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Visiting Bailleul, France, and its town hall belfry by Louis-Marie Cordonnier: built 1932, Medieval in inspiration

Updated on December 15, 2012
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Bailleul Town Hall: the belfry
Bailleul Town Hall: the belfry | Source
Bailleul | Source
Louis-Marie Cordonnier
Louis-Marie Cordonnier | Source
Map location of Bailleul, within the Dunkirk 'arrondissement' of Nord department
Map location of Bailleul, within the Dunkirk 'arrondissement' of Nord department | Source

A sense of community and confidence restored

Since Medieval times, especially in northern France and what is now Belgium, belfries have tended to signify both civic identity and the confidence of the local commercial community. In Flanders (1) especially, the relative flatness of the land often accentuates the height of its many belfries.

This fine belfry is at the Town Hall (French: Hôtel de ville ) of Bailleul, France; interestingly, at Bailleul's Town Hall, the office of the mayor is located within the belfry tower.

The Town Hall at Bailleul, France, originally dating from the 12th and 13th centuries, underwent extensive war damage in World War One.

The belfry's architect was the distinguished Louis-Marie Cordonnier (1854-1940)(2), who was responsible for many other belfry designs also. One can see how the profusion of belfries for which Architect Cordonnier made designs after World War One would also have been part of the efforts of municipalities which had undergone much war damage to restore a sense of community, especially in those towns which enjoyed a good measure of prosperity in the Middle Ages.

With its bulbous roof, the belfry reaches a height of 62 metres. The tower contains a carrillon of 35 bells, first manufactured in the 18th century. At the base of the belfry is a Medieval origin Gothic hall (French: Salle gothique) .

Guided tours of the Town Hall are sometimes available. Some years ago, the Town Hall was the venue for an exhibition which featured many of France's belfries: without doubt a very apt venue for such an event.

Bailleul is situated in the Dunkirk (French: Dunkerque ) arrondissement of the Nord Department of France, close to the Belgian border, immediately beyond which is the Dutch-speaking Flemish region. Bailleul actually has a Dutch name also: 'Belle'; and, indeed, the Belgian border is virtually within walking distance of the town, and one can easily see how, historically there have been cultural and linguistic influences between these areas in close proximity.

December 15, 2012


(1) Flanders is a term which covers a wide area including part of Belgium, part of norther France and a small part of The Netherlands.

(2) Other works by Architect Cordonnier include: the Peace Palace, The Hague; and belfries at Lille, Dunkirk, Armentières, Comines, and elsewhere.

Also worth seeing

In Bailleul itself, other attractions include the monumental Saint-Vaast church and a striking war memorial.

Armentières (distance: 16 kilometres); its Town Hall also has a striking belfry by Louis-Marie Cordonnier.


How to get there: 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 Bailleul (distance: 156 kilometres). Please note that facilities may change without notice. Please 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

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