Amiens is a city and municipality in the north of France, 120 km north of Paris and 100 km southwest of Lille. It is the capital of the Somme department in Picardy. According to the 2006 census, the city had 136,105 inhabitants.
Amiens CathedraPhoto: Mattana in the public domain
The original name of Amiens was Samarobriva ("Bridge over the Somme"), but when the Romans arrived they called the place Ambianum. The word Ambiani is derived from the Gallic word Ambe (river).
The coordinates of Amiens are 49° 53 North longitude and 2° 17 East latitude. Amiens lies in the basin of the River Somme, where the rivers Selle, Avre and Somme meet. The old town is located in a swampy area low in the valley. The river Somme can sometimes overflow and flood parts of the old town.
Amiens has a typical maritime climate like the rest of Northern France. This climate type is characterized by its warm summers and mild winters with sporadic periods of cold weather, usually in January or February. Precipitation is distributed throughout the year.
The area around present-day Amiens was already inhabited in the Paleolithic. In Roman times, Amiens was called Samarobriva and the city was inhabited by the Ambiani, one of the most important Gallic tribes. They made their own money, probably in Amiens. Prosperity grew steadily and several barbarian tribes plundered the city.
The Normans conquered the city in 859 and again in 882. In the second attack, the cathedral burned down. At the beginning of the 10th century, Count Herbert de Vermandois united the regions of Amiens, Vexin, Laon and Reims. In 1095 the municipality of Amiens was formed. In 1113 the city was recognized by the King of France and from 1185 Amiens was part of France.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, Amiens is at the center of the battlefield of the 100 years war between France and England. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Amiens became famous for its velor production. In 1789 Amiens became the departmental capital of the Somme.
On March 25, 1802, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the First French Republic signed the Treaty of Amiens, which temporarily ended hostilities. In 1871, the famous science fiction writer Jules Verne settled in Amiens, his wife's hometown. In 1888 he became a member of the city council.
Amiens at the end of the 19th centuryPhoto: Public Domain
The city was heavily bombed during the First World War. The Battle of Amiens sparked the armistice that ended the war. On February 18, 1944, British planes bombed Amiens prison as part of Operation Jericho. As a result, 258 prisoners and resistance fighters escaped.
After the war, the city was rebuilt. New modern structures of brick, concrete and white stone emerged. The architect Auguste Perret designed the Gare d'Amiens (train station) and the nearby Tour Perret. The University of Amiens (Universite d'Amiens) was founded in the south-western suburb of the city.
Protected as a World Heritage Site, Amiens Cathedral is the tallest of the great Gothic churches from the 13th century and is the largest cathedral in France. The original cathedral was destroyed by fire, construction of the new church started in 1220 and was completed in 1247. Amiens Cathedral is world famous for its beauty and in particular for the beautiful display of statues on the main facade. The cathedral is described as the "Parthenon of Gothic architecture".
Amiens HortillonnagesPhoto: Claude Villetaneuse CC 3.0 Unported no changes made
Amiens is also known for its hortillonnages, floating (public) gardens on small islands in the marshes along the river Somme, surrounded by a network of artificial canals. Amiens consists of a number of beautiful neighborhoods ("quartiers" in French) such as St-Leu, St-Maurice, Henriville and Saint-Acheul.
There are a number of interesting museums in the city such as the museum of the Hôtel Berny (Art, History) and the Museum of Picardy (Art, Archeology, Ethnology). This impressive art museum in Amiens is located in an old building in the second empire style. The museum, which has been around since 1867, has a collection that dates back to different centuries. The archeology department is located in the basement of the museum. Here you can see Roman wall paintings found at Pompeii and jewelry from the fifth century.
Museum of Picardy AmiensPhoto: HaguardDuNord CC 3.0 Unported no changes made
Amiens also has a number of theaters: La Comedie de Picardie, La Maison de la Culture, Chez Cabotans and La Maison du Theâtre.
Amiens Verne House Photo: Marc ROUSSEL CC 3.0 Unported no changes made
Jules Verne lived in Amiens and wrote most of his work locally. You can visit his luxurious mansion (Maison de la Tour) from the 19th century. This impressive Maison shows more than 700 objects on 4 floors and in this way you get close to the world of thought and life of the famous writer. The house is open every day from April 15th to October 14th. From October 15 to April 14, the museum is closed on Tuesdays. Jules Vernes is the name giver of the Cirque Jules Verne, one of the stone circuses in France.
The Tour Perret was designed in 1942 by the architect Auguste Perret. The tower is part of the reconstruction project near Amiens station. Construction began in 1949 and lasted until 1954. In 1959, the tower was actually put into use. At the time of its construction, the tower was considered an extraordinary reinforced concrete building. The tower has 30 floors and is 110 m high including the 6 m long mast. For a long time, the Tour Perret was the tallest skyscraper in Western Europe.