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Avesnes-sur-Helpe (Municipality, Nord, France)

Last modified: 2003-05-31 by
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[Flag of Avesnes]by Arnaud Leroy

Source: Marie d'Avesnes-sur-Helpe

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Presentation of the city

Avesnes ( pronounced aven) is a city of 6,000 inhabitants, sous-préfecture of the department of Nord,

Avesnes was founded in the XIth century by Wédric le Barbu (the Bearded). The family of Avesnes was very important in the Middle-Ages and was the origin of King of England Edward III's wife, Philippa of Avesnes. The city was later Spanish, and eventually incorporated to France by the Treaty of the Pyrénées in 1659.
In the XVIIth century, a Protestant called Jessé de Forest emigrated to the New World, where he planned to found New Avesnes. He died before reaching what is now New York, but his family settled in Long Island, where it is remembered by the name of Forest Hill.
In March 1918, Hindenburg, then Chief of the General Staff of the German Army, established his headquarters in the sous-préfecture of Avesnes. The last and unsuccessful attacks to Flanders, Picardy, and the river Marne, were commanded from Avesnes. Due to the breakout by the Allies, Hindenburg withdrew to Spa (Belgium) in September.

Avesnes is known for its butter market. Moreover, the region of Avesnois and neighbouring Thiérache produce three of the strongest French cheeses, the Maroilles, the Dauphin, and the Boulette d'Avesnes. The "Marvel of Maroilles", as it was known in the Middle-Ages, was invented by the Benedictine monks of Maroilles. The farmers paid a tithe to the abbey with cheese, as mentioned in a charter dated 1010. The cheese was then called craquegnon. Some sources claim that the Bishop of Cambrai asked in 960 the monks to improve the maturing of the craquegnon. The Maroilles became a royal cheese, enjoyed by Philippe-Auguste, Louis XI and François I. This cheese is characterized by its very very very very strong odor and its very specific taste (that is, don't be negatively influenced by the first impression). The Dauphin, or Dauphiné, is another, less-known cheese produced locally and in the Hainaut. The Boulette d'Avesnes was originally made with the remains of the Maroilles damaged during the production and not marketable. The cheese is pyramidal, coated with an orange rind coloured and perfumed with paprika. Spices and aromatic herbs (e.g. tarragon, left by the Spaniards) are also added to the cheese.

Ivan Sache, 31 August 2002

Description of the flag

The flag of Avesnes is horizontally divided red-yellow-red-yellow-red. It is derived from the municipal arms.
The municipal arms are:

Bendy, or and gules, six pieces

These arms are said to date back to Gérard d'Avesnes, who went on the Holy Crusades with Godefroy de Bouillon. Red symbolizes the blood shed during the Crusades and yellowrthe gold necessary to fight war. The flag has retained only five stripes, placed horizontally.

Ivan Sache, 31 August 2002

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