Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

the 19th century. Of the two western towers, the completed one is that to the north of the façade, the other being disfigured by an unsightly slate roof. The building, which is 275 ft. long and 105 ft. high, consists of a short nave, with aisles, a fine transept, a choir and a sanctuary. The choir contains the statue and the tomb of Bossuet, bishop from 1681 to 1704, and the pulpit of the cathedral has been reconstructed with the panels of that from which the “eagle of Meaux” used to preach. The transept terminates at each end in a fine portal surmounted by a rose-window. The episcopal palace (17th century) has several curious old rooms; the buildings of the choir school are likewise of some archaeological interest. A statue of General Raoult (1870) stands in one of the squares.

Meaux is the centre of a considerable trade in cereals, wool, Brie cheeses, and other farm-produce, while its mills provide much of the flour with which Paris is supplied. Other industries are saw-milling, metal-founding, distilling, the preparation of vermicelli and preserved vegetables, and the manufacture of mustard, hosiery, plaster and machinery. There are nursery-gardens in the vicinity. The Canal de l’Ourcq, which surrounds the town, and the Marne furnish the means of transport. Meaux is the seat of a bishopric dating from the 4th century, and has among its public institutions a sub-prefecture, and tribunals of first instance and of commerce.

In the Roman period Meaux was the capital of the Meldi, a small Gallic tribe, and in the middle ages of the Brie. It formed part of the kingdom of Austrasia, and afterwards belonged to the counts of Vermandois and Champagne, the latter of whom established important markets on the left bank of the Marne. Its communal charter, received from them, is dated 1179. A treaty signed at Meaux in 1229 after the Albigensian War sealed the submission of Raymond VII., count of Toulouse. The town suffered much during the Jacquerie, the peasants receiving a severe check there in 1358; during the Hundred Years’ War; and also during the Religious Wars, in which it was an important Protestant centre. It was the first town which opened its gates to Henry IV. in 1594. On the high-road for invaders marching on Paris from the east of France, Meaux saw its environs ravaged by the army of Lorraine in 1652, and was laid under heavy requisitions in 1814, 1815 and 1870. In September 1567 Meaux was the scene of an attempt made by the Protestants to seize the French king Charles IX., and his mother Catherine de’ Medici. The plot, which is sometimes called the “enterprise of Meaux,” failed, the king and queen with their courtiers escaping to Paris. This conduct, however, on the part of the Huguenots had doubtless some share in influencing Charles to assent to the massacre of St Bartholomew.

MECCA (Arab. Makkah),[1] the chief town of the Hejaz in Arabia, and the great holy city of Islām. It is situated two camel marches (the resting-place being Bahra or Hadda), or about 45 m. almost due E., from Jidda on the Red Sea. Thus on a rough estimate Mecca lies in 21° 25′ N., 39° 50′ E. It is said in the Koran (Sur. xiv. 40) that Mecca lies in a sterile valley, and the old geographers observe that the whole Haram or sacred territory round the city is almost without cultivation or date palms, while fruit trees, springs, wells, gardens and green valleys are found immediately beyond. Mecca in fact lies in the heart of a mass of rough hills, intersected by a labyrinth of narrow valleys and passes, and projecting into the Tehāma or low country on the Red Sea, in front of the great mountain wall that divides the coast-lands from the central plateau, though in turn they are themselves separated from the sea by a second curtain of hills forming the western wall of the great Wādi Marr. The inner mountain wall is pierced by only two great passes, and the valleys descending from these embrace on both sides the Mecca hills.

