- This article is about the French commune. For the Bible translation, see Douay-Rheims Bible.
The population of the metropolitan area (French: aire urbaine), including Lens, was 552,682 in 1999.
SightsConstruction started on Douai's ornate Gothic style belfry in 1380, on the site of an earlier tower. The 80 metre (262 foot) high structure includes an impressive carillon, consisting of 62 bells spanning 5 octaves. The originals, some dating from 1391 were removed in 1917 during World War I by the occupying German forces, who intended to melt them down for the metal. They were reinstalled after repairs in 1924, but 47 of them were replaced in 1954 to obtain a better sound. An additional larger bell in the summit, a La called "Joyeuse", dates from 1471 and weighs 5.5 tonnes. The chimes are rung by a mechanism every quarter hour, but are also played via a keyboard on Saturday mornings and at certain other times.
The substantial Porte de Valenciennes town gate, a reminder of the town's past military importance, was built in 1453. One face is built in Gothic style, while the other is of Classical design.
EconomyThe main industries in the town are in the chemical and metal engineering sectors. Renault has a huge vehicle assembly plant near the town, which has produced many well known Renault vehicles, such as the R14, R11, R19, and the Megane and Scenic of today.
Its site probably corresponds to that of a 4th century Roman fortress known as Duacum. The town became a flourishing textile market centre during the Middle Ages under the Counts of Flanders. Historically, it was known as Douay (Doway in English). In 1384, it passed into the domains of the Counts of Burgundy and thence in 1477 into Habsburg possessions.
In 1667, Douai was taken by the troops of Louis XIV of France, and by the 1668 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, the town was ceded to France. During successive sieges from 1710 to 1712, Douai was almost completely destroyed. By 1713, the town was fully integrated into France. Apart from the ferment of the French Revolution, it was again caught up in hostilities in World War I, and in 1918, the town was partly burned, while World War II also brought considerable damage to Douai. The town is still a transportation and commercial center for the area, which is known for its coalfield, the richest in northern France.
A centre of Catholic studiesUnder the Patronage of Phillip II, when Douai belonged to the Spanish Netherlands, a University of Douai was founded, which recent studies are coming to view as an important institution of its time.
It was prominent, from the 1560s until the French Revolution, as a centre for the education of English Catholics escaping the persecution in England. Connected with the University were not only the English College, Douai, founded by William Allen, but also the Irish and Scottish colleges and the Benedictine, Franciscan and Jesuit houses.
The Benedictine priory of St Gregory the Great was founded by Saint John Roberts at Douai in 1605, with a handful of exiled English Benedictines who had entered various monasteries in Spain, as the first house after the Reformation to begin conventual life. The community was established within the English Benedictine Congregation and started a college for English Catholic boys who were unable to find a Catholic education at home, and pursued studies in the University of Douai. However, the community was expelled at the time of the French Revolution in 1793 and, after some years of wandering, finally settled at Downside Abbey, Somerset, in 1814. This is disputed and the monastic community of Douai in Woolhampton, Reading was established in 1903 and continued as a educational establishment for boys until the early 21st century.
Another English Benedictine community, the Priory of St. Edmund, which had been formed in Paris in 1615 by Dom Gabriel Gifford, later Archbishop of Rheims and primate of France, was expelled from Paris during the Revolution, and eventually took over the vacant buildings of the community of St Gregory's in 1818. Later, following Waldeck-Rousseau's Law of Associations (1901), this community also returned to England in 1903, where it was established at Douai Abbey, near Reading.
In 1609 the English College published a translation of the Old Testament, which, together with the New Testament published at Rheims 27 years earlier, was the Bible used by Anglophone Roman Catholics almost exclusively for more than 300 years. For a time there was a Charterhouse in Douai.
The English town of Bridgwater takes the second half of its name from the Norman prince Walter Douai.
Other colleges and universities
BirthsDouai was the birthplace of:
- Giambologna, born as Jean Boulogne (1529-1608), sculptor
- Charles Alexandre de Calonne (1734-1802), statesman
- Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786-1859), poet
- Henri-Edmond Cross (1856-1910), pointillist painter
- André Obey (1892-1975), playwright
- Jacky Henin (born 1960), politician and Member of the European Parliament
Twin townsDouai is twinned with:
- Douai official website (in French)
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