Aisne

The Via Francigena runs right across the Aisne department for a distance of 99km, passing the wonderful medieval city of Laon.

This green departement is crossed by the Aisne River, dividing the valleys of the north from a drier plateau in the south, where Brie cheese is produced. Outcrops of rock, often with steep sides, dominate the landscape. Unusually, this departement traditionally produces cider and apple liqueurs and also beer. The population peaked in the late 19th C but then declined as the areas to the north became more industrialised and the population followed industry.

The department has a short frontier with Belgium and is crossed by canals and three railway lines, particularly that connecting Strasbourg to Paris. The main tourism venue is Centre Parcs, on a lake close to Laon. which has a magnificent cathedral, visible for 50km. The southwest corner is close to Paris and so the population has grown here while declining elsewhere.

History of Aisne

Aisne is noted as the place where Charlemagne was proclaimed as king of France; later his descendant fought and defeated the Vikings here. During the period of the reformation, the Protestantism took hold in this part of France and war between the German Calvinist states and the Catholic French affected the area.

Napoleon was also defeated here, at Laon, in 1814, by the Prussian army. The department was heavily affected by the first world war, with important offensives in 1917, resulting in mutinies which were brutally suppressed. After the war, 26 graveyards containing the bodies of 90,000 soldiers commemorated this futile and bloody war. During the second world war, part of the population was evacuated and the eastern area occupied by the Germans. The resistance movement was active in sabotage including destroying railway lines.

Interesting Places in Aisne

Fargniers

Completely destroyed during the 1st World War, Fargniers was redesigned and reconstructed in the 1920’s with aid from the Carnegie foundation. It’s now an historic monument; it also has a museum of the resistance.


Saint-Quentin

Pleasant landscaped city with wonderfully ornate town hall and a Gothic basilica church around a square, all restored after the war years. With a canal, canal musum, and railway, the town is a transport hub and tourism centre. It was originally namedAugusta Veromanduorum, but renamed after a 3rd C martyr.

Saint Quentin Wikipedia Page


St Thierry

Founded around the year 500, the Benedictine abbey was dedicated to St Barthelemy. In 1627 it became a nunnery but was taken over by the crown. Eventually it became a residence of the Archbishop of Reims. The abbey is now a refuge on the Via Francigena.

More info


Laon

Laon is an ideal citadel, on a raised plateau 100m above the plain and was held by the Romans then a bishop of the Franks. In 1112, during a rebellion, the palace and cathedral were burned, then they were damaged again in 1870, when a gunpowder store exploded. The beautiful Gothic cathedral and bishop’s palace, both restored, are in the upper town, which is connected to the lower town by a cable-car system.

Tourisme-paysdelaon.com


Vorges

A tiny village with a superb church of St John the Baptist, with a rose window and square tower, and historic tombstones exhibited nearby.


Berry au Bac

The small town is at the junction of two canals and a river and also has ponds and lakes. A nearby monument commemorates a 1st World War battle.

                        


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