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Patrick Day

Soissons in the past, History of Soissons

Map of Soissons

Soissons ([swasɔ̃]) is a commune in the Aisne department in Hauts-de-France in northern France, located on the Aisne River, about 100 kilometres (62 mi) northeast of Paris. It is one of the most ancient towns of France, and is probably the ancient capital of the Suessiones. Soissons is also the see of an ancient Roman Catholic diocese, whose establishment dates from about 300.


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Soissons enters written history under its Celtic name (as later borrowed in Latin), Noviodunum, meaning "new hillfort". At Roman contact, it was a town of the Suessiones, mentioned by Julius Caesar (B. G. ii. 12). Caesar (B.C. 57), after leaving the Axona (modern Aisne), entered the territory of the Suessiones, and making one day's long march, reached Noviodunum, which was surrounded by a high wall and a broad ditch. The place surrendered to Caesar.

From 457 to 486, under Aegidius and his son Syagrius, Noviodunum was the capital of the "Kingdom of Soissons", until it fell to the Frankish king Clovis I in the Battle of Soissons.

Part of the Frankish territory of Neustria, the Soissons region, and the Abbey of Saint-Médard, built in the 8th century, played an important political part during the rule of the Merovingian kings (A.D. 447-751). After the death of Clovis I in 511, Soissons was made the capital of one of the four kingdoms into which his states were divided. Eventually, the kingdom of Soissons disappeared in 613 when the Frankish lands were amalgamated under Clotaire II.

In 744 the Synod of Soissons met at the instigation of Pippin III, and Saint Boniface, the Pope's missionary to pagan Germany, secured the condemnation of the Frankish bishop Adalbert and the Irish missionary Clement.

During the Hundred Years' War, French forces committed a notorious massacre of English archers stationed at the town's garrison, in which many of the French townsfolk were themselves raped and killed. The massacre of French citizens by French soldiers shocked Europe; Henry V of England, noting that the town of Soissons was dedicated to the saints Crispin and Crispinian, claimed to avenge the honour of the saints when he met the French forces at the Battle of Agincourt on St Crispin's Day 1415.

Between June 1728 and July 1729 it hosted the Congress of Soissons an attempt to resolve a long-standing series of disputes between Great Britain and Spain which had spilled over into the Anglo-Spanish War of 1727. The Congress was largely successful and led to the signing of a peace treaty between them.

During the First World War, the city came under heavy bombardment. There was mutiny after the disastrous Chemin des Dames offensive. A statue erected with images of French soldiers killed in action in 1917 is behind the St Peter's Church, next to the Soissons Courthouse.

The town was on the main path of totality for the Solar eclipse of August 11, 1999.


Today, Soissons is a commercial and manufacturing centre with the 12th century Soissons Cathedral and the ruins of St. Jean des Vignes Abbey as two of its most important historical buildings. The nearby Espace Pierres Folles contains a museum, geological trail, and botanical garden.


The Cathédrale Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais de Soissons is constructed in the style of Gothic architecture. The building of the south transept was begun about 1177, and the lowest courses of the choir in 1182. The choir with its original three-storey elevation and extremely tall clerestory was completed in 1211. This was earlier than Chartres, on which the design was supposed to have been based. Work then continued into the nave until the late 13th century.

Abbey of Notre Dame

The former abbey of Notre Dame, former royal abbey, founded in the Merovingian era, famous for its rich treasure of relics, including the "shoe of the Virgin." The abbey was prestigious abbesses like Gisèle, sister of Charlemagne, or Catherine de Bourbon, aunt of Henry IV.

Saint-Médard Abbey

The Saint-Médard Abbey was a Benedictine monastery of Soissons whose foundation went back to the sixth century. Today, only the crypt remains.

City Hall

The city hall built by architect Jean-François Advyné, between 1772 and 1775, at the request of the Intendant Pelletier Mortefontaine on the site of the old castle counts of Soissons. The town hall settled there in 1833.

Arsenal: contemporary art exhibitions. UK Monument (1914-1918)

La passerelle des Anglais Bridge

The Gateway Anglais Bridge is a concrete casson built cantilevered from an abutment against-weight with an isostatic central beam of 20.50 m in length. The floor has a width of 3.50 m between railings. The original bridge was destroyed in 1914. It was rebuilt by British soldiers, and logically took the name of the English bridge. Again destroyed during World War II, the bridge was rebuilt in 1950 as a footbridge. The covered market, built in 1908 by architect Albert-Désiré Guilbert (1866-1949).


  • The actress Aurore Clément was born in Soissons in 1945.
  • The saints Crispin and Crispinian were martyred c. 286 at Soissons for preaching Christianity to the local Gauls.
  • The 6th century Burgundian king Guntram was born in Soissons around 532.
  • References

    Soissons Wikipedia

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