October 11, 2011

Lille et Ses Portes

Although most of the ancient walls that once enclosed Lille were destroyed, a few of the large city gates (portes) remain, telling the city’s history.

While Lille was a walled-in city starting in the Middle Ages, both la porte de Gand and la porte de Roubaix were built while Lille was under Spanish rule, in 1620.

La Porte de Gand.

La Porte de Roubaix

Once Lille became French in 1667, the Marquis de Vauban, under orders from King Louis XIV, set about making Lille more French. He also wanted to show the strength of the French monarchy through doubling the ramparts surrounding the porte de Gand. These ramparts can be seen in the park in front of the Ghent Gate.

La Porte de Gand and some of the ramparts in the surrounding park.

La Porte de Roubaix was built to protect the 75 acres the Spanish added to the city. In 1792, during the French Revolutionary Wars (wars that took place after the French Revolution between the newly formed First Republic of France and coalitions of other European states) a general from the Austrian Netherlands came to la porte de Roubaix with an ultimatum from the Duke of Saxe-Teschen demanding that the city surrender. The city did not surrender, withstood several days of cannon fire, and won the battle, remaining loyal to the new democratic France.

La Porte de Roubaix.

Although taken down in 1920s during the major dismantlement of the city’s ramparts, a piece of the porte de Tournai can be found in the square de reduit.

The remains of la Porte de Tournai.

In 1667, after France's victory over the Spanish Netherlands, King Louis XIV entered the city of Lille through the porte des malades in order to accept the keys to the city. In 1685 work started to transform the gate into an Arche du Triomphe celebrating King Louis XIV’s victory. The arch was finished in 1692 and named La Porte de Paris.

La Porte de Paris and le beffroi.

In order to glorify King Louis XIV, the architect decided to add sculptures to the gate. On the left there is a statue of Mars, the Roman god of war, and on the right there is a statue of Hercules, symbolizing the strength of Louis XIV. At the top two angels can be seen with golden trumpets, announcing the victory to the world, and in the middle is Victory herself, ready to crown the King.

La Porte de Paris and its statues.

Check it out:
La Porte de Gand - rue de Gand
La Porte de Roubaix - where the rue de Roubaix meets park Henri Matisse
La Porte de Tournai - rue de reduit, in the square du reduit
La Porte de Paris - Place Simon Vollant


  1. Very interesting to see the Spanish architectural influence at that time compared to the French one. Thanks for the lesson!

  2. A French Frye in Paris: Thank you! I think one of the things that makes Lille a really interesting city is that it's been under the rule of several different European countries over the years.

  3. I found this to be a very informative article...And thank you for sharing it with us. The La Porte de Paris is very impressive with the statues of Hercules and Mars flanking the sides of the building.

    Thanks for sharing.


  4. Kris: I'm glad you enjoyed it! La Porte de Paris is very impressive and might by why I talked about the other two first, haha. But I think they're all beautiful. We don't have anything like it in California!

    Joshua: Agreed!

  5. I loved the history lesson - thanks!


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