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Coordinates: 50°17′23″N 2°46′51″E / 50.2897222222°N 2.78083333333°E / 50.2897222222; 2.78083333333

Arras (Dutch: Atrecht) is the capital of the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France. The historic centre of the Artois region, its local speech is characterized as a Picard dialect. Unlike many French words, the final "s" in the name should be pronounced.



Arras was founded on the hill of Baudimont by the Belgic tribe of the Atrebates, who named it Nemetacum or Nemetocenna in reference to a nemeton (sacred grove) that probably existed there. It was later renamed Atrebatum by the Romans, under whom it became an important garrison town.[1][2]

The townspeople were converted to Christianity in the late 4th century by Saint Diogenes, who was killed in 410 during a barbarian attack on the town. Around 130 years later, St. Vedast (also known as St. Vaast) established an episcopal see in the town and a monastic community, which developed during the Carolingian period into the immensely wealthy Benedictine Abbey of St. Vaast. The modern town of Arras initially grew up around the abbey as a grain market. Both town and abbey suffered during the 9th century from the attacks of the Vikings, who later settled to the west in Normandy. The abbey revived its strength in the 11th century and played an important role in the development of medieval painting, successfully synthesising the artistic styles of Carolingian, Ottonian and English art.[3]

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