Together with the nearby cities of Lille, Tourcoing, Villeneuve-d'Ascq and eighty-six other communes, Roubaix gives structure to a four-centred metropolitan area inhabited by more than 1.1 million people: the European Metropolis of Lille. To a greater extent, Roubaix belongs to a vast conurbation formed with the Belgian cities of Mouscron, Kortrijk and Tournai, which gave birth to the first European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation in January 2008, Lille–Kortrijk–Tournai with an aggregate over 2 million inhabitants.
Roubaix occupies a central position on the north-east slope of the Métropole Européenne de Lille: it is set on the eastern side of Lille and the southern side of Tourcoing, close to the Belgian border. As regards towns' boundaries, Roubaix is encompassed by seven cities which constitute its immediate neighbouring environment. These municipalities are namely: Tourcoing to the north and the northwest, Wattrelos to the northeast, Leers to the east, Lys-lez-Lannoy to the southeast, Hem to the south and Croix to the southwest and the west. Roubaix, alongside those municipalities and twenty-one other communes, belongs to the land of Ferrain, a little district of the former Castellany of Lille between the Lys and Escaut (Scheldt) rivers.
As the crow flies, the distance between Roubaix and the following cities is some odd: 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) to Tournai, 18 kilometres (11 mi) to Kortrijk, 84 kilometres (52 mi) to Brussels and 213 kilometres (132 mi) to Paris.
The soft hollow plain upon which Roubaix lies, stretches on the axis of an east-west oriented syncline which rises to the south and the southeast towards the Paleozoic limestone of the Mélantois-Tournaisis faulted anticline. This area consists predominantly of Holocene deposits of alluvial origin. It is flat and low, with an elevation drop of only 35 m (114 ft 10 in) over its 13.23 square kilometres (5.11 sq mi). The lowest altitude of this area stands at 17 m (55 ft 9 1⁄2 in), while its highest altitude is 52 m (170 ft 7 in) meters above the sea level.
The Trichon stream fed by waters of the Espierre stream used to flow through the rural landscape of Roubaix before the industrialisation process began to alter this area in the middle of the 19th century. From that century on, the ensuing industries, with their increasing needs for reliable supplies of goods and water, led to the building of an inland waterway connected upstream from the Deûle and downstream to the Marque and Espierre toward the Escaut, which linked directly Roubaix to Lille.
Opened in 1877, the Canal de Roubaix crosses the town from its northern neighbourhoods to its eastern neighbourhoods and flows along the city's boundaries. The Canal de Roubaix closed in 1985, after more than a century in use. Thank to the European funded project Blue Links, the waterway has been reopened to navigation since 2011.
Despite some American statements that weather conditions in Roubaix were bad during the 19th century, the area of the city is not known for undergoing unusual weather events. In regard to the town's geographical location and the results of the Météo-France's weather station of Lille-Lesquin, Roubaix is a temperate oceanic climate: while summer experiences mild temperatures, winter's temperatures may fall to below zero. Precipitation is infrequently intense.
The current city's name is most likely derived from Frankish rausa "reed" and baki "brook". Thence the sense of Roubaix can probably find its origin on the banks of the three following historical brooks: Espierre, Trichon and Favreuil. The place was mentioned for the first time in a Latinised form in the 9th century: Villa Rusbaci. Thereafter, the following names were in use: 1047 and 1106 Rubais, 1122 Rosbays, 1166 Rusbais, 1156 and 1202 Robais, 1223 Roubais. Over the span of centuries, the name evolved to Roubaix as shown on Mercator's map of Flanders published at Leuven in 1540.
Parallel to the official and usual name Roubaix, some translations are worth a mention. Firstly, though the city has never belonged to the Flemish-speaking area, the seldom-heard renderings Robeke and Roodebeeke are documented for Roubaix. Furthermore, the Dutch Language Union established Robaais as the city's proper Dutch name. Lastly, one can cite Rosbacum as the definite Latin transcription of Roubaix which has been in use since the 19th century, as recorded on dedication statements sealed in the first stones of the foundations of the City Hall laid in 1840 and the Church of Notre Dame laid in 1842.
