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Calais coat of arms
Calais (France)
region Hauts-de-France
Department Pas-de-Calais
Arrondissement Calais
Canton Calais-1 , Calais-2 , Calais-3
Community association Calaisis
Coordinates 50 ° 57 '  N , 1 ° 51'  E Coordinates: 50 ° 57 '  N , 1 ° 51'  E
height 0-18 m
surface 33.50 km 2
Residents 73,911 (January 1, 2017)
Population density 2,206 inhabitants / km 2
Post Code 62100
INSEE code

Calais Town Hall

Calais [ kaˈlɛ ] (outdated Dutch Kales ; outdated German  Kalen ) is a port city in northern France with 73,911 inhabitants (as of January 1, 2017). The Pas de Calais named after the place - step over the strait, English Strait of Dover , or the neutral English Channel has its much-used southern port opposite Dover.



Calais is located on the northern French coast, on the Strait of Dover , the central section of the English Channel (French la Manche ) between the North Sea (French Mer du Nord ) and the North Atlantic . It is located at the narrowest point of the English Channel, just 21 miles from the south coast of England . When visibility is good, the chalk cliffs of Dover are visible. The place is the largest city, but not the seat of the prefecture of the department 62, Pas-de-Calais , and next to Boulogne the most important port for shipping with England. The French portal to the Eurotunnel in Coquelles / Sangatte is nearby . Calais is the center of the tourism region Opal Coast (French: Côte d'Opale ).

The canal widens to the west of the city, with the coast running far to the south.

The core area of ​​the city is divided into the old town area within the old city fortifications and the younger suburb of St. Pierre, which are connected by a boulevard.


Map of the Opal Coast


Julius Caesar started his two campaigns in 55 and 54 BC from Portus Itius, a little southwest of today's Calais . To Britain .

From the 10th century to the English conquest in 1347

Calais, which the counties Boulogne and Flanders was one, probably originated from a Petr Esse fishing village called, which documented 938 and as this year pertinence of Marck by the Flemish Count Arnulf I of the Abbey of Saint Bertin was transferred. Due to the submission of England to the rule of the Normans (1066) and the formation of the Flanders cloth trade, Calais developed into an increasingly important port and trading center. Matthew of Alsace founded the town of Calais in 1173, in whose economy at that time the fishing of herring was dominant. From the end of the 12th century, Calais replaced the nearby Wissant as a ferry port for trade (especially wool) between England and Flanders. In the 1190s, merchants from Calais were able to obtain the privilege of exemption from customs duties, which was later often confirmed, in all English ports. When Calais was separated from Marck, its merchants' guild gained recognition in 1210. In the meantime, the city and southern Flanders had passed into the possession of the French crown and formed part of the Artois until it was conquered by the English (1347) .

When the Dauphin Louis (VIII) was invited by barons and prelates who rebelled against the English King John Ohneland to take control of England, he made Calais the starting point for the invasion of Britain at the end of 1215; however, his company failed. From 1224, the Count of Boulogne, Philippe Hurepel , had fortifications built for Calais and a castle nearby. In 1253, Countess Mathilde von Boulogne gave Calais greater city rights and thus almost the status of an independent commune.

Towards the end of the 13th century, seafarers from Calais were often pirating, robbing English ships because it was more profitable than trading. This behavior intensified at the beginning of the Hundred Years War . So after the Battle of Crécy , Calais was taken over by the English King Edward III. besieged for eleven months and finally taken in August 1347 by starving those trapped. According to the chronicler Jean Froissart, six citizens of Calais are said to have saved the city's population from a bloodbath by going to the enemy camp. Most of the inhabitants were driven out and instead English colonists and soldiers gradually settled in Calais.

Under English rule

After its conquest, Calais functioned as a strongly defended English base in France; the Rysbank fortress served to secure the port entrance. In Calais the Anglo-French peace was finally ratified on October 24, 1360, which had been signed on May 8, 1360 in Brétigny and provided, among other things, that the ransom for the captured King John II was only 3 million écus and that Edward III. the Gascogne , the Guyenne , the Limousin , the counties of Ponthieu and Guînes , Calais and other areas in the north and west of France should be contractually guaranteed. According to an additional agreement, Edward III. to renounce the French crown and John II to accept that the ceded territories now belonged to England until November 1361, but this was not followed and therefore contributed to the continuation of the war.

