1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Beauvais

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BEAUVAIS, a town of northern France, capital of the department of Oise, 49 m. N. by W. of Paris, on the Northern railway. Pop. (1906) 17,045. Beauvais lies at the foot of wooded hills on the left bank of the Thérain at its confluence with the Avelon. Its ancient ramparts have been destroyed, and it is now surrounded by boulevards, outside which run branches of the Thérain. In addition, there are spacious promenades in the north-east of the town. Its cathedral of St Pierre, in some respects the most daring achievement of Gothic architecture, consists only of a transept and choir with apse and seven apse-chapels. The vaulting in the interior exceeds 150 ft. in height. The small Romanesque church of the 10th century known as the Basse-Oeuvre occupies the site destined for the nave. Begun in 1247, the work was interrupted in 1284 by the collapse of the vaulting of the choir, in 1573 by the fall of a too ambitious central tower, after which little addition was made. The transept was built from 1500 to 1548. Its façades, especially that on the south, exhibit all the richness of the late Gothic style. The carved wooden doors of both the north and the south portals are masterpieces respectively of Gothic and Renaissance workmanship. The church possesses an elaborate astronomical clock (1866) and tapestries of the 15th and 17th centuries; but its chief artistic treasures are stained glass windows of the 13th, 14th and 16th centuries, the most beautiful of them from the hand of the Renaissance artist, Engrand Le Prince, a native of Beauvais. To him also is due some of the stained glass in St. Étienne, the second church of the town, and an interesting example of the transition stage between the Romanesque and Gothic styles.

In the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville and in the old streets near the cathedral there are several houses dating from the 12th to the 16th centuries. The hôtel de ville, close to which stands the statue of Jeanne Hachette (see below), was built in 1752. The episcopal palace, now used as a court-house, was built in the 16th century, partly upon the Gallo-Roman fortifications. The industry of Beauvais comprises, besides the state manufacture of tapestry, which dates from 1664, the manufacture of various kinds of cotton and woollen goods, brushes, toys, boots and shoes, and bricks and tiles. Market-gardening flourishes in the vicinity and an extensive trade is carried on in grain and wine.

The town is the seat of a bishop, a prefect and a court of assizes; it has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, together with a chamber of commerce, a branch of the Bank of France, a higher ecclesiastical seminary, a lycée and training colleges.

Beauvais was known to the Romans as Caesaromagus, and took its present name from the Gallic tribe of the Bellovaci, whose capital it was. In the 9th century it became a countship, which about 1013 passed to the bishops of Beauvais, who ultimately became peers of France. In 1346 the town had to defend itself against the English, who again besieged it in 1433. The siege which it suffered in 1472 at the hands of the duke of Burgundy was rendered famous by the heroism of the women, under the leadership of Jeanne Hachette, whose memory is still celebrated by a procession on the 14th of October (the feast of Ste Angadrème), in which the women take precedence of the men.

See V. Lhuillier, Choses du vieux Beauvais et du Beauvaisis (1896).