- FRANCE AND BELGIUM -

LILLE Part 3

LINKS to pages in the France and Belgium site and to the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

     1 : Lille
     2 : Ghent
     3 : Ypres
     4 : Bruges

HOME PAGE : France and Belgium

HOME PAGE : Colin Day's Links

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The Opéra de Lille is a theatre-style neo-classical opera house, built during the years 1907 to 1913 and officially opened in 1923.

In 1903 fire destroyed the previous Lille opera house, which had been designed by Lille architect Michael Joseph Lequeux and built in 1785. For the replacement city officials chose architect Louis Marie Cordonnier following a competition.

Cordonnier's Belle Époque design features an elaborate pediment relief by sculptor Hippolyte Lefèbvre, and two flanking bas-relief panels by Alphonse-Amédée Cordonnier and Hector Lemaire. The interior includes work by sculptor Edgar-Henri Boutry.

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The Germans occupied Lille during World War I and commandeered much of the furniture and equipment of the Opéra to furnish the other opera in Lille, the Theatre Sebastopol.

After four years of occupation, the building was restored and opened its doors again in 1923.

In 1998 the theatre's physical condition required an emergency closure in mid-season.

Renovations evolved into a more ambitious project to improve the building's functional capabilities both for the public and for performing artists.

The project was completed in time for Lille's year as 'European Capital of Culture' in 2004.

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We move from the Grand Place to the la place Rihour (right).

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Built from 1453 onwards by order of Philippe Le Bon (Philip the Good), la place Rihour was completed some 20 years later by his son, Charles Le Téméraire (Charles the Bold).

All through the year, different events, concerts, Christmas markets, are organised around its modern fountain. A place where the people of Lille live and gather, la place Rihour is surrounded by magnificent buildings among which is the famous Rihour palace.

Built between 1453 and 1473 (commissioned by Philippe le Bon, third Duke of Burgundy) this masterpiece of Flemish Gothic architecture has today been reduced to a few remaining parts. Numerous fires ravaged the building throughout its history.


The only areas to have escaped the flames was the mess hall, with its beautifully vaulted ceiling, and the brick and stone chapel. "A Flamboyant Gothic staircase spiralled upwards towards this display of grandeur."

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Lille's imposing war memorial, the focal point of every important remembrance event held in the city, backs on to the medieval chapel built by the Dukes of Burgundy on place Rihour.

The memorial was erected on the site of the old City Hall which burned to the ground in 1916. The latter was built at the beginning of the 19th century but was soon considered to be impractical, outdated and taking up too much space in the square.

After the war Mayor Gustave Delory decided to rebuild the City Hall in another location so that the city centre could open out on to the working-class district of Saint-Sauveur.

Subsequently, the City Council voted to erect a war memorial in the free space on place Rihour. In 1924 an architect named Alleman and a sculptor named Boutry were chosen to design a monument, which they baptized Melancolia, that would evoke the major events of Lille's occupation between 1914 and 1918.

However, at the same time, a remembrance trail was being developed in the city to take in all the key sites and monuments dedicated to the members of the Lille Resistance such as Eugéne Jacquet, Léon Trulin and Louis de Bettignies and the victims of a huge explosion caused by a munitions depot.

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This meant that the design of the memorial in place Rihour had to be changed and the typical statuary of early 20th century memorials was replaced by allegories.....

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One of these evokes the sad fate of those taken prisoner by the Germans to ensure the collaboration of the city folk (left).

In July 1915 thirty hostages were held in the Citadel and 131 others were deported to Germany so that the people of Lille would obey and work for the occupying army.

In November 1916 three hundred civilians (including Mayor Delory) were sent to a camp and used as bargaining chips to force the French government to release their own German hostages.




Despite pressure for a more 'patriotic' inscription, the City Council decided to dedicate the memorial 'To the people of Lille, soldiers and civilians ... who died for Peace'.

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