Calais also functioned as a central trading post for the export of English wool to the continent; the proceeds from the tariffs collected were the main source of raising the sums of money spent by Calais. Although the traditional administrative system remained, the English government of Calais set up the wool pile in 1363, which was transferred to a so-called forklift consortium. The remuneration of the approximately 1,100 English occupation soldiers proved financially difficult, and the fiscal income from the pile of wool fell short of the estimates. Since 1365, a mayor ( mayor ) appointed by the English monarch and several aldermen have been at the head of the municipal magistrate , but the respective head of the forklift consortium soon also held the office of mayor for a long time.

Later in the Hundred Years War, the French King Charles VII was able to conquer Paris in April 1436 . Soon afterwards the Burgundian Duke Philip the Good , who had converted to the French side since the Peace of Arras (1435) , tried to wrest Calais from the English. The reasons for this were not only the plundering of the estates of Flemish and Picardy merchants in London and English incursions into the territory of the Burgundian duke out of anger over his change of sides, but also the fear of the Dutch merchants of competition from the emerging English cloth industry. In June 1436 Philip appeared before Calais with a strong army and proceeded to siege it . But the inexperience and lack of war discipline of his army thwarted Philip's efforts to conquer. The Ghent soldiers soon lost interest in fighting. When the Duke Humphrey of Gloucester approached with a 10,000-strong English relief army, Philip did not dare a military confrontation against them, but lifted the siege of Calais again in July 1436 before the arrival of the Duke of Gloucester.

After a significant reduction in wool imports, the forklift consortium leased all the customs duties levied in Calais in 1466 and took over the payment of the wages of the soldiers stationed here. From 1467–1482 it was allowed to collect all royal taxes and duties for Calais and not only paid the costs for the soldiers, but also those that were necessary to ensure the continued functionality of the fortifications.

French reconquest (1558)

After England entered the war of Spain against France in June 1557 under the reign of Queen Maria I at the side of her husband Philip II and Spanish troops won a decisive victory in the Battle of Saint-Quentin (August 10, 1557) After conquering France, François de Lorraine, who was then called back from Italy , duc de Guise set about recapturing Calais for France. The success of his enterprise seemed to depend on the surprise of the enemy and the secrecy of his plan. So he decided to attack the city in the middle of winter. He gathered the French army in Compiègne . Among other things, the Prince of Condé and the Margrave d'Elbeuf took part in the campaign.

The Duke of Guise appeared on January 1, 1558 with an army of 25,000 men before the city and began its siege . The governor, Thomas Wentworth, 2nd Baron Wentworth , was not fully prepared for a decisive defense and therefore had to leave all external works to the French. Within a day these were in the possession of the Froyten and Nesle (Nieulet) works as well as the Newhaven Breite and Fort Risban. Now they put batteries on the Peterhaide, with which they shot at the wall, and another managed to break a breach in the castle. The commandant ordered the lock to be blown up. On the night of January 7th, a French detachment waded through part of the port during low tide; the lighting of the mines was neglected, and that very night the French flags fluttered over the city walls. On the morning of January 8, 1558, a surrender came about, after which the city and all supplies surrendered on condition that the garrison withdrew freely. Thus England lost its last possession on the continent to France.

With the loss of Calais, the phase of English commercial policy, which until then had been based on the exercise of staple rights , came to an end.

From the second half of the 16th century to the 19th century

Historical map (around 1888)

After the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559), Calais was to remain in French power for eight years and then returned to the English; but France kept it. Since then, the area of ​​the city ( Calaisis ) received the name Pays Reconquis together with the adjacent county of Guînes and formed a sub-governorship of Picardy . The citadel was built in 1561.

