The fortifications of Le Quesnoy.
A castle was built here by the count of Hainaut in the 12th century. The entrance door and the sandstone cellars remain. The first strongholds, built by order of Charles Quint, date from 1528. After the city was taken by Turenne in 1657, Vauban began to modernise it in 1668. He created four pools with which to flood the ditches and remodelled the southern flank. The Saint-Martin and Gard strongholds are representative of Vauban's first system. In the 18th century, a large hornwork structure was erected to the east of Porte Fauroeulx.
In 1881, the fort was further strengthened.
The well-preserved enclosure has the shape of an irregular octagon. It is defended by eight bastions and has been fully restored. There are two walking circuits open to the public:
- The ramparts: hiking card available from the Conseil Général du Nord.
- Discovery of the trees on the ramparts of Le Quesnoy: Circuit designed by the Parc Naturel Régional de L'Avesnois.
As you walk around the fortifications, stopping to read the educational panels, you can admire the eight bastions and seventeen outwork constructions in the ditches. Worthy of mention are the 18th century gunpowder store, the medieval tower of Count Baudouin, the Porte Fauroeulx, the Fauroeulx hornwork from the 18th century and five bastions: royal, imperial, green, Gard and Saint-Martin. Outside, the Pont-Rouge pool which was used to fill the ditches is now a watersport site.
Every year during the Heritage Days, a military encampment of the revolutionary armies, animates the fortified site for two days, with over 400 participants. An association called "Le Cercle Historique Quercitain" is researching the past of Le Quesnoy and its two cantons. It has premises in the Cernay centre, or the Château Marguerite de Bourgogne, where it welcomes groups to look around two exhibition rooms covering the history of the fortification. Since 1987, the fortified cities have had a regional day on the last Sunday of April, and some citadels, which are now military barracks, regularly open their doors to the public. Lastly, the route of fortified cities, launched in 1993, gives the public the chance to discover these cities, armed with a map and explanation cards available from the Association des villes fortifiées and in the tourist offices of Ambleteuse, Arras, Avesnes-sur-Helpe, Bergues, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Calais, Cambrai, Condé-sur-Escaut, Gravelines, Le Quesnoy, Lille, Maubeuge, Montreuil-sur-Mer and Saint-Omer.
This war memorial commemorates the victory of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, which liberated Le Quesnoy on 4 November 1918 from the German garrison which had occupied the town for four years. The New Zealanders climbed the fortifications with ladders, just like in the Middle Ages.
In 1999, Le Quesnoy opened the "Centre de documentation relatif à la libération de la ville en 1918", a documentation centre concerning the town's liberation in 1918. Le Quesnoy has become the main site for World War 1 commemorations for New Zealand in France, with a ceremony organised by the ambassador of New Zealand in Paris, the local authorities and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. During these ceremonies, a parade including the mayor and local authorities, war veterans, visitors and people from the region crosses the town up to the ramparts and the New Zealand war memorial of 1923 to lay a wreath. The procession then moves towards the French war memorial to lay another wreath. The ceremony ends at the town hall, where a tribal sculpture "teko teko maori" perpetuates the memory.
New Zealand is still officially represented at Le Quesnoy during commemorations for the Armistice, on 11 November. New Zealand parliament officials and other groups, such as the New Zealand rugby team, have been to this town several times. Le Quesnoy and Cambridge in New Zealand were twinned in 1999.
Association des villes fortifiées
Hôtel de Ville Rue Maréchal Joffre 59530 Le Quesnoy
Tel.: +33 188.8.131.52.54
Le Quesnoy Tourist Information Office
Tel.: +33 184.108.40.206.70
e-mail : OTSI.firstname.lastname@example.org
Quizz : Forts and citadels