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Hesdin, 2200 souls, is halfway between Montreuil (27 km, 25 min by car) and Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise (22 km, 20 min by car).
The town is accessible via the departmental D939 (which Montreuil in Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise) and D928 (which links Abbeville to Saint-Omer).
The station of Hesdin being closed, it is now at that of Auchy-les-Hesdin (6 km) that the trains of the line connecting Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise and Étaples stop.
Hesdin is also served by bus n ° 16 (Hesdin – Abbeville) of the Trans'80 network in the Hauts-de-France region.
What you need to know about Hesdin
The village of Hesdin, both the one we know today and the old town razed to the 16the century, has a tumultuous history as a border town, and knows its golden age in the Middle Ages.
The current town only corresponds to a small part which was once the county of Hesdin, attested from the VIe century when the count of Boulogne gives the city and the neighboring boroughs in dowry for the marriage of his daughter.
Lee county is confiscated by the count of Flanders after a revolt against the latter, in 1119, then restored in 1180 on the occasion of another marriage which creates the county of Artois, of which Hesdin is a part, as told by the Association of Friends of the Vieil Hesdin Historic Site.
The county of Artois passed in 1330 under the control of the Dukes of Burgundy, who strengthened the castle of Hesdin and stayed there frequently. The flourishing city was then one of the most important in Artois. It corresponds to the current town of Vieil-Hesdin (360 inhabitants), 5 km away.
Duke Philippe le Bon even receives various embassies there and the city sees the Duke of Orleans (in 1440), the King of France Louis XI (1463-64), the King of Cyprus or the Duke of Savoy (1464) .
But being on the border between the kingdom of France and the duchy of Burgundy, Hesdin suffered the brunt of the war between the two. Even the Austrians get involved when the heiress of the Burgundian duchy marries Maximilian of Austria.
Taken and resumed, the city finally passes into the hands of the kingdom of France … before being attacked by the emperor Charles Quint in 1553, pillaged and razed. The Holy Emperor had another city, Hesdinfort (also called Hesdinfer) rebuilt, on dry swamps not far from there. It was not until 1639 that the King of France Louis XIII took over the city from the Spanish crown. It is this city which will later become the current Hesdin.
Abbé Prévost, author of the world famous novel Manon Lescaut, was born in Hesdin in 1697. We must also Clovis Normand, born in 1830 in the city, the construction of 45 churches (Notre-Dame des Ardents in Arras, Parkminster in English Sussex …) and the renovation of many others. More recently, the village has seen the birth of the businessman François Dalle, who transformed a small SME called … "L'Oréal", into the world number one in cosmetic products.
The essentials of Hesdin
The belfry of Hesdin
The belfry which overlooks the city, above the town hall, is one of the 56 belfries in France and Belgium listed since 2005 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its old parts were already protected since 1964 as historic monuments.
It measures 70 meters in height, with a square three-storey tower as its base, and ends with an octagonal lantern which contains a two-ton bell called "Danièle Marie Pauline Henriette", can we read on the town hall website.
Built with the town hall in 1563, shortly after the (re) construction of the city by Charles Quint, it was destroyed for the first time by French shells in 1639, when they took over the city.
First covered with wood, the tower in poor condition was completely destroyed in 1768, before being rebuilt by the hesidois architect Clovis Normand in 1879, thanks to the legacy of a rich lawyer and son of the mayor. The latter also gives the famous bell, baptized with the first names of his wife.
The place of worship which borders the Canche, was built from 1565 to 1585. As the city was then under the domination of the Spanish Netherlands by Charles V, its architecture was of the Flemish Hallekerke ("church-hall") type.
Its stone portal, Renaissance style, dates from 1582. It shows the arms of Hesdin, the Austrian Empire, Spain and Artois, to whom the history of the city is linked.
The church, damaged during the French Revolution, was restored once again by Clovis Normand, in the late 19e century.
It was the daughter of Emperor Charles V, Marguerite de Parme, who built this former hospice, which became a Jesuit college in 1617.
In 1770, the buildings of this college were integrated into the hospital itself, and it was – still he – the local architect Clovis Normand who renovated the building in 19e century by adding a chapel.
Today, the building remains in use: it is now the Mahaut d'Artois retirement home, named after the Countess of Artois and Burgundy, whose two daughters were queens of France.
A curiosity not to be missed in Hesdin
Whether they are anonymous or bear the names of their illustrious owners – Abbé Prévost or Clovis Normand – the view of Hesdin's old houses alone is worth a stroll through the streets of the town.
Other houses, more or less old, are worth seeing.
Or the "house of Father Brassart", dating from the end of the 17the century and considered the oldest house still standing in Hesdin. Its restoration has been underway since 2015.
A walk to do in Hesdin
Why not take advantage of your excursion to Hesdin to go to the nearby forest, in the town of Huby-Saint-Leu? The Hesdin forest also makes state forests (belonging to the state) whose access has just been authorized again by the Pas-de-Calais prefecture, for deconfinement.
It is the fourth largest forest in Pas-de-Calais (over 1,000 hectares), recognized for the beauty of its beech forests.
In the time of Robert II and Mahaut d'Artois, there were beavers, wild cats, wolves, "wild pigs" and even a bear, buffalo or camel bought for the prestige of this "game park" . No need to search for it nowadays, even if this green space still has its share of wild animals.
The most beautiful villages of Nord and Pas-de-Calais
This village was chosen to appear on our list of the most beautiful villages in the North and Pas-de-Calais according to criteria of architectural interest, preservation of heritage, quality of the environment …
If you think that your village deserves to be on this list, do not hesitate to contact us by email: email@example.com.