In 1596 the Spaniards conquered Calais under Archduke Albrecht VII of Habsburg , which, however , came back to France in 1598 through the Treaty of Vervins . Part of Napoleon's army, which was intended for a planned but never carried out invasion of England, moved to Calais in 1805. In the 19th century the city was expanded again as a fortress and port. In 1885 Calais and St. Pierre were united into one city.

20th century

Destruction in Calais, June 1940

Calais was the main port of the English army in France during the First World War . During the Second World War , it was captured by Wehrmacht troops on May 25, 1940 ( western campaign ) . In the course of the war there was great destruction. First, the city of which was Air Force of the German army and later by the Western Allies bombed. Calais, which was retaken at the end of September 1944, also suffered a heavy and mistaken bombardment in February 1945 when British bomber pilots actually wanted to bomb Dunkirk , which the Wehrmacht held until the surrender on May 8, 1945. There was hardly any reconstruction of the historic city center of Calais.


Several hundred transit migrants pass through Calais each year on their way to Great Britain . Since Great Britain has only partially joined the Schengen Agreement , the border crossings between France and England are controlled. Immigrants who want to enter the UK by land without an entry permit try to cross this border by, for example, hiding on or under trucks. Many of these travelers stay in Calais for weeks or months, trying to cross the English Channel every night. During their time in Calais, they are homeless. They find accommodation in vacant houses or in the so-called jungle of Calais , in the undergrowth in hut villages made of plastic sheeting and pallets.

In early September 2014 migrants tried to storm the port and board a ferry to the UK. The migrants were repulsed by massive police operations and timely departure of the ferry. Due to the incident, the Mayor of the City of Great Britain asked for help. Great Britain agreed to give the city three-meter-high fences, which were formerly used for the NATO meeting. This is to better secure the port against illegal immigrants. From January to June 2015 around 37,000 people were prevented from leaving for England; In the summer of 2015, migrants began getting on trucks or jumping on trains in groups of up to 2,000 people. In January 2016, the British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn visited a hut village and called for the right of entry and family reunification for the refugees concerned.

Culture and sights


  • The Tour de Guet is 39 meters high. It was built in the 13th century, mainly from the heavily skimmed and therefore pale yellow bricks , known as briques de sable , which are typical of the coastal plain of the North Department . Erected as part of a fortress as a watchtower (hence the name "Lauerturm"), it received an oil-powered rotating beacon in 1818 and also served as an optical telegraph in the first half of the 19th century .
  • The lighthouse (French Phare ) was built around 1848 and is 50 m high. It offers a good view of the harbor.
  • The town hall in the style of the Flemish Renaissance was only built from 1910 to 1922 and has a belfry (bell tower). Like 21 other bell towers in the region and the Tour du Guet, it is a World Heritage Site .
  • Notre Dame church from the 13th-15th centuries Century is an extraordinary building complex, especially on the south side, in that a cistern is attached to the nave . The fortress-like character illustrates the exposed position of Calais as an English bridgehead for two centuries. On September 23, 1944, it was accidentally bombed by the Allies a week before the city was liberated.
  • The historic theater building is located on Boulevard de Jacquard, named after Joseph-Marie Jacquard .

In art

Ship arrival in Calais around 1800 William Turner

An internationally known painting by William Turner (1775–1851) Calais Pier (1803, 172 × 240 cm) shows the port facility around 200 years ago and the difficulties associated with a crossing


  • Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle Museum of Fine Arts and the Lace with an exhibition on the history of the city
  • Musée de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale (Museum of the Second World War) opposite the town hall with exhibits from the time of the German occupation 1940–1944



Harbor with incoming ferry

As a port city and starting point for canal crossings, Calais has 30 million travelers passing through every year. In the past few decades, many jobs have been lost in the fishing , textile and shipping industries . The unemployment is 15%. By tourists from England, the booze cruisers , the cheap alcohol and cigarettes to buy, the benefits Eurotunnel terminal at Sangatte, a huge shopping complex next to the Euro Tunnel.

The Mission 2012 project planned investments of 100 million euros in tourist infrastructures. In particular, some of the visitors to the 2012 Olympic Games in London should be so attracted. In 2013, the city of Calais established an art and culture house with shopping facilities in the city's Center Commercial shopping center. The Buddy Bears opened the new cultural venue as the first major art exhibition.


