1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Amiens

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AMIENS, a city of northern France, capital of the department of Somme, on the left bank of the Somme, 81 m. N. of Paris on the Northern railway to Calais. Pop. (1906) 78,407. Amiens was once a place of great strength, and still possesses a citadel of the end of the 16th century, but the ramparts which surrounded it have been replaced by boulevards, bordered by handsome residences. Suburbs, themselves bounded by another line of boulevards, have arisen beyond these limits, and the city also extends to the right bank of the Somme. The busy quarter of Amiens lies between the river and the railway, which for some distance follows the inner line of boulevards. The older and more picturesque quarter is situated directly on the Somme; its narrow and irregular streets are intersected by the eleven arms of the river and it is skirted on the north by the canal derived therefrom. Besides its boulevards Amiens has the ample park or Promenade de la Hotoie to the west and several fine squares, notably the Place Longueville and the Place St Denis, in which stands the statue of the famous 17th-century scholar Charles Ducange. The cathedral (see Architecture: Romanesque and Gothic Architecture in France; and Cathedral), which is perhaps the finest church of Gothic architecture in France, far exceeds the other buildings of the town in importance. Erected on the plans of Robert de Luzarches, chiefly between 1220 and 1288, it consists of a nave, nearly 140 ft. in height, with aisles and lateral chapels, a transept with aisles, and a choir (with deambulatory) ending in an apse surrounded by chapels. The total length is 469 ft., the breadth 216 ft. The façade, which is flanked by two square towers without spires, has three portals decorated with a profusion of statuary, the central portal having a remarkable statue of Christ of the 13th century; they are surmounted by two galleries, the upper one containing twenty-two statues of the kings of Judah in its arcades, and by a fine rose-window. A slender spire rises above the crossing. The southern portal is remarkable for a figure of the Virgin and other statuary. In the interior, which contains beautifully carved stalls, a choir-screen in the flamboyant style and many other works of art, the most striking features are the height of the nave and the boldness of the columns supporting the vaulting. The chief of the other churches of Amiens is St Germain (15th century), which has some good stained glass. The hôtel de ville, begun in 1550, a belfry of the 14th and 18th centuries and several old mansions are of interest. Amiens has a rich library and admirable collections of paintings, sculptures and antiquities in the museum of Picardy. Its learned associations include the Société des Antiquaires de Picardie, by whom the museum was built in 1854-1864. The city is the seat of a bishop, a prefect, a court of appeal and a court of assizes, and headquarters of the II. Army Corps. There are also tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a board of trade-arbitrators, a chamber of commerce and a branch of the Bank of France. The educational institutions include lycées for boys and girls, training-colleges for teachers, a preparatory school of medicine, a school of music and a school of iron-working and wood-working. The textile industries for which Amiens has been celebrated since the middle ages include manufactures of velvet, cotton-, wool-, silk-, hemp- and flax-spinning, and the weaving of hosiery and a variety of mixed fabrics. Manufactures of machinery, chemicals, blacking, polish and sugar, and printing, dyeing and iron-founding are also carried on. Market gardens, known as hortillonnages, intersected by small canals derived from the Somme and Avre, cover a considerable area to the north-east of Amiens; and the city has trade in vegetables, as well as in grain, sugar, wool, oil-seeds and the duck-pasties and macaroons for which it is renowned.

Amiens occupies the site of the ancient Samarobriva, capital of the Ambiani, from whom it probably derives its name. At the beginning of the 4th century Christianity was preached there by St Firmin, its first bishop. During the middle ages its territory formed the countship of Amiénois. The authority of the counts was, however, balanced by that of the bishops, and early in the 12th century the citizens, profiting by this rivalry, gained a charter of enfranchisement. The fief became for the first time a dependency of the French crown in 1185, when Philip of Alsace, count of Flanders, ceded it to Philip Augustus. It more than once passed out of the power of the French kings, notably in 1435, when, by the treaty of Arras, it came into the possession of the dukes of Burgundy, to whom it belonged till 1477. Surprised by the Spaniards in 1597, the city was recaptured from them after a long siege by Henry IV. Till 1790 it was the capital of the gouvernement of Picardy (q.v.). The famous treaty between Great Britain, France, Spain and Holland which took its name from Amiens was signed in the hôtel de ville on the 25th of March 1802. During the war between France and Germany, Amiens, after an important action, fell into the hands of the Prussians on the 28th of November 1870. (See Franco-German War.)

See A. de Calonne, Histoire de la ville d'Amiens (1900); John Ruskin, The Bible of Amiens (1881); La Picardie historique et monumentale, tome i., published by the Société des Antiquaires de Picardie (1893).