Inhabitants of Roubaix are known in English as "Roubaisians" and in French as Roubaisiens (pronounced [ʁu.bɛ.zjɛ̃ ]) or in the feminine form Roubaisiennes (pronounced [ʁu.bɛ.zjɛn]), also natively called Roubaignos (pronounced [ʁu.bɛ.njo]) or in the feminine form Roubaignoses (pronounced [ʁu.bɛ.njoz]).
The evolution of the number of inhabitants is known through the population censuses carried out in the town since 1793 and the research study of Louis-Edmond Marissal, Clerk of the Peace of the city, published in 1844. From the 21st century, communes with more than 10,000 population have sample surveys held every year, unlike other municipalities that have a real census every five years.Evolution of the Roubaisian population in the 19th century
Source: Ldh/EHESS/Cassini until 2006
Roubaix evolved into a provincial market town until the end of the Early modern period with a census population of 4,715 inhabitants in 1716. By the late 18th century, the city began to emerge as regional textile manufacturing centre and its population increased, reaching a level of 8,091 in 1800. As a result of the industrialisation process of the 19th century, the need of workers was supplied by rural flight as well as immigration. Belgian settlement was a feature of the Roubaisian life at that time.
During the first-half period of the 19th century, Roubaix ranked the first French town in terms of population growth rate with a five times increase, whereas in the remaining period of this century its population doubled. Within this last time framework, Belgian immigration appeared to be one of the major factor to explain the significantly high population growth, with 30,465 Belgian inhabitants counted in 1866 and 42,103 in 1872. Nonetheless, the rate of natural increase shew to be a more important component of the population growth in that period.
At the 20th century threshold, the Roubaisian population reached a peak of 124,661, from which it progressively declined over the successive decades.Evolution of the Roubaisian population in the 20th century
Source: Ldh/EHESS/Cassini until 2006
Occupied by German troops from October 1914 to October 1918, Roubaix belonged to the combat zone of the Western Front during the First World War. Over this occupation period, Roubaisians suffered from dearth, deportation for compulsory labour and unusual casualties with a rather slight population drop from 122,723 to 113,265 between the 1911 and 1921 censuses.
The population of the city was 95,866 at the January 2013 census. This enables Roubaix to remain the third largest municipality in the region Hauts-de-France, after Lille and Amiens.
Although the region of Roubaix was subjected many times to the domination of Flanders' rulers throughout its history, Roubaisians have used a local Picard variant as the language of everyday life for centuries. This spoken vernacular is locally known as Roubaignot. Until the early 20th century this patois prevailed. Therefore, French language progressive penetration into local culture should not only be analysed as a result of the industrialisation and urbanisation of the area but should also be considered in terms of public education policies.
In the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War and the German annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, many Jews left their homes and emigrated. Jewish arrival in Roubaix derives from that bitter period of history. At the time, the new immigrant community, even though its small size, dedicated a building to Jewish faith and liturgical practises. The newly opened synagogue, located in a house at number 51 on the narrow rue des Champs, operated more than 60 years, from 1877 to 1939 when it closed under imprecise local circumstances, while Nazi era arose in Europe. Despite the closure of the synagogue, the occupation and police raids, the local practise of Judaism saw an humble revival after the war which lasted until the start of the 1990s when the modest Jewry of Roubaix handed over its Sefer Torah to the care of the one of Lille. Roubaix has no longer been home to a Jewish place of worship since that event. The house inside which the first one was created 123 years ago, has been demolished since an urban renewal project occurred in 2000. On September 10, 2015, the mayor unveiled a commemorative plaque on the rue des Champs, as a tribute to the Roubaisian Jewry, in memory of the religious purpose of this previous building.
As of August 2013 there were six mosques in the town, including one under construction. According to estimates by the mayor's office, around 20,000 people, or about 20 percent of the population were Muslims. Four areas of the cemetery were designated for Muslims.
