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Rue - Medieval town - Somme - Picardie
Rue in history
Rue is a medieval town nestled in a meander of the river Maye, along the Baie de Somme.
Rue is the historic capital of Marquenterre.
This small natural area, situated inland from the English Channel, once belonged to the County of Ponthieu.
Vikings from the town of Ry in Jutland founded the city in the 9th century.
They settled down in the vast marshy land located between the Channel and the Bay of Somme.
The small village soon became a prosperous port and a major stronghold of the County of Ponthieu.
It also became a major place of pilgrimage in 1101 when a boat containing the Crucifix of the Holy Spirit ran aground on the town beach.
Indeed kings and queens, but also simple pilgrims, flocked to Rue to worship the Cross.
A century later, the Count of Ponthieu bestowed to the city a municipal charter that granted freedoms to its inhabitants.
Rue suffered severe damage during the Hundred Years War because of its strategic position.
It was rebuilt in the late 15th century, and many of its current buildings date from that time.
These protected the city until 1670 when Colbert dismantled them after the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.
A marked trail allows you today to discover the layout of these fortifications.
Rue counts several exceptional monuments such as the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, the Chapel of the Hospice, the Belfry or the small Church of Saint Wulphy.
However, it is also mostly known for its Mysterious Crucifix of the Holy Spirit.
The Miraculous Crucifix
This is how the legend goes...
The first Sunday of August 1100, a boat without a mast, sail or rudder sailed from the Holy Land and landed on the beach of Rue.
It transported a carved Crucifix, larger than life, which belonged to the house of Nicodemus (one of Christ's disciples).
People believed that God guided the boat, and therefore took it aground at the request of St. Wulphy, the first priest of Rue.
The Cross was sheltered in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, and soon drew large crowds of pilgrims.
According to a second legend (which appeared a century later) the inhabitants of Abbeville became jealous of the prosperity the pilgrimage brought to Rue.
They appealed to the Parliament of Paris which ruled in their favour and ordered for the Crucifix to be transported to their town.
However, the horses pulling the carriage that transported the Crucifix seemed as if paralyzed and were unable to move.
God had spoken; Rue could retain the precious Crucifix!
Chapelle du Saint-Esprit
The Chapel of the Holy Spirit is a masterpiece of Flamboyant architecture in Picardie.
It was built between 1440 and 1514 in order to accommodate the pilgrims who came to venerate the mysterious Crucifix.
Kings, queens and simple pilgrims flocked to Rue until the 17th century and thus contributed to the growth and prosperity of the city.
The vaults and the Treasury of the chapel are renowned for the exquisite beauty of their lace sculptures.
Indeed, they are a perfect illustration of Gothic Flamboyant at its best!
Three canvases by the local painter Albert Siffait de Moncourt adorn the walls of the nave.
They represent the legends of the Crucifix of Rue.
Chapelle de l’Hospice
The Chapel of the Hospice dates from the 12th century.
The hospice and its chapel were built in order to accommodate the penniless pilgrims.
Both buildings were destroyed during the Hundred Years War, but were rebuilt.
The current chapel dates from the 16th century, and is dedicated to Saint-Nicolas and Santiago de Compostela.
It is renowned for its vault shaped like an inverted boat hull.
It contains many works of religious art such as carvings, statues and canvases by representing 'St Augustine writing his memoirs'.
The first church of Saint Wulphy was built in the 12th century.
It was dedicated to the first priest of Rue who lived in the 7th century.
Its 44m high steeple served as a beacon for the ships sailing off the Picardie shores.
A violent storm sadly destroyed the church on February 21, 1798.
Charles Sordi, a local resident, commissioned its reconstruction between 1828 and 1833.
The current neo-Classical church, however, contains some of the original Romanesque features.
The Belfry is certainly the most famous monument in Picardie and is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage.
The first belfry was built in 1214, after the granting of the Township Charter, and was part of the fortifications Rue built at the time.
It was damaged during the various conflicts and was rebuilt after the Hundred Years War; its lower part dates from the 15th century.
A 75 steps spiral staircase serves two floors.
It then leads to the walkway, which boasts one of the best views of the Bay of Somme and the Forêt de Crécy.
The Aldermen Hall - Salle des Echevins is on the 1st floor and, as its name suggests (échevins means aldermen), housed the medieval town hall.
The guards in charge of the protection of Rue were posted on the 2nd floor in the Salle des Gardes.
This room accesses the old city jail whose walls are still engraved with 17th and 18th centuries graffiti.
Two neo-Gothic style wings were built in the 19th century in order to keep the belfry as a Town Hall.
Albert Siffait de Moncourt created more painting for the walls of the old Justice Court.
These canvases represent eight scenes of the everyday local life in the early 19th century.
Rue, a charming town
Those who love aviation will enjoy discovering the Musée des Frêres Caudron.
In 1909, the two brothers who lived in one of the neighbouring villages succeeded in building a "flying machine".
Rue is small in size but large in heritage; it boasts an amazing number of exceptional buildings and many timbered houses lining its medieval streets.
Finally, Rue is not only a charming town, but also one of four Picardie towns classified "Station Verte de Vacances - Green Holiday Resort".
Department of Somme - Picardie Region
Coordinates: Lat 50.272480 - Long 1.667315
Photo via Wikimedia Commons: Crucifix by Utopiste is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 - Eglise Saint Wulphy by Mattana is in the public domain
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