Visiting Marchiennes, France: an ornate town hall in a unique design

Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Marchiennes, Nord, France: town hall
Marchiennes, Nord, France: town hall | Source
Town Hall and local history museum, Marchiennes, Nord
Town Hall and local history museum, Marchiennes, Nord | Source

Municipal variable geometry

Well, Torontonians may feel they are unique in that their City Hall is in a striking, curved shape. The famous City Hall in Canada's largest city, dating from 1965, has supplied a curved backdrop to many events from Pierre Trudeau rallies to sundry protests.

However, Marchiennes, France, also has a curved Town Hall (French: Hôtel de Ville) — albeit symmetrical — and much older, though smaller, than Toronto's municipal hub. The town hall building has an ornate, drive-through entrance: one could say that local events and issues are channelled through the town hall, in more ways than one!

The town hall entraceway dates from 1748, and the building was formerly part of a Abbey foundation, Medieval in origin (1). The main entrance arch, the roof of which is topped by a conspicuous cupola, also has the entrance to a local history museum.

Other features of the entranceway include a large bas-relief depicting allegorical figures, including Justice shown blindfolded and carrying scales. The municipality's arms are given on a wooden shield above the archway.

Marchiennes is located in the Nord department of France, in the Douai arrondissement. Its Town Hall is situated at place Gambetta. The Nord department has many fine examples of town halls, and that of Marchiennes, though relatively small, certainly matches up to this worthy tradition, while without doubt being one of the more unusual ones also.

September 20, 2013

Note

(1) Psychologically this is very interesting, in that a building that was once a symbol of ecclesiastical influence now represents the authority of the state. This transition in historic building usage at Marchiennes is not unusual in France, with its wealth of ancient real esate. (Moreover, this is certainly not a feature that Toronto's City Hall can claim!) While French insitutional history has been subjected to many discontinuities and changes since the French Revolution, yet in many ways there is ever visible evidence of the far past remaining living and relevant to the present.

Also worth seeing

In Marchiennes itself, the town is adjacent to 800 hectares of forest; the church of St. Rictrude has an interesting, Republican inscription over the doorway, unusual in French church buildings.

Valenciennes (distance: 24 kilometres) has a splendid City Hall frontage; the Saint-Cordon Basilica dominates the skyline; the Maison espagnole recalls a period of Spanish rule.

Roisin, Belgium (distance: 48 kilometres); has a monument to Emile Verhaeren, sometimes referred to as Belgium's national poet.

...

How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ), from where car rental is available (distance from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport to Marchiennes: 190 kilometres). Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. Brussels is the nearest large airport to Marchiennes (distance: 122 kilometres). Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada

Map location of Marchiennes, Douai arrondissement, Nord department
Map location of Marchiennes, Douai arrondissement, Nord department | Source

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