Francois-Xavier Villain (DLR)
Cambrai ( Picard: ; Dutch: ; German: ; old spelling Cambray) is a commune in the Nord department in northern France on the Escaut river. It is a sub-prefecture of the department.
Cambrai is the seat of an archdiocese whose jurisdiction was immense during the Middle Ages. The territory of the Bishopric of Cambrai, roughly coinciding with the shire of Brabant, included the central part of the Low Countries. The bishopric had some limited secular power.
Cambrai was the Duke of Wellingtons headquarters, for the British Army of Occupation, from 1815 to 1818.
The Battle of Cambrai (20 November 1917 – 3 December 1917), a campaign of World War I, took place there. It was noted for the first successful use of tanks. A second Battle of Cambrai took place between 8 and 10 October 1918 as part of the Hundred Days Offensive.
Little is known with certainty of the beginnings of Cambrai. Camaracum or Camaraco, as it was known to the Romans, is mentioned for the first time on the Peutinger table in the middle of the 4th century. It became the main town of the Roman province of the Nervii, whose first Roman capital had been at Bagacum, present-day Bavay.
In the middle of the 4th-century Frankish raids from the north led the Romans to build forts along the Cologne to Bavay to Cambrai road, and thence to Boulogne. Cambrai thus occupied an important strategic position. In the early 5th century the town had become the administrative centre of the Nervii in replacement of Bavay which was probably too exposed to the Franks raids and perhaps too damaged.
Christianity arrived in the region at about the same time. A bishop of the Nervii by the name of Superior is mentioned in the middle of the 4th century, but nothing else is known about him.
In 430 the Salian Franks under the command of Clodio the Long-Haired took the town. In the early 6th century Clovis undertook to unify the Frankish kingdoms by getting rid of his relatives. One of them was Ragnachar, who ruled over a small kingdom from Cambrai.