During the second half of the 20th century, the city took in Buddhist communities from originally Buddhist countries in the Southeast Asian peninsula including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. Within this background Roubaix has brought together two Buddhist traditions on its territory, hence cultural variations across communities: Mahāyāna and Theravāda with, respectively, one and four places of worship.
During the Middle Age, the city grew in a northward-facing semicircle around its primitive core, beyond the area spread out between the church Saint Martin and the former fortified castle. The existence of this south boundary remained until the 18th century and marked an urban expansion which mainly occurred on the western and northern sides of the town. Increasing industrialisation, land transport improvement, continued population growth and the resulting need for suitable low cost lands for housing and manufacturing plants, all of which finally led to expand the city southward from the centre, in the 19th century.
Roubaix grouped four cantons from 1988 to 2012. Since then, this number has fallen to two with Roubaix 1 and Roubaix 2. After the last redistricting of French legislative constituencies in 2010, the city is now divided into two constituencies : Nord's 7th constituency which include the former canton of Roubaix-Ouest and Nord's 8th constituency formed by the following former cantons: Roubaix-Centre, Roubaix-Nord and Roubaix-Est.Fraternité
Cul de Four
Fosses aux Chênes
Roubaix is twinned with: Bradford, United Kingdom, since 1969
Mönchengladbach, Germany, since 1969
Verviers, Belgium, since 1969
Skopje, Macedonia, since 1973
Prato, Italy, since 1981
Sosnowiec, Poland, since 1993
Covilhã, Portugal, since 2000
Bouïra, Algeria, since 2003
Remarkable buildings, old brick factories and warehouses abound in this once renowned city which was esteemed to be a worldwide textile capital in the early years of the 20th century. Thus, the city inherited one of the most architectural works in the French history and culture of the 19th century Industrial Revolution and was designated Town of Art and History on Decembre 13, 2000.
Ever since the Ministry of Culture endowed Roubaix with this label, the city has entered the 21st century by promoting its cultural standing as the inheritance of its industrial and social history.
Several profane or sacral buildings of Roubaix are registered as historic monuments.Monument historique registered profane buildings
Monument historique registered sacral buildings
The city has been the place where illustrious names of French sculptors put their skills to create memorial monuments since the end of the 19th century until the middle of the 20th century. After a long slack period 2010 introduced a shift in the genre with the unveiling of Wim Delvoye's Discobolos, a statue of modern art conceived as a welcoming sign to a neighbourhood of the city. The sculptures and memorial monuments in Roubaix which deserve notice for their historical or artistical interest are mentioned below.Discobolos: Wim Delvoye (sculptor), Bruno Dupont (mediator), Fondation de France and city of Roubaix (supporters), ordered by the neighbourhood residents with the members of the Hommelet neighbourhood committee and inaugurated on June 5, 2010
Joan of Arc statue: Maxime Real del Sarte (sculptor), inaugurated on May 27, 1952
Memorial to Jean-Baptiste Lebas: Albert de Jaeger (sculptor), funded through public subscription and inaugurated on October 23, 1949
Memorial to Resistance Martyrs of Roubaix: Albert de Jaeger (sculptor), engraved "Roubaix a ses martyrs de la Résistance" and "Ils ont brisé les chaînes de l'oppression", ordered by the City council and inaugurated on November 11, 1948
Memorial to Eugène Motte: Raoul Bénard (sculptor), Gustave Poubel (architect), funded through public subscription and inaugurated on September 22, 1935
Memorial to Jean-Joseph Weerts: Alexandre Descatoire (sculptor), ordered by the City council and inaugurated on October 29, 1931
Memorial to Louis Bossut: Maxime Real del Sarte (sculptor), ordered by the City council and inaugurated on October 4, 1925
Monuments aux Morts or World War I Memorial of Roubaix: Alexandre Descatoire (sculptor), Jean-Frédéric Wielhorski (architect), engraved "Roubaix à ses enfants morts pour la défense du pays et pour la paix", ordered by the City council and inaugurated on October 18, 1925
Memorial to Jules Guesde: Georgette Agutte-Sembat (sculptor), Albert Bührer (architect), funded through public subscription and inaugurated on April 12, 1925
Memorial to Amédée Prouvost: Hippolyte Lefèbvre (sculptor), ordered by the City council and inaugurated on October 29, 1922
Memorial to Pierre Destombes: Corneille Theunissen (sculptor), engraved "Hortorum, Musicae, Librorumque, Studiosus", ordered by the City council and inaugurated on October 29, 1922
Memorial to Gustave Nadaud: Alphonse-Amédée Cordonnier (sculptor), Gustave Leblanc-Barbedienne (art founder), inaugurated on October 11, 1896
The most prestigious names of painters, who made their reputation in Roubaix from the middle of the 19th century to the early 20th century are Jean-Joseph Weerts and Rémy Cogghe.
