-month Siege of Amiens, the forces of Henry IV regained control of the city and put an end to its autonomous rule.
During the 18th and 19th century, the textile tradition of Amiens became famous for its velours. The Cosserat family rose to prominence as one of the wealthiest of Amiens' textile manufacturing families. In 1789 the provinces of France were dismantled and the territory was organised into departments. Much of Picardy became the newly created department of Somme, with Amiens as the departmental capital.
In November 1801, British and French delegates began discussing terms of peace at the Amiens Congress. On 25 March 1802, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the First French Republic signed the Treaty of Amiens, putting an end to the Second Coalition against France.
During the 19th century, Amiens began to feel the effects of the industrial revolution. The city walls were demolished, opening up space for large boulevards around the town centre. The Henriville neighborhood in the south of the city was developed around this time. In 1848, the first railway arrived in Amiens, linking the city to Boulogne-sur-Mer. After this time, the city began to grow beyond the river and into the surrounding hills. During the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, Somme was invaded by Prussian forces and Amiens was occupied.
Early science fiction author Jules Verne took up residence in Amiens in 1871, having met his wife there at a wedding in 1856. He was later elected city councilman in 1888. In 1889, Jules Verne presided over the opening of the Amiens circus, including a courthouse, a police station and a museum dedicated to the history of Picardy.
Beginning in 1905, Victor Commont, called "the founding father of modern Prehistoric science," performed important archaeological work in the Picardy area.
The First World War
At the start of the war, in August 1914, Amiens had been the Advance Base for the British Expeditionary Force. It was captured by the German Army on 31 August 1914, but recaptured by the French on 28 September. The proximity of Amiens to the Western Front and its importance as a rail hub, made it a vital British logistic centre, especially during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
Amiens was one of the key objectives of the German Spring Offensive which was launched on 27 March 1918. The German 2nd Army pushed back the British 5th Army, who fought a series of defensive actions. Eventually, on 4 April, the Germans succeeded in capturing Villers-Bretonneux which overlooked Amiens, only for it to be retaken by an Australian counterattack that night. During the fighting, Amiens was bombarded by German artillery and aircraft; more than 2,000 buildings were destroyed. On 8 August 1918, a successful Allied counter stroke, the Battle of Amiens, was the opening phase of the Hundred Days Offensive, which led directly to the Armistice with Germany that ended the war.
The Second World War
During the Battle of France, Amiens was captured by the German 1st Panzer Division on 20 May 1940, following two days of heavy air raids. It had been defended by a British Territorial Army battalion, the 7th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment. Of 581 men with the battalion, 132 men are commemorated in CWGC burials, 165 are known to have become prisoners of war and many escaped back to Britain and formed 109 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery.
On 18 February 1944, British aircraft bombed the prison in Amiens as part of Operation Jericho. The raid was intended to aid the escape of members of the French Resistance and political prisoners being held there. In all, 258 prisoners escaped.
Prior to the Normandy landings, Allied aircraft concentrated on disabling communications in occupied France, and the railway junction at Longueau to the south east of Amiens was attacked by 200 Royal Air Force bombers on the night of the 12 and 13 June. There was much damage in the town itself. Amiens was liberated on 31 August 1944 by the 11th Armoured Division, part of 30th Corps commanded by Lieutenant-General Horrocks.
Post-War Amiens and the French cultural revolution
The city was rebuilt according to Pierre Dufau's plans, with a focus on widening the streets to ease traffic congestion. These newer structures were primarily built of brick, concrete and white stone with slate roofs. The architect Auguste Perret designed the Gare d'Amiens train station and nearby Tour Perret.
On 2 June 1960, the new region of Picardy was formed from the departments of Aisne, and Somme. In May 1968, students in Amiens joined in a large-scale strike that began in Paris. Factory and the railway workers in the city joined them a few days later. Amiens was paralyzed by fighting between conservatives and leftist groups. After President Charles de Gaulle's radio address on 31 May, his supporters demonstrated in the streets. The following October, the University of Amiens (Université d'Amiens) was founded on a campus in the southwestern suburbs of the city.
The city suffered the loss of many jobs as manufacturing plants in the region closed during the late 1970s and 1980s. Despite the hardships, the city made an effort to renovate the degraded area of St-Leu during this time.
The 1990s saw a great period of rebirth in the city. The St-Leu renovations were completed, and parts of the University were moved to the city center. The Vallée des Vignes neighborhood was developed in the south of the city, and large parts of the city center were converted to pedestrian areas. The Gare du Nord was renovated with a controversial new glass roof. The was renovated as well and a new cinema complex was built. The area around the train station began a reorganization.