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Lille ( ; ) is a city in northern Francemarker. It is the principal city of the Lille Métropole, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country behind those of Parismarker, Lyonmarker and Marseillemarker. Lille is situated on the Deûlemarker River, near France's border with Belgiummarker. It is the capital of the Nord-Pas de Calaismarker region and the prefecture of the Nordmarker department.

The city of Lille, which annexed Lommemarker on 27 February 2000, had a population of 226,014 at the 2006 census. Meanwhile, the Lille Métropole, which also includes Roubaixmarker, Tourcoingmarker and numerous suburban communities, had a population of 1,091,438. The eurodistrict of Lille-Kortrijk, which also includes the areas of the Belgian cities of Kortrijkmarker, Tournaimarker, Mouscronmarker and Ypresmarker, had 1,905,000 residents.


Origin of the city

The legend of "Lydéric and Phinaert" puts the foundation of the city of "L'Isle" at 640. Although the first mention of the town appears in archives from the year 1066, some archeological digs seem to show the area as inhabited by as early as 2000 BC, most notably in the modern-day quartiers of Fives, Wazemmes, and Old Lille.

The original inhabitants of this region were the Gauls, such as the Menapians, the Morins, the Atrebates, and the Nervians, who were followed by Germanic peoples, the Saxons and the Frisians, and the Franks later.

From 830 until around 910, the Vikings invaded Flanders. After the destruction caused by Norman and Magyar invasion, the eastern part of the region fell under the eyes of the area's princes.

The name Lille comes from insula or l'Isla, i. "the island", since the area was at one time marshy. This name was used for the castle of the Counts of Flanders, built on dry land in the middle of the marsh.

The Count of Flanders controlled a number of old Roman cities (Boulognemarker, Arrasmarker, Cambraimarker) as well as some founded by the Carolingians (Valenciennesmarker, Saint-Omermarker, Ghentmarker, Brugesmarker).

The County of Flanders thus extended to the left bank of the Scheldtmarker, one of the richest and most properous regions of Europe.

Middle Ages

A local notable in this period was Évrard, who lived in the ninth century and participated in many of the day's political and military affairs.

From the twelfth century, the fame of the Lille cloth fair began to grow. In 1144 Saint-Sauveur parish was formed, which would give its name to the modern-day quartier Saint-Sauveur.

The counts of Flanders, Boulogne, and Hainautmarker came together with Englandmarker and the Holy Roman Empire of Germanymarker and declared war on Francemarker and Philip II of France, a war that ended with the French victory at Bouvinesmarker in 1214. Infante Ferdinand, Count of Flanders was imprisoned and the county fell into dispute: it would be his wife, Jeanne, Countess of Flanders and Constantinoplemarker, who ruled the city. She was said to be well-loved by the residents of Lille, who by that time numbered 10,000.

In 1224, the monk Bertrand of Rains, doubtlessly encouraged by local lords, tried to pass himself off as Baldwin I of Constantinople (the father of Jeanne of Flanders), who had disappeared at the battle of Adrianople. He pushed the kingdoms of Flanders and Hainaut towards sedition against Jeanne in order to recover his land. She called her cousin, Louis VIII ("The Lion"). He unmasked the imposter, whom Countess Jeanne quickly had hanged. In 1226 the King agreed to free Infante Ferdinand, Count of Flanders. Count Ferrand died in 1233, and his daughter Marie soon after. In 1235, Jeanne granted a city charter by which city governors would be chosen each All Saint's Day by four commissioners chosen by the ruler. On February 6, 1236, she founded the Countess's Hospital (L'hospice de la comtesse), which remains one of the most beautiful buildings in Old Lille. It was in her honor that the hospital of the Regional Medical University of Lille was named "Jeanne of Flanders Hospital" in the 20th century.