From the end of the Second World War to the beginning of the 1970s, a casual group of young artists from Roubaix and the surrounding region was formed and given the name Groupe de Roubaix. Two painters commonly associated with the group are Arthur Van Hecke and Eugène Leroy.
Roubaix has been home to two major museums of the region Nord-Pas de Calais since the beginning of the 21st century: La Piscine Museum and La Manufacture – Museum-Workshop; inheriting both of the local socioeconomic history.Centre chorégraphique national Roubaix – Nord-Pas-de-Calais
Théâtre de l'Oiseau-Mouche "Le Garage”
Théâtre Louis Richard
Théâtre Pierre de Roubaix
The city of Roubaix was the filming location (mostly or partly) of the following films:I Am a Soldier (French: Je suis un soldat), directed by Laurent Larivière in 2015
My Golden Days (French: Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse), directed by Arnaud Desplechin in 2015
Discount, directed by Louis-Julien Petit in 2014
Queens of the Ring (French: Les Reines du ring), directed by Jean-Marc Rudnicki in 2013
Blue Is the Warmest Colour (French: La Vie d'Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2), directed by Abdellatif Kechiche in 2013
A Christmas Tale (French: Un conte de Noël), directed by Arnaud Desplechin in 2008
The Banishment (Russian: Изгнание, Izgnanie), directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev in 2007
In His Hands (French: Entre ses mains), directed by Anne Fontaine in 2005
The Axe (French: Le couperet), directed by Costa-Gavras in 2005
Save Me (French: Sauve-Moi), directed by Christian Vincent in 2000
Cities of the Plain (French: Les Cités de la plaine), directed by Robert Kramer in 1999
The Dreamlife of Angels (French: La Vie rêvée des anges), directed by Erick Zonca in 1998
Enigma, directed by Jeannot Szwarc in 1982
Life Is a Long Quiet River (French: La vie est un long fleuve tranquille), directed by Étienne Chatiliez in 1988
Hurricane Rosy (Italian: Temporale Rosy, French: Rosy la bourrasque), directed by Mario Monicelli in 1979
Swimming Instructor (French: Le Maître-nageur), directed by Jean-Louis Trintignant in 1979
Body of My Enemy (French: Le Corps de mon ennemi), directed by Henri Verneuil in 1976
The Confession (French: L'Aveu), directed by Costa Gavras in 1970
Struggle in Italy (Italian: Lotte in Italia), directed by the Dziga Vertov Group in 1970
EDHEC Business School
Decentralisation of the Universities of Lille II and Lille III
Médiathèque "La Grand'Plage"
National Archives of the World of Work
Roubaix has an old sporting heritage and is home to the finishing of one of the world's oldest races of professional road cycling at its velodrome: Paris–Roubaix known as the Hell of the North. While Roubaix is famous for its velodrome, there is more to this city than the cycling sports facilities.
The building of indoor and outdoor sports amenities in the city should be associated with its era of economic rise during the industrial revolution, in addition to the development of local sporting clubs and associations.
During the 19th century, Roubaix acquired an international reputation for textile industry and wool production. In the 1970s and 1980s, international competition and automation caused an industrial decline and resulted in the closure of many factories. From that moment on and since the implementation of the French urban policy in the early 1980s, around three-fourth of the town's territory has been regularly assigned specific zoning designations as well as health and welfare plans.
