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Spycker (Municipality, Nord, France)

Last modified: 2021-01-30 by ivan sache
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Flag of Spycker - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 15 November 2020

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Presentation of Spycker

The municipality of Spycker (1,804 inhabitants in 2018; 979 ha; municipal website) is located south of Dunkirk.

Spycker was first mentioned in 1067, as Spicris, a name cognate to German Spicari, Latin Spicarium and Dutch Spijker, meaning "a grain barn". The village was subsequently known as Spicre (15th century), Spicher (16th century), and, eventually, Spycker (date unknown). In 1127, a local lord established the St. Victor abbey, which was transferred in 1248 to Bergues.

The parish church, erected in the 15th century and modified in the 17th century, was destroyed in 1940. The new church, among the first rebuilt in French Flanders, was consecrated on 27 May 1954.
The church is dedicated to St. Leonard; the St. Leonard pond / well was a popular place of pilgrimage, as reported by parish accounts dated from the late 16th century. The miraculous water was recommended to heal backaches. Semi-legendary Leonard, whose cult was spread from the Saint-Léonard de Noblat abbey (Limousin). The queen of the Franks allegedly gave birth to a male child after the saint's intercession; veneration of his relics "allowed" Ann of Austria to give birth to future Louis XIV. The local cult in Spycker might be explained by the association of backache with difficult labor.
The original well was replaced by a brand new one erected by Marcel Parésys (d. 1956), who served as the parish priest for 28 years. The priest also built in 1932 an altar dedicated to St. Christopher, where cars are blessed every 1 July, and a replica of the Massabielle grotto in Lourdes. In 1938, he built a replica of the shrine of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

The memorial of the 225th Infantry Regiment recalls that 40 members of the unit, Commandant André Noailles included, were killed in Spycker during the defense of Dunkirk, which occurred from 23 May to 4 June 1940.
During the liberation of the village in 1945, the SS captured priest Parésys and planned to burn him alive in the grotto; they were prevented to do so by the advance of the Canadian troops that liberated the area.

Ivan Sache, 21 November 2020

Flag of Spycker

The flag of Spycker (photo) is white with the municipal coat of arms, "Argent billetty a lion sable armed and langued gules", surmonted by "VILLE DE SPYCKER".

The arms were assigned by Th. Leuridan (Armorial des communes du département du Nord, 1909) as the arms of the Heuchin, once lords of Spycker, which are engraved on the church bell, dated 1598.
The Heuchin family is indeed the De Plancque dit d'Heuchin family, also lords of Loon; accordginly, Leuridan assigned the same arms to Loon-Plage.
Simpler arms "Argent a lion sable" are shown on the "Bergues painting", 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.

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 21 November 2020