The Countess died in 1244 in the Abbey of Marquette, leaving no heirs. The rule of Flanders and Hainaut thus fell to her sister, Margaret II, Countess of Flanders, then to Margaret's son, Guy of Dampierre. Lille fell under the rule of France from 1304 to 1369, after the battle of Mons-en-Pévèlemarker.

The county of Flanders fell to the Duchy of Burgundy next, after the 1369 marriage of Margaret III, Countess of Flanders, and Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Lille thus became one of the three capitals of said Duchy, along with Brusselsmarker and Dijonmarker. By 1445, Lille counted some 25,000 residents. Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, was even more powerful than the King of France, and made Lille an administrative and financial capital.

On 17 February 1454, one year after the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, Philip the Good organised a Pantagruelian banquet at his Lille palace, the still-celebrated "Feast of the Pheasant". There the Duke and his court undertook an oath to Christianity.

In 1477, at the death of the last duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, Mary of Burgundy married Maximilian of Austria, who thus became Count of Flanders. At the end of the reign of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Spanish Flanders fell to his eldest son, and thus under the rule of Philip II of Spain, King of Spain. The city remained under Spanish rule until the reign of Philip IV of Spain.

The modern era

The 16th century was marked by the outbreak of the Plague, a boom in the regional textile industry, and the Protestant revolts.

The first Calvinists appeared in the area in 1542; by 1555 anti-Protestant repression was taking place. In 1578, the Hurlus, a group of Protestant rebels, stormed the castle of the Counts of Mouscronmarker. They were removed four months later by a Catholic Wallonmarker regiment, after which they tried several times between 1581 and 1582 to take the city of Lille, all in vain. The Hurlus were notably held back by the legendary Jeanne Maillotte. At the same time (1581), at the call of Elizabeth I of England, the north of the Southern Netherlands, having gained a Protestant majority, successfully revolted and formed the United Provinces.

In 1667, Louis XIV of France (the Sun-King) successfully laid siege to Lille, resulting in it becoming French in 1668 under the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, provoking discontent among the citizens of the prosperous city. A number of important public works undertaken between 1667 and 1670, such as the Citadel (erected by Vauban), or the creation of the quartiers of Saint-André and la Madeleine, enabled the King to gradually gain the confidence of his Lille subjects, some of whom continued to feel Flemish, though they had always spoken the Latin Picard language.

For five years, from 1708 to 1713, the city was occupied by the Dutchmarker, during the War of the Spanish Succession. Throughout the 18th century, Lille remained profoundly Catholic. It took little part in the French Revolution, though there were riots and the destruction of churches. In 1790, the city held its first municipal elections.

After the French Revolution

In 1792, in the aftermath of the French Revolution, the Austrians, then in the United Provinces, laid siege to Lille. The "Column of the Goddessmarker", erected in 1842 in the "Grand-Place" (officially named La Place du Général de Gaulle), is a tribute to the city's resistance, led by Mayor François André. Although Austrian artillery destroyed many houses and the main church of the city, the city did not surrender and the Austrian army left after eight days.

The city continued to grow, and by 1800 held some 53,000 residents, leading to Lille becoming the county seat of the Nordmarker départment in 1804. In 1846, a rail line connecting Parismarker and Lille was built.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon I's continental blockade against the United Kingdommarker led to Lille's textile industry developing itself even more fully. The city was known for its cotton, and the nearby towns of Roubaixmarker and Tourcoingmarker worked wool.

In 1853, Alexandre Desrousseaux composed his famous lullaby Dors mon p'tit quinquin. In 1858, an imperial decree led to the annexation of the adjacent towns of Fives, Wazemmes, and Moulins. Lille's population was 158,000 in 1872, growing to over 200,000 by 1891. In 1896 Lille became the first city in France to be led by a socialist, Gustave Delory.

By 1912, Lille's population was at 217,000: the city profited from the Industrial Revolution, particularly via coal and the steam engine. The entire region had grown wealthy thanks to the mines and to the textile industry.

