Salvaert, the Prince of Dijon, and his beautiful wife, Ermengaert, were expecting their first-born child when the King of England summoned them to his court.
It was to be a long, slow journey as they were traveling with the prince’s many men, and Ermengaert, being pregnant, was in no shape to ride a horse.
Unfortunately, the only road to England took them through the Bois-sans-Mercy, the Merciless Forest, where many a man had perished at the hands of the ruler of Flandres, for he was no ordinary man.
Phinaert Lord of Flandres was a giant, known throughout France for his cruelty.
When word arrived that the Prince of Dijon was traveling in the Merciless Forest, Phinaert would have none of it. Wanting Ermengaert for his own, he attacked the prince’s party, killing first the knights and then finally dueling the Prince himself.
Despite a valiant effort on the Prince’s part, he was no match for the giant’s brute strength and mighty ax, and quickly perished.
He held the giant off long enough for Ermengaert to flee from the battle.
Running aimlessly in the forest, she went into labor. Not being able to go any further, she stopped by a stream, and gave birth to a baby boy. Afraid of being discovered, she quickly hid her newborn baby in the bushes. When Phinaert arrived moments later, he knew not of the baby, and took Ermengaert as his prisoner.
But Ermengaert was not able to overcome the grief of loosing both her husband and her child, and died shortly thereafter.
The baby should have also perished alone in the woods, but fate had other plans.
A religious hermit, who lived in a cabin in the woods and went to the stream for his drinking water, discovered the crying child. Not one to let a baby die alone in the woods, he took the child in and feed him with sheep’s milk. The hermit named the boy Lydéric.
Years later, upon learning what Phinaert had done to his parents, Lydéric swore to avenge them.
He taught himself the ways of the sword, and in his 20th year, set out to find Phinaert.
Lydéric discovered that Phinaert had been living in Dagobert King of France’s palace and so he traveled to Soissons.
Once there he challenged Phinaert to a duel in front of the King’s court, stating his desire to avenge his parents’ deaths.
The King sanctioned the duel, citing the Bois-sans-Mercy as the location where the duel would take place.
Phinaert thought he would be able to crush Lydéric as he had his father, due to his inhuman size and penchant for cruelty, but what he hadn’t counted on was Lydéric’s desire for vengeance enhancing his abilities.
Phinaert swung his mighty ax with all his strength, but was unable to hit the agile Lydéric.
The battle waged on until suddenly Lydéric saw his chance. Quick as lightening, he brushed the giant’s stomach with the sharp edge of his sword. The giant collapsed; life spilling out of him.
Lydéric had won.
Dagobert King of France awarded Lydéric Phinaert’s old lands, naming him the new Lord of Flandres.
Lydéric established a new city where he had defeated Phinaert, which would come to be known as Lille.
A statue of Lyderic and Phineart holds up Lille's beffoi.
My version of Lille's founding legend is based off of wikipedia, the Lille Office of Tourism, and my imagination.