Holding this position commanding two great routes between the lowlands and inner Arabia, and situated in a narrow and barren valley incapable of supporting an urban population, Mecca must have been from the first a commercial centre.[2] In the palmy days of South Arabia it was probably a station on the great incense route, and thus Ptolemy may have learned the name, which he writes Makoraba. At all events, long before Mahomet we find Mecca established in the twofold quality of a commercial centre and a privileged holy place, surrounded by an inviolable territory (the Haram), which was not the sanctuary of a single tribe but a place of pilgrimage, where religious observances were associated with a series of annual fairs at different points in the vicinity. Indeed in the unsettled state of the country commerce was possible only under the sanctions of religion, and through the provisions of the sacred truce which prohibited war for four months of the year, three of these being the month of pilgrimage, with those immediately preceding and following. The first of the series of fairs in which the Meccans had an interest was at Okaz on the easier road between Mecca and Taif, where there was also a sanctuary, and from it the visitors moved on to points still nearer Mecca (Majanna, and finally Dhul-Majāz, on the flank of Jebel Kabkab behind Arafa) where further fairs were held,[3] culminating in the special religious ceremonies of the great feast at ‛Arafa, Quzaḥ (Mozdalifa), and Mecca itself. The system of intercalation in the lunar calendar of the heathen Arabs was designed to secure that the feast should always fall at the time when the hides, fruits and other merchandise were ready for market,[4] and the Meccans, who knew how to attract the Bedouins by hospitality, bought up these wares in exchange for imported goods, and so became the leaders of the international trade of Arabia. Their caravans traversed the length and breadth of the peninsula. Syria, and especially Gaza, was their chief goal. The Syrian caravan intercepted, on its return, at Badr (see Mahomet) represented capital to the value of £20,000, an enormous sum for those days.[5]

The victory of Mahommedanism made a vast change in the position of Mecca. The merchant aristocracy became satraps or pensioners of a great empire; but the seat of dominion was removed beyond the desert, and though Mecca and the Hejāz strove for a time to maintain political as well as religious predominance, the struggle was vain, and terminated on the death of Ibn Zubair, the Meccan pretendant to the caliphate, when the city was taken by Hajjāj (A.D. 692). The sanctuary and feast of Mecca received, however, a new prestige from the victory of Islām. Purged of elements obviously heathen, the Ka‛ba became the holiest site, and the pilgrimage the most sacred ritual observance of Mahommedanism, drawing worshippers from so wide a circle that the confluence of the petty traders of the desert was no longer the main feature of the holy season. The pilgrimage retained its importance for the commercial well-being of Mecca; to this day the Meccans live by the Hajj—letting rooms, acting as guides and directors in the sacred ceremonies, as contractors and touts for land and sea transport, as well as exploiting the many benefactions that flow to the holy city; while the surrounding Bedouins derive support from the camel-transport it demands and from the subsidies by which they are engaged to protect or abstain from molesting the pilgrim caravans. But the ancient “fairs of heathenism” were given up, and the traffic of the pilgrim season, sanctioned by the Prophet in Sur. ii. 194, was concentrated at Minā and Mecca, where most of the pilgrims still have something to buy or sell, so that Minā, after the sacrifice of the

feast day, presents the aspect of a huge international fancy

  1. A variant of the name Makkah is Bakkah (Sur. iii. 90; Bakrī, 155 seq.). For other names and honorific epithets of the city see Bakrī, ut supra, Azraqī, p. 197, Yāqūt iv. 617 seq. The lists are in part corrupt, and some of the names (Kūthā and ‛Arsh or ‛Ursh, “the huts”) are not properly names of the town as a whole.
  2. Mecca, says one of its citizens, in Wāqidī (Kremer’s ed., p. 196, or Muh. in Med. p. 100), is a settlement formed for trade with Syria in summer and Abyssinia in winter, and cannot continue to exist if the trade is interrupted.
  3. The details are variously related. See Bīrūnī, p. 328 (E. T., p. 324); Asma‛i in Yāqūt, iii. 705, iv. 416, 421; Azraqī, p. 129 seq.; Bakrī, p. 661. Jebel Kabkab is a great mountain occupying the angle between W. Namān and the plain of Arafa. The peak is due north of Sheddād, the hamlet which Burckhardt (i. 115) calls Shedad. According to Azraqī, p. 80, the last shrine visited was that of the three trees of Uzzā in W. Nakhla.
  4. So we are told by Bīrūnī, p. 62 (E. T., 73).
  5. Wāqidī, ed. Kremer, pp. 20, 21; Muh. in Med. p. 39.