First World War

German military parade in Lille, 1915
Between 4-13 October 1914, the troops in Lille were able to trick the enemy by convincing them that Lille possessed more artillery than was the case; in reality, the city had only a single cannon. Despite the deception, the German bombardments destroyed over 2,200 buildings and homes. When the Germans realised they had been tricked, they burned down an entire section of town, subsequently occupying the city. Lille was liberated by the Britishmarker on 17 October 1918, when General Sir William Birdwood and his troops were welcomed by joyous crowds. The general was made an honorary citizen of the city of Lille on 28 October of that year.

Lille was also the hunting ground of World War I German flying Ace Max Immelmann who was nicknamed "the Eagle of Lille".

The Années Folles, the Great Depression, and the Popular Front

In July 1921, at the Pasteur Institutemarker in Lille, Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin discovered the first anti-tuberculosis vaccine, known as BCG ("Bacille de Calmette et Guérin"). The Opéra de Lille, designed by Lille architect Louis M. Cordonnier, was dedicated in 1923.

From 1931 Lille felt the repercussions of the Great Depression, and by 1935 a third of the city's population lived in poverty. In 1936, the city's mayor, Roger Salengro, became Minister of the Interior of the Popular Front, eventually killing himself after right-wing groups led a slanderous campaign against him.

Second World War

Lille was taken by the Germans in May 1940, after brief resistance by a Moroccan Infantry division. When Belgiummarker was invaded, the citizens of Lille, still marked by the events of the First World War, began to flee the city in large numbers. Lille was part of the zone under control of the German commander in Brussels, and was never controlled by the Vichymarker government. The départments of Nord and Pas-de-Calais (with the exception of the coast, notably Dunkirkmarker) were, for the most part, liberated in five days, from the 1 to 5 September 1944 by British, Americanmarker, Canadianmarker, and Polishmarker troops. On 3 September, the German troops began to leave Lille, fearing the British, who were on their way from Brussels. Following this, the Lille resistance managed to retake part of the city before the British tanks arrived. Rationing came to an end in 1947, and by 1948, some normality had returned to Lille.

Post-war to the present

In 1967, the Chambers of Commerce of Lille, Roubaix and Tourcoing were joined, and in 1969 the Communauté urbaine de Lille (Lille urban community) was created, linking 87 communes with Lille.

Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the region was faced with some problems after the decline of the coal, mining and textile industries. From the start of the 1980s, the city began to turn itself more towards the service sector.

In 1983, the VAL, the world's first automated rapid transit underground network, was opened. In 1993, a high-speed TGV train line was opened, connecting Paris with Lille in one hour. This, with the opening of the Channel Tunnelmarker in 1994 and the arrival of the Eurostar train, put Lille at the centre of a triangle connecting Paris, Londonmarker and Brussels.

Work on Euralille, an urban remodelling project, began in 1991. The Euralille Centre was opened in 1994, and the remodeled district is now full of parks and modern buildings containing offices, shops and apartments. In 1994 the "Grand Palais" was also opened.


Lille can be described as having a temperate oceanic climate; there are neither cold nor hot extremes, and average precipitation. The winters are mild and the summers are pleasant.

Comparative Climatic Table
City Clear Rain Snow Storm Fog
Parismarker h/yr 642 mm/yr 15 d/yr 19 d/yr 13 d/yr
Nicemarker h/yr 767 mm/yr 1 d/yr 31 d/yr 1 d/yr Strasbourgmarker h/yr 610 mm/yr 30 d/yr 29 d/yr 65 d/yr
Lille 1 600 h/yr 687 mm/yr 19 d/yr 19 d/yr 69 d/yr National Average h/yr 770 mm/yr 14 d/yr 22 d/yr 40 d/yr

The table below gives temperatures and precipitation levels for the year 2006 and also the record temperatures. :


A former major textile manufacturing centre, Lille forms the heart of a larger conurbation, regrouping Lille, Roubaixmarker, Tourcoingmarker and Villeneuve d'Ascqmarker, which is France's 4th-largest urban conglomeration with a 1999 population of over 1.1 million.

