1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Châlons-sur-Marne

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18773231911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 5 — Châlons-sur-Marne

CHÂLONS-SUR-MARNE, a town of north-eastern France, capital of the department of Marne, 107 m. E. of Paris on the main line of the Eastern railway to Nancy, and 25 m. S.S.E. of Reims. Pop. (1906) 22,424. Châlons is situated in a wide level plain principally on the right bank of the Marne, its suburb of Marne, which contains the railwaystations of the Eastern and Est-État railways, lying on the left bank. The town proper is bordered on the west by the lateral canal of the Marne, across which lies a strip of ground separating it from the river itself. Châlons is traversed by branches of the canal and by small streams, and its streets are for the most part narrow and irregular, but it is surrounded by ample avenues and promenades, the park known as the Jard, in the south-western quarter, being especially attractive. Huge barracks lie to the north and east. There are several interesting churches in the town. The cathedral of St Étienne dates chiefly from the 13th century, but its west façade is in the classical style and belongs to the 17th century. There are stained-glass windows of the 13th century in the north transept. Notre-Dame, of the 12th and 13th centuries, is conspicuous for its four Romanesque towers, two flanking the apse; the other two, surmounted by tall lead spires, flanking the principal façade. The churches of St. Alpin, St Jean and St Loup date from various periods between the 11th and the 17th centuries. The hôtel-de-ville (1771), facing which stands a monument to President Carnot; the prefecture (1750–1764), once the residence of the intendants of Champagne; the college, once a Jesuit establishment; and a training college which occupies the Augustinian abbey of Toussaints (16th and 17th centuries), are noteworthy civil buildings. The houses of Châlons are generally ill-built of timber and plaster, or rough-cast, but some old mansions, dating from the 15th to the 16th centuries, remain. The church of Ste Pudentienne, on the left bank of the river, is a well-known place of pilgrimage. The town is the seat of a bishop and a prefect, and headquarters of the VI. army corps; it has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a chamber of commerce, a board of trade-arbitrators, a museum, a library, training colleges, a higher ecclesiastical seminary, a communal college and an important technical school. The principal industry is brewing, which is carried on in the suburb of Marne. Galleries of immense length, hewn in a limestone hill and served by lines of railway, are used as store-houses for beer. The preparation of champagne, the manufacture of boots and shoes, brushes, wire-goods and wall-paper also occupy many hands. There is trade in cereals.

Châlons-sur-Marne occupies the site of the chief town of the Catalauni, and some portion of the plains which lie between it and Troyes was the scene of the defeat of Attila in the conflict of 451. In the 10th and following centuries it attained great prosperity as a kind of independent state under the supremacy of its bishops, who were ecclesiastical peers of France. In 1214 the militia of Châlons served at the battle of Bouvines; and in the 15th century the citizens maintained their honour by twice (1430 and 1434) repulsing the English from their walls. In the 16th century the town sided with Henry IV., king of France, who in 1589 transferred thither the parlement of Paris, which shortly afterwards burnt the bulls of Gregory XIV. and Clement VIII. In 1856 Napoleon III. established a large camp, known as the Camp of Châlons, about 16 m. north of the town by the railway to Reims. It was situated in the immediate neighbourhood of Grand Mourmelon and Petit Mourmelon, and occupied an area of nearly 30,000 acres. The “Army of Châlons,” formed by Marshal MacMahon in the camp after the first reverses of the French in 1870, marched thence to the Meuse, was surrounded by the Germans at Sedan, and forced to capitulate. The camp is still a training-centre for troops.

About 5 m. E. of Châlons is L’Epine, where there is a beautiful pilgrimage church (15th and 16th centuries, with modern restoration) with a richly-sculptured portal. In the interior there is a fine choir-screen, an organ of the 16th century, and an ancient and much-venerated statue of the Virgin.