Arras (äräsˈ) [key], city (1990 pop. 42,715), capital of Pas-de-Calais dept., and historic capital of Artois, N France, on the canalized Scarpe River. It is a communications, farm, and industrial center, with oil works and factories making machinery, metal products, and esparto goods. Of Gallo-Roman origin, it became an episcopal see c.500. It was granted (1180) a commercial charter by the crown and enjoyed international importance in banking and trade. By the 14th cent. it had become a center of wealth and culture, renowned particularly for tapestry. It was nearly destroyed during the wars between Burgundy and France (15th cent.), which ended with the Treaty of Arras (1435). Occupied (1492) by the Spaniards, Arras was conquered (1630) by the French; French possession was confirmed (1659) in the Peace of the Pyrenees. Heavy bombardments in World War I destroyed much of the town, and it was further damaged in World War II. Nevertheless it retains much of its old Spanish-Flemish flavor. The town square, bordered by 17th-century buildings, forms a notable ensemble of Flemish architecture. The damaged town hall (16th cent.) and the Abbey of St. Vaast (18th cent.; now housing a museum) have been restored. The house where Robespierre was born still stands. A school of agriculture is there.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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