Points of interest


Public transport

A Lille tram

The Lille Métropole has a mixed mode public transport system, comprising buses, trams and a driverless metro system, all of which are operated under the Transpole name. The Lille Metro is a VAL system (véhicule automatique léger = light automated vehicle) that opened on 16 May 1983, becoming the first automatic metro line in the world. The metro system has two lines, with a total length of 45 km and 60 stations. The tram system consists of two interurban tram lines, connecting central Lille to the nearby communities of Roubaixmarker and Tourcoingmarker, and has 45 stops. 68 urban bus routes cover the metropolis, 8 of which reach into Belgium.


Lille is an important crossroads in the European high-speed rail network: it lies on the Eurostar line to Londonmarker and the French TGV network to Parismarker, Brusselsmarker and other major centres in France such as Marseille, Lyon, and Toulouse. It has two train stations, which stand next door to one another: Lille-Europe station (Gare de Lille-Europemarker), which primarily serves high-speed trains and international services (Eurostar), and Lille-Flandres station (Gare de Lille-Flandresmarker), which primarily serves lower speed trains.


Lille: motorway network.
No fewer than five autoroutes pass by Lille, the densest confluence of highways in France after Paris:

A sixth one — the proposed A24 — will link Amiens to Lille if built, but there is opposition to its route.

Air traffic

Lille Lesquin International Airportmarker is 15 minutes from the city centre by car (11 km). In terms of shipping, it ranks fourth, with almost 38,000 tonnes of freight which pass through each year.


Lille is the 3rd largest French river port after Paris and Strasbourgmarker. The river Deûlemarker is connected to regional waterways with over 680 km of navigable waters. The Deûle connects to Northern Europe via the River Scarpemarker and the River Scheldtmarker (towards Belgium and the Netherlands), and internationally via the Lys Rivermarker (to Dunkerque and Calaismarker).

Shipping statistics

Year 1997 2000 2003
Millions of tonnes 5.56 6.68 7.30
By River or Sea 8.00% 8.25% 13.33%
By Rail 6.28% 4.13% 2.89%
By Road 85.72% 87.62% 83.78%


With over 110 000 students, the metropolitan area of Lille is one of the first student cities in France.

ESA - Ecole Supérieure des Affaires is a Business Management school established in Lille in 1990. IEP Sciences-Po Lille political studies institute was established in Lille in 1992.

The European Doctoral College Lille Nord-Pas de Calais is headquartered in Lille metropole and includes 3,000 PhD Doctorate students supported by university research laboratories.


The Euralille urban development project, centred around the new TGV station has fostered a long debate among Lille's citizens. The project has finally been completed with modern architecture and disruption to the ancient city centre.

Lille was elected European Capital of Culture in 2004, along with the Italian city of Genoamarker

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Lille is part of the Urban Community of Lille Métropole (formerly also known as C.U.D.L.).

Lille's football club, the Lille O.S.C., is one of the major teams in the French football league. They have won 8 major national trophies and now regularly features in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup.

Since 2006, Lille is home to the Lille Comics Festival, the main British and American comic books convention in the north of France, held in November.

Lille features an array of architectural styles with various amounts of Flemish influence, including the use of brown and red brick. In addition, many residential neighborhoods, especially in Greater Lille, consist of attached 2-3 story houses aligned in a row, with narrow gardens in the back. These architectural attributes, many uncommon in France, help make Lille a transition in France to neighboring Belgium, as well as nearby Netherlands and England, where the presence of brick, as well as row houses or the Terraced house is much more prominent.

Émile Zola's novel Germinal is set near Lille, in Marchiennesmarker.

Notable people from Lille

Scientists and entrepreneurs


Politicians, professionals and military


International Relations

Twin towns - sister cities

Lille is twinned with:

See also


External links

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