Successive local governments have tried to address difficulties associated with deindustrialisation by attracting new industries, making the most of the town's cultural credentials and organising a strong student presence on different campuses. Nevertheless, Roubaix's high level of unemployment remains and the town is listed first among France's poorest cities.
Mail order companies of international renown such as La Redoute, Damart and 3 Suisses, stemmed from textile industries which were founded in Roubaix.
OVH has established its head office in Roubaix since 1999.
Ankama Games has established its head office in Roubaix since 2007.
A22 autoroute, a French part of the European route E17 from Burgundy to Antwerp, is the only motorway, within a motorway roads network of the highest density in France after Paris, which passes by Roubaix.
The Gare de Roubaix railway station offers connections to Antwerp, Lille, Ostend, Paris and Tourcoing.
The city is also served by the Lille Metro.Stanislas Dehaene (1965–): cognitive psychologist, professor at the Collège de France and author
Bernard Amadei (1954–): professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado, founder of Engineers Without Borders (USA)
Dominique Mulliez (1952–): epigrapher, archaeologist and Hellenist
Marguerite Dupire (1920–): ethnologist
Robert Jonckhèere (1888–1974): astronomer
Joseph Willot (1875–1919): pharmacist and World War I resistance activist
Karima Delli (1979–): politician, Member of the European Parliament
Olivier Henno (1962–): politician, mayor of Saint-André-lez-Lille and general councillor
Benoît Duquesne (1957–2014): journalist, television reporter and newscaster
Pierre Pribetich (1956–): politician, former Member of the European Parliament
Marie-Christine Blandin (1952–): politician, member of the Senate of France, representing the Nord department
Jean-Luc Brunin (1951–): clergyman, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Le Havre
Alex Türk (1950–): politician, member of the Senate of France, representing the Nord department
Bernard Arnault (1949–): business magnate, investor and art collector
Bruno Masure (1947–): journalist, news anchor and television presenter
Auguste Mimerel (1786–1871), industrialist and politician
Gérard Mulliez (1931–): businessman, founder of the Auchan chain of department stores
Robert Diligent (1924–2014): journalist, founding members of Télé Luxembourg
Francis Pollet (1964-) : General officer
André Diligent (1919–2002): lawyer and politician, World War II resistance activist, deputy to the National Assembly, senator-mayor of Roubaix
Marcel Verfaillie (1911–1945): communist militant, World War II resistance activist against Nazism, died in concentration camp
Pierre Herman (1910–1990): politician, deputy to the National Assembly
Pierre Pflimlin (1907–2000): lawyer and politician, last Prime Minister of the Fourth Republic
Raymond Schmittlein (1904–1974): toponymist and politician, deputy to the National Assembly
Jean-Baptiste Lebas (1898–1944): politician, mayor of Roubaix, deputy to the National Assembly, World War I and II resistance activist, died in deportation custody
Antoine Cordonnier (1892–1918): military aviator, flying ace during World War I
Jules Dumont (1888–1943): communist militant, commanded the Commune de Paris Battalion, a unit part of the XI International Brigade
Jean Prouvost (1885–1978): businessman, media owner and politician
Agnello van den Bosch (1883–1945): Belgian Catholic Franciscan priest (OFM), founder and president of the Belgian National Work for the Blind, died in concentration camp
Louis Loucheur (1872–1931): writer and politician, deputy to the National Assembly
Ferdinand Bonnel (1865–1945): Jesuit priest and missionary in Sri Lanka
Théodore Vienne (1864–1921): textile manufacturer and co-founder of Paris–Roubaix cycle race
Eugène Motte (1860–1932): politician and businessman, mayor of Roubaix, deputy to the National Assembly
Pierre Wibaux (1858–1913): cattle-rancher, banker and gold-mine owner, emigrated from France to the United States
Jules Guesde (1845–1922): Paris-born socialist journalist and politician, deputy of the constituency of Roubaix to the National Assembly
Jean Desbouvrie (c. 1840-1847-?): inventor and bird tamer
Marie Desplechin (1959–): writer and journalist
Pierre Pierrard (1920–2005): historian
Michel Décaudin (1919–2004): Romance linguist, literature professor and author
Richard Cobb (1917–1996): British social historian. Lived in Roubaix in the 1940s.
