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

Last modified: 2005-02-19 by
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[Flag of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise]by Olivier Touzeau


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Presentation of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise

Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise (5,000 inhabitants) is the capital city of the Ternois, a chalky, rural region located in the north of France.

Saint-Pol is one of the 337 municipalities located on the Méridienne Verte (the Green Meridian Line). On 25 November 1999, 100,000 trees were planted in all the municipalities in order to materialize the Line. The Green Meridian Line project was promoted by the mathematician and novelist Denis Guedj. In his excellent book La Méridienne, Guedj relates the expedition set up by the astronoms Pierre Méchain and Jean-Baptiste Delambre in 1792. The two astronoms were commissioned by the National Assembly and supported by the best French scientists of that time (Lavoisier, Borda, etc.). They had to measure the length of the meridian running from Dunkirk to Barcelona, in order to establish the standard metre. The expedition ended only in 1804 and was often interrupted by political changes.

The first settlement in Saint-Pol was probably established on a small hill over the river Ternoise, known in early ages as Lhena, Terna, Thernois or Ternois. The city was initially called Terrana or Tervana. Ancient writers claimed that Tervana was a syncopated form of Terra avenae (the 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 confused Tervana (Saint-Pol) with Tervanna, today the city of Thérouanne, located c. 30 km north of Saint-Pol.

Lambert d'Ardres says that the name of the city was changed from Tervana to Saint-Pol in 881. One year after the invasion of Artois by the Danes and the trashing of its capital city, Arras, the counts of Boulogne and Flanders, helped by duke Rudolf of Burgundy, expelled the invaders. The only city that had not been attacked was Tervana, allegedly hidden by a thick cloud provided by the patron saint of the city, Saint Paul. The orthograph 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 gave her the county of Ternois as her dowry.
The count of Ternois built a castrum in Saint-Pol at the end of the Xth 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 XIth century, count Roger dit de Saint-Pol lived in the castrum. Roger founded a collegiate church dedicated to Saint-Sauveur, appointed 12 canons and built a brewery and bread ovens.

In the XIIth century, count Hugues II de Campdavène challenged his powerful neighbour, count of Flanders Charles le Bon. Being 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 XIIth century), and the hill was surrounded with a stone wall with several towers. In the middle of the XIIIth 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 city, was rebuilt and called the new castle (Château Neuf). In the XIVth and XVth 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 Philippe-Auguste. Before leaving, Hugues granted the city of Saint-Paul a municipal chart:

Moi, Hugo, Comte de Saint-Pol et Yole, Comtesse mon épouse, à tous les fidèles à jamais, salut. Vous saurez que nous avons donné et concédé aux bourgeois de Saint-Pol et à leurs héritiers, pour qu'ils la possèdent à jamais, une commune.

I, Hugo, count of Saint-Pol and Yole, my bride, greet our for ever loyal people. You shall know that we have given and granted the bourgeois of Saint-Pol and their heirs a commune, so that they shall own it for ever.

Hugues died in Demotica in 1205 but his successors confirmed the chart, for instance Hugues de Châtillon in 1227.

In the XVIth century, war broke out in Artois between king of France François 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 city. Most of the 4,000 inhabitants were slaughtered. The city resurrected in 1569 and specialized in textiles.
In the XVIIth century, Saint-Pol traded with Flanders and the Dutch United Provinces. In 1659, Saint-Pol was reincorporated to France by the treaty of Pyrénées and was administratively incorporated to the intendance of Picardie.

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 city was ruled by Joseph Lebon, a friend of Robespierre, whose wife was from Saint-Pol. Within two months, 140 were arrested and 100 guillotinized. Lebon was himself executed after the fall of Robespierre in 1794.
The administrative district of Saint-Pol was created in 1790, including the cantons of Aubigny, Avesnes, Fleury, Framecourt, Frévent, Magnicourt-sur-Canche, Monchy-Breton, Pernes, Saint-Pol and Saulty. The district became an arrondissement in 1801. Today, Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise is no longer a sous-préfecture but a chef-lieu de canton.

According to old abbey rolls, grapevine was grown in Saint-Pol until the XIIth century. In the 1990s, a brotherhood called Les Echansons popolitains was created, with the aim of producing wine in Saint-Pol. The 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.

Source: K. Huclier's website

Ivan Sache, 25 March 2004


Municipal flag of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise

The city hall of Saint-Pol sur Ternoise flies a white flag with the municipal coat of arms. The coat of arms is also reproduced on the side wall of the city hall.

The municipal coat of arms of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise blazons as follows (GASO):

Parti : au premier d'azur à la gerbe de blé d'or, au second de gueules aux trois pals de vair et au chef d'or chargé d'un lambel d'azur.

Brian Timms gives the same blazon but with a gerbe d'avoine instead of blé and the label chargé de trois pendants d'azur instead of simply d'azur.
In English:

Per pale azure a garb or and gules three pallets vair a chief or a label of three points azure.

The elements of the coat of arms recall the coat of arms of three dynasties mentioned above:

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 25 March 2004

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