1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lisieux

LISIEUX, a town of north-western France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Calvados, 30 m. E. of Caen by rail. Pop. (1906) 15,194. Lisieux is prettily situated in the valley of the Touques at its confluence with the Orbiquet. Towers of the 16th century, relics of the old fortifications, remain, and some of the streets, bordered throughout by houses of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, retain their medieval aspect. The church of St Peter, formerly a cathedral, is reputed to be the first Gothic church built in Normandy. Begun in the latter half of the 12th century it was completed in the 13th and 16th centuries. There is a lantern-tower over the crossing and two towers surmount the west façade, one only of which has a spire, added towards the end of the 16th century. In the interior there is a Lady-Chapel, restored in the 15th century by Bishop Pierre Cauchon, one of the judges of Joan of Arc. The church of St Jacques (late 15th century) contains beautiful glass of the Renaissance, some remarkable stalls and old frescoes, and a curious picture on wood, restored in 1681. The church of St Désir (18th century) once belonged to a Benedictine abbey. The old episcopal palace near the cathedral is now used as a court-house, museum, library and prison, and contains a beautiful hall called the salle dorée. Lisieux is the seat of a sub-prefect, and has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a chamber of arts and manufactures, a board of trade arbitrators and a communal college. Its manufactures of woollens are important, and bleaching, wool and flax-spinning, tanning, brewing, timber-sawing, metal-founding, and the manufacture of machinery, hosiery and boots and shoes are carried on; there is trade in grain, cattle and cheese.

In the time of Caesar, Lisieux, under the name of Noviomagus, was the capital of the Lexovii. Though destroyed by the barbarians, by the 6th century it had become one of the most important towns of Neustria. Its bishopric, suppressed in 1802, dates from that period. In 877 it was pillaged by the Normans; and in 911 was included in the duchy of Normandy by the treaty of St Clair-sur-Epte. Civil authority was exercised by the bishop as count of the town. In 1136 Geoffrey Plantagenet laid siege to Lisieux, which had taken the side of Stephen of Blois. The town was not reduced till 1141, by which time both it and the neighbourhood had been brought to the direst extremities of famine. In 1152 the marriage of Henry II. of England to Eleanor of Guienne, which added so largely to his dominions, was celebrated in the cathedral. Thomas à Becket took refuge here, and some vestments used by him are shown in the hospital chapel. Taken by Philip Augustus and reunited to France in 1203, the town was a frequent subject of dispute between the contending parties during the Hundred Years’ War, the religious wars, and those of the League.