The Calais-Fréthun train station is located on LGV Nord and near the Eurotunnel . Calais is the second largest passenger port in Europe , after Dover . The seaport is north of the city on the Dover Strait . Most of the 60 daily ferry routes operated by SeaFrance , DFDS and P&O connect Calais with Dover. 1.7 million trucks cross here every year. The shipping company SeaFrance was the city's largest employer.

Hoverport Calais 2015

From 1972 there was also a hovercraft connection to Dover, which was operated by the Hoverspeed shipping company . The hovercraft ran from the Hoverport Calais , east of the main port, and took about 30 minutes to cross. They were replaced in 2000 by catamarans , whose operation was discontinued in November 2005 due to the bankruptcy of the Hoverspeed shipping company.

The A26 autoroute connects Calais with Paris (295 km). To the south-east of the city, the A 26 crosses the A16 coastal motorway , which leads to Boulogne-sur-Mer (36 km) in the west and Belgium in the east .

The Calais-Dunkerque airport is located northeast of Calais.




  • Fernand Lennel: Histoire de Calais: Calais sous la domination anglaise . ( Link - 2 volumes, 1910-1913).

Web links

Commons : Calais  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Calais  - Travel Guide

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Francis John Haverfield : Itius Portus. In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume IX, 2, Stuttgart 1916, Col. 2368.
  2. ^ M. Rouche: Calais . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 2, Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1983, ISBN 3-7608-8902-6 , Sp. 1386 f.
  3. ^ Joachim Ehlers : History of France in the Middle Ages . Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2009, ISBN 978-3-89678-668-5 , p. 226; Bernhard Töpfer : Philipp VI. In: Joachim Ehlers , Heribert Müller , Bernd Schneidmüller (eds.): The French kings of the Middle Ages . CH Beck, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-406-40446-4 , p. 262f.
  4. ^ Joachim Ehlers, History of France in the Middle Ages , p. 239; Heinz Thomas , Johann II. , In: The French Kings of the Middle Ages , p. 279.
  5. ^ M. Rouche: Calais . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 2, Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1983, ISBN 3-7608-8902-6 , Sp. 1387 f.
  6. Calais , in: Meyers Konversations-Lexikon , 0. Edition, 7. Vol. 1. Abt., 1844, pp. 98f.
  7. ^ M. Rouche: Calais . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 2, Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1983, ISBN 3-7608-8902-6 , Sp. 1388.
  8. ^ Calais , in: Meyers Konversations-Lexikon , 0th edition, 7th vol. 1st department, 1844, p. 99.
  9. ^ Joseph A. Schumpeter: History of economic analysis . Ed .: Elizabeth B. Schumpeter. 1st subband. Vandenhoeck-Ruprecht-Verlag, Göttingen 1965, p. 429 (note 10).
  10. Illustration by Frans Hogenberg from 1596: Cales almost an unwinbar ort, After eight and thirty Jar must go as long as it was under France ... ( digitized version )
  11. ^ Entry from May 25, 1940
  12. Great Britain gives Calais NATO barriers from September 8, 2014
  13. ^ Rudolf Balmer: The anonymous dead of Calais., July 29, 2015, accessed on July 29, 2015
  14. ^ Kate McCann: Jeremy Corbyn: All Calais migrants should be given the chance to come to Britain., January 24, 2016, accessed January 24, 2016
  15. La Tour du Guet à Calais
  16. Owner's website , National Gallery in London, to the picture (incl. Download)
  17. Lizzy Davies: Calais wants to be 'part of England' for Olympics. In: The Guardian . January 26, 2010, accessed February 9, 2011 .
  18. United Buddy Bears in Calais 2013/2014
  19. ^ Christian Schubert: French state wants to save Seafrance., January 4, 2012 . Retrieved March 5, 2012.
  20. Brief information on the history of the partnership on the website of the City of Duisburg ( Memento of the original from April 6, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . Retrieved March 5, 2012.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
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