The city of Arras has over 42,000 inhabitants and its urban community, made up of 24 boroughs, has close to 105,000 inhabitants.
During the Gaul era, Arras was called Nemetocena from the Celt word ‘nemeton’, which meant a sacred place, a sanctuary. In ‘Gallic Wars’ Caesar tells us that it was a campsite where the consul spent two winters.
Later, in the Roman Empire and under the influence of Auguste, the city inherited the name of Nemetacum, which represented a nearby place located on the hill of Baudimont.
The name Arras appeared only in the XII century. The name was initially Atrébates (Atrebatum), which evolved into Atrades, Atradis, Aras and finally Arras. Under Louis XI, the city was called ‘Franchise‘ while the Dutch gave it the name ‘Atrecht‘.
Arras earned a reputation for commerce during the Bas-Empire. In fact, its drapery industry became famous across the world. Later, in the XII century, Arras had a rapid economical expansion that gave a strategic position to the city regarding its draperies and famous tapestries, known in Italy as ‘arazzi’.
Joan of Arc, the famous French war heroine of the XV century and religious martyr, spent some time of her imprisonment in Arras during the months of October and November of 1430 before being burnt alive in Rouen’s market square on May 30th, 1431.
In 1492, the Spaniards seized Arras and pillaged the city. It was at that time that the grain trade supplanted the cloth industry. In 1659, Arras returned to France with the Treaty of the Pyrenées.
The porcelain of Arras also contributed to the fame of the city. It appeared in the XVIII century thanks to the Delemer sisters, and was famous for its blue cobalt, whose manufacturing secret was rediscovered only a few years back. Some traders have now resumed its manufacture. A room of the Fine Arts Museum in Arras is dedicated to this porcelain.
During the First World War, Arras was not spared by the German cannons, which razed the city to the ground almost entirely.
The Arras Tourist Office (located right below the belfry).
The impressive Arras bell tower at night.
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