Town of 32 500 inhabitants, Cambrai is situated in the Escaut Valley at borders of Hainaut and Artois plateaus.
Named as “City of Art and history”, Cambrai presents an architectural patrimony of an exceptional interest which accounts for a heritage of seventeen centuries of a rich and singular past.
Cambrai origins go back to the Gallo-Roman period. Cambrai becomes the capital of the Nerviens instead of Bavay in the IV century, but it is in the VI century that the town really soares thanks to the establishment of the see (episcopal activity).
The Middle-Ages correspond to the gold age of the city. Cambrai occupies a strategic position of frontier town between the Kingdom of France and the German Holy Empire.
This town develops itself sheltered from its fortifications. Governed by counts and bishops, Cambrai is powerful and wealthy. The city becomes an artistic, intellectual and cultural place.
Cambrai has numerous religious buildings whose a gothic cathedral named as “marvel of Netherlands”. In the middle of the XVI century, Charles Quint built in Cambrai a powerful citadel. The following century, Cambrai which was linked to the Spanish Netherlands knows a new period of prosperity and becomes a diffusion centre of the baroque art.
Louis XIV takes over the citadel in 1677. French stylistic influence is visible on private and religious buildings. The French Revolution ends the religious apogee of the town. Three remarkable churches remain: the Jesuits’ Chapel, the St Gery Church and the former abbey-church which is nowadays named “Our lady of Grace Cathedral”.
In the XIX century, Cambrai stays in the background of the industrialization of the region which develops itself around the coal basin.
Cambrai had traditional activities such as textile and farm produce industries. During the First World War, Cambrai had been taken up and bombed, so, it made an important reconstruction which deeply modified the centre to transform it into a city of “Art Deco”. The Second World War affected the outskirts of the town. Reconstruction of houses changed the suburbs look.Let us tell you about the history of the town over its streets.