The city of Lens

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Lens was one of the largest urbanised areas during the mining era. It was destroyed during WWI and entirely rebuilt in the 1920s. Some of the architecture is therefore typical Art Déco, which was highly fashionable at the time. In the city centre and notably at Place Jean Jaurès, the historical heart, there are colourful facades decorated with patterns and shallow-depth sculptures. One of the most symbolic Art Déco examples are the beautiful flower design tiles on the facade of the old à la ville de Limoges boutique. The Len-Liévin Heritage and Tourist Office offer guided tours of the city to learn more about these buildings. 

No particular style guide-lines were imposed during the reconstruction period. Despite the various architectural styles, most of the monuments were built with bricks inspired by the Spanish-Belgian style. The variety of buildings makes up the harmonious ensemble which is the backbone of Lens’ heritage. 

The only monument rebuilt identically as before the war is the Saint-Léger catholic church at the end of the square. History claims the church was initially built as a sanctuary dedicated to Léodégar (Saint Leger’s Frank name), when he was beheaded in 680. It was saved first from ruin in 1776, only to be completely distroyed during a 1916 bomb strike. Only one stained glass window remained. The first stone of the new church was laid 8th June 1924 and it re-opened for Whitsunday 24th May 1926. Despite all the bombs strikes which destroyed many neighbouring building including city hall in 1944, the church which has been part of the local landscape for over 1,000 years was spared.

For those leaving by train, don’t miss the large fresque which decorates the large interior hall at the station and is another reminder of the region’s mining history.