Octave Vandekerkhove (1911–1987): writer
Maxence Van Der Meersch (1907–1951): writer
Maurice Nédoncelle (1905–1976): personalist philosopher
Yanette Delétang-Tardif (1902–1976): poet
Amédée Prouvost (1877–1909): poet
Jules Feller (1859–1940): Romance linguist and philologist, Belgian academician and Walloon militant
Wanani Gradi Mariadi (1990–): rapper known as Gradur
Kaddour Hadadi (1976–): singer and author known as HK
Philippe Dhondt (1965–): singer, songwriter and composer known as Boris
Arnaud Desplechin (1960–): film director
Wladyslaw Znorko (1958–2013): theatre author and director
Philippe Barraqué (1954–): musicologist, music therapist, composer and singer
Étienne Chatiliez (1952–): film director
Philippe Lefebvre (1949–): musician, principal organist of Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris
Chantal Ladesou (1948–): actress and comedian
Agnès Guillemot (1931–2005): film editor
Pierre Jansen (1930–): film music composer
Jenny Clève (1930–): actress
Elisabeth Yvonne Scatcherd (1928–): film actress known as Yvonne Furneaux
Charles Gadenne (1925–2012): sculptor
Georges Delerue (1925–1992): composer who worked on over 350 scores for cinema and television
Arthur Van Hecke (1924–2003): painter
Gabrielle Vervaecke (1921–2005): composer and singer known as Gaby Verlor
Viviane Romance (1912–1991): actress
Albert de Jaeger (1908–1992): sculptor, printmaker, medallist and smelter
Charles Bodart-Timal (1897–1971): songwriter and chansonnier
Jules Gressier (1897–1960): conductor
Francis Bousquet (1890–1942): Marseille-born composer
Léon Mathot (1886–1968): film actor and director
Silas Broux (1867–1957): painter
Jean-Joseph Weerts (1846–1927): painter
Rémy Cogghe (1846–1927): Belgian-born painter who resided in Roubaix
Gustave Nadaud (1820–1893): songwriter and chansonnier
Moussa Niakhate (1996–): football player
Christoffer Mafoumbi (1994–): goalkeeper
Saoussen Boudiaf (1993–): sabre fencer
Anthony Knockaert (1991–): football player
Aliou Dia (1990–): football player
Antoine Roussel (1989–): ice hockey player
Pierrick Gunther (1989–): rugby union player
Idir Ouali (1988–): football player
Martial Mbandjock (1985–): sprinter
Seïd Khiter (1985–): football player
Daouda Sow (1983–): boxer
Yero Dia (1982–): football player
Icham Mouissi (1982–): Algerian football player
David Coulibaly (1978–): football player
Arnaud Tournant (1978–): track cyclist
Christophe Landrin (1977–): football midfielder
Jacques-Olivier Paviot (1976–): football player
Fatiha Ouali (1974–): race walker
Michel Breistroff (1971–1996): ice hockey player
Pierre Dréossi (1959–): former football player, coach and football manager
Alain Bondue (1959–): racing cyclist
Jean-Christian Lang (1950–): football manager and former player
Jacques Carette (1947–): athlete
René Libeer (1934–2006): boxer
Jacques Pollet (1922–1997): racing driver
Jacques Leenaert (1921–2004): football player
Prudent Joye (1913–1980): track and field athlete
Georges Beaucourt (1912–2002): football player
Raymond Dubly (1893–1988): football player
Jean Alavoine (1888–1943): cyclist
Charles Crupelandt (1886–1955): Wattrelos-born professional road bicycle racer
Arthur Balbaert (1879–1938): Belgian sports shooter