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Visting Saint-Souplet, France: a spired, 19th century church building, and drastic military and administrative history

Updated on April 7, 2016
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Saint-Souplet, World War One: Felix Schwormstaedt.
Saint-Souplet, World War One: Felix Schwormstaedt. | Source
Saint-Souplet church
Saint-Souplet church | Source
Saint-Souplet: view of the village
Saint-Souplet: view of the village | Source

For your visit, this item may be of interest

Crowned by a conspicuous spire

The parish church building at Saint-Souplet, in France's Nord department, dates substantially from the 19th century, although some of the stonework that has survived is Medieval.

In 1499 the building suffered severe damage by fire as a result of a lightning strike.

As in much of the Selle Valley, World War One brought much damage to the built environment. I have supplied an artist's impression (see right) of Saint-Souplet and its parish church building during occupation by the Imperial German Army.

In fact, Saint-Souplet has been the focal point of warfare and conflict at various points in its history. Back in the 4th and 5th centuries AD, the area around what is now Saint-Souplet was characterized by conflicts between Franks and Wends, and the village was regarded as the only safe place for Franks. Given the proximity of the Spanish Netherlands (now approximately represented by Belgium), significant local properties were damaged during the Franco-Spanish wars in the 17th century, as opposing forces tried militarily to adjust their respective spheres of influence.

Curiously, in recent decades Saint-Souplet has also been at the centre of successful moves to annex territory in an administrative as opposed to military-related, sense. In 1973, the commune of Saint-Souplet, in the Nord department, actually annexed peacefully the former commune of Escaufourt in the Aisne department, so that today Escaufourt now lies within the boundaries of Saint-Souplet, in a different department of France (Nord) from which it was associated historically (Aisne).

The village was associated for many centuries since the 7th century with the cult of Maxellende, a Frankish young women killed by a jealous suitor, and whose remains were buried for a while at Saint-Souplet before being transferred to Caudry.

In the 1560s, there was some local interest in the Reformation.

During World War Two, some local people were involved in the French Resistance, particularly in 1944.

Back to the parish church building: features of the mainly late 19th century building, substantially executed in brick, include a very prominent rose window — more common to Gothic cathedrals — above the principal doorway. Romanesque arching at this doorway and at other windows blends well stylistically with the rose window. Elements of Gothic styling are seen at various pinnacles and at flying buttresses. A 14 metre spire is the building's most conspicuous feature.

Saint-Souplet is located in the Selle Valley, and falls administratively in the Le Cateau-Cambrésis canton of the Nord department's Cambrai arrondissement.

April 7, 2016


(1) See also (in French):

Map location of Le Cateau-Cambresis canton, Nord department
Map location of Le Cateau-Cambresis canton, Nord department | Source

Also worth seeing

In Le Cateau-Cambrésis (distance: 6.5 kilometres) — also in the Selle Valley (see above) — two magnificent belfries crown the Town Hall and the Collegiate church of Saint-Martin respectively; the Matisse museum is housed in the Fénélon Palace.

Roisin, Belgium (distance: 37.9 kilometres) has a château and a monument to poet Emile Verhaeren.


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 Saint-Souplet: 158.5 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 Saint-Souplet (distance: 128.6 kilometres). 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

For your visit, this item may be of interest


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