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Cappelle-la-Grande (Municipality, Nord, France)

Last modified: 2021-01-30 by ivan sache
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Flag of Cappelle-la-Grande - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 16 November 2020

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Presentation of Cappelle-la-Grande

The municipality of Cappelle-la-Grande (8,173 inhabitants in 2010; 546 ha; municipal website) is located a few km south of Dunkirk.

Cappelle-la-Grande is named for a chapel built in 1386 by Robrecht Van Capple in the hamlet of Armbouts-Cappel. The parish of Armbouts-Cappel-Cappelle was established in the middle of the 15th century.
Cappelle remained for long a small rural village, with 135 inhabitants in 1789, 263 in 1804, and 641 in 1862. Compared to the other villages bordering Dunkirk, Cappelle experienced little industrial development in the late 19th century; the building of a distillery, however, prompted the local farmers to grow sugar beet rather than flax, once a traditional crop in the area. In the early years of the 20th century, the distillery was replaced by a jute mill, which employed up to 350 workers. A zinc and antimony factory and a brickyard were subsequently established in the village. Industrialization of Cappelle actually started in 1910 when Lesieur established an oil factory; in 1926, the update of the municipal limits transferred most of the factory to Coudekerque-Branche.

Cappelle being a common toponym in the area, the Municipal Council proposed to rename the village "Cappelle-lès-Dunkerque". This was turned down by the State Council, which imposed "Cappelle-la-Grande", the new name being officially granted on 19 December 1920.
In 1921, the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer du Nord (North Railways Company) built a workers' housing estate (history) in Cappelle, conveniently located close to the Dunkirk marshalling yard. The estate, made of 190 family houses of similar design, was ran on the paternalist capitalistic model of the time, which provided advanced social services to the workers. Accordingly, the estate lived in autarchy and hardly contributed to the development of Cappelle, whose population increased from 1,494 in 1920 to 2,060 in 1923 and 2,700 in 1930.

Cappelle was severely damaged during the Second World War, being a strategic place on the road to Bergues. In 1944, the Germans partially flooded the municipal territory, dynamited the church tower and ordered the inhabitants to leave. The 142 villagers who refused to obey were jailed in February 1945 in a camp set up in Coudekerque-Branche. At the end of the war, 83 buildings were totally destroyed while another 467 were damaged. Provisory estates were established, forming two different urban nuclei with little communication between them. A new urban center was built in the 1980s around a new belfry and a planetarium (Palais de L'Univers, PLUS), aimed at being a modern center of scientific, technical and industrial development.

Ivan Sache, 13 September 2015

Flag of Cappelle-la-Grande

The flag of Cappelle-la-Grande (video) is white with the municipal logo.

Olivier Touzeau, 16 November 2020

Former flag of Cappelle-la-Grande

[Flag]         [Flag]

Former flags of Cappelle-la-Grande - Images by Ivan Sache, 13 September 2015

The flag of Cappelle-la-Grande (photo, photo, photo) is horizontally divided in eight stripes, in turn blue and yellow. In the center of the flag is placed the municipal coat of arms, surrounded by two black lions.
The flag was adopted on 26 October 2006 by the Municipal Council (official presentation).

The former municipal flag, made of the eight coloured stripes without any charge - probably to follow the model of the flag of Dunkirk -, was deemed to simple for proper identification in mass events.
Blue and yellow are the colours of Cappelle-la-Grande.
The two Flemish lions surrounding the municipal arms are looking at each other, as a symbol of friendship and peace.

The official arms of Cappelle-la-Grande (presentation) are "Argent two fishes sable pâmé* addorsed in pale a semy of crosses crosslets fitchy of the same in chief an escutcheon or a chevron sable".
The old arms of Cappelle-la-Grande are reported by Th. Leuridan (Armorial des communes du département du Nord, 1909) after the "Bergues painting". This is, according to the author, a painting kept in the Bergues municipal museum and entitled Accvrata territori Bergensis et aqvaedvctvvm delineatio. This is a scale map of the feudal domain of Bergues, with representation of the villages, together with their coats of arms, and watercourses.
The painting is signed "V.B. fecit anno 1641" (Latin, V.B. made it in 1641). This is, indeed, a copy of the map engraved by E.L. Creite for Sanderus' Flandria illustrata (1641), with the very same title and the arms added. The map was also copied in Joannis Blaeu's Atlas belgicus s ve Berlgii, cum regii tum foederati, geographica descriptio, published in Amsterdam in 1680.
The Bergues painting was in a very bad state of conservation; Leuridan, however, was able to identify the arms using a magnifying lens and assigned them to the villages by comparison with the copies.
The arms belonged to Martin Visch (d. 1452), the son of Jean de Visch, Sovereign Bailiff of Flanders in 1385. Martin de Visch, nicknamed "des chapelles", owned domains in Cappelle, Ave-Cappelle, Oude Cappelle (near Dixmuide, today in Belgium) and Coukelaere. He was appointed Greater Bailiff of Bruges and of the Franc Brugeois. Martin Visch married Ludwine van Capple (d. 1420), the daughter of Elisabeth Parole, Dame of Tourcoing, and Robrecht van Capple. A very powerful lord, Robrecht was appointed Bailiff of Dixmuide in 1386, Bailiff of Bruges and of the Franc Brugeois, eventually serving John Fearless, Duke of Burgundy and Count of Flanders, as his Chamberlain (1409).

*without eyes or teeth, of a single tincture, and with mouth open as though on the point of expiring (Brian Timms).

Ivan Sache, 13 September 2015