ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Visiting Renescure, France and Its Castle: On the Traditional Borderland of Flanders

Updated on May 4, 2020
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Philippe de Commynes's castle at Renescure seen in an old diagram
Philippe de Commynes's castle at Renescure seen in an old diagram | Source
Renescure's restored Medieval castle
Renescure's restored Medieval castle | Source
Map location of Renescure in France's Nord Department
Map location of Renescure in France's Nord Department | Source

In the footsteps of Medieval chronicler and diplomat Philippe de Commynes

[This visit occurred a number of years ago. Some British readers, traditionally rooted historically in maritime — as opposed to shared, continental — relations with other countries, may find some of the concepts in this short hub article to be relatively unfamiliar. Since the original draft of this article, I learned with regret that my former professor Gilbert Trausch passed away.]

At least two towns in France's Nord department lay claim to the Medieval chronicler and diplomat Philippe de Commynes (various spellings exist). One of them is the town of Comines on the Lys River — actually, two towns, one in France on one bank of the Lys and the other in officially bilingual French and Dutch territory on the other bank in Belgium.

The other town that lays claim to this historic figure is Renescure (Dutch: Ruisscheure ,) also in the Nord department, but actually within walking distance of the Pas de Calais department. Close to Renescure, the Aa (yes, really!) River generally forms the boundary between the two departments. Or, to put it historically, the Aa represents the transition between Artois and Flanders.

De Commynes, a toposemantics of transition?

Although the castle at Renescure is named after this figure in history (1447-c.1511), the original castle itself dates from some centuries earlier. Successively the servant of the Duke of Burgundy (Charles the Bold) and two Kings of France (Louis XI and Charles VIII), de Commynes managed to carve himself a role whereby he could use his intimate knowledge of the affairs of both Burgundy and France to the establishing of a unique, personal vantage point. His chronicles have left posterity with a valuable (if not always fully objective) insight into a fascinating period of history. Being personally conversant with Lorenzo de Medici (that most subtle and vigorous of late Medieval operators), Philippe has also been compared with Niccolò Macchiavelli in his nuanced perspectives on the art of statecraft.

Philippe was Lord of Renescure, and took his name from a family Lordship on the Lys River , where the town of Comines is situated. (When I visited the castle at Renescure, I believe I briefly came across the mayor, who greeted me politely and who is the current occupant of the castle, which now functions as his rather grand office.) Not far from Renescure in the direction of the (then English) town of Calais is Ardres, near where not many years after Philippe's death the meeting at what is referred to as the Field of the Cloth of Gold (le Champ du Drap d'Or ) occurred between French King François I and English King Henry VIII. The relationship of monarchs of the period was celebrated by Holbein in his memorable painting, 'The Ambassadors', in which a distorted skull sets something of a paradigmatic and spiritual mystery.

In Philippe de Commynes, then, perhaps we see in this most enigmatic of late medieval diplomats and historians something of the internal dynamics of the borderland of France, as its influence radiated eastwards into Flanders (and, indeed, at the time northwards towards English Calais). Do we see rooted in him a toposemantics of transition, a borderlander's cognition? Does he grant us a clue as to why countries such as Luxembourg, such as Uruguay, which, controversies and opinions aside, have given the world such effective diplomats? Even a clue to why a country like Syria is a geopolitical key to the Near East?

The late Polish Foreign Minister and historian Bronislaw Geremek spoke of Philippe de Commynes as one for whom the notion of Europe was a key idea, because he referred to it as a higher concept beyond the competing interests of the many legations with which he would habitually deal. Maybe so. Or maybe a key to Philippe's historical and conceptual role is the idea of a hermeneutics of toposemantic mediation between Burgundy and France and other states? And can Philippe offer us a toposemantic paradigm to many other figures with broadly comparable roles? to a Pierre Werner representing an equilibrium of neighbouring monetary interests within the context of a Christian Democratic tranquilitas ? to a Gilbert Trausch articulating a vision of geopolitical synthesis at the College of Europe? to a Paul-Henri Spaak pulling together the external strands of a shattered, internally complex Belgium after WW2? to a Robert Schuman as a Letzerbuergesch -speaking, German canon-lawyer and master of the Quay d'Orsay holding professedly European common solutions?

Or to a Farouk as-Sharaa mediating the Levantine and Syrian mosaic and a common Mediterranean patrimony? Or to the archetypical Lorrain Maurice Barrès teaching the lesson supplied by the Lebano-Syrian Orontes River of Antiquity and its northward spatial radiation? Or to an Alberto Guani, or a Juan-Carlos Blanco Estradé of Uruguay, standing as meta-ideological mediators driven by the geopolitics of regional chancery? I leave the question open.

Or, instead of the question, Who was Philippe de Commynes? maybe the question is as much, Who are we? and are we listening to our topography?

Also worth seeing

Calais (distance: 52 kilometres), with its Medieval tower, Tudor-style church, Flemish-style town hall belfry and lacemaking craft tradition.

Comines , France (distance: 56 kilometres), with its Flemish-style town hall belfry and associations with Philippe de Commynes.


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 Renescure: 263 kilometres). The French railroad company SNCF maintains a service between Paris (Gare du Nord) and Renescure, via Hazebrouck. Brussels is the nearest large international airport to Renescure (distance: 184 kilometres). Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)