Soissons, city (1990 pop. 32,144), Aisne dept., N France, on the Aisne River. It is an agricultural and industrial center. Soissons was an old Roman town and early episcopal see. Its strategic location has made it the scene of many battles throughout history. Clovis I defeated the Roman legions at Soissons in 486, and the city was the capital of several Merovingian kings (5th-7th cent.). Pepin the Short dethroned Childeric III there in 751; and Robert I, grandfather of Hugh Capet (see Capetians), was killed in battle at Soissons in 923. Throughout the 19th and 20th cent. the city was the scene of warfare, culminating in the German invasion of 1940. Part of the Abbey of Saint-Jean-des-Vignes (where Thomas à Becket lived for several years) survives, as does the nearby Abbey of St. Médard, a burial place of Merovingian kings. The Gothic Cathedral of Saint-Gervais and Saint-Protais (12th-13th cent.) has stained-glass windows by Rubens.

Soissons is a commune in the Aisne department in Picardie in northern France, located on the Aisne River, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) northeast of Paris. It is one of the most ancient towns of France, and is probably the ancient capital of the Suessiones.


Soissons enters written history under its Celtic name (as later borrowed in Latin), Noviodunum, meaning "new hillfort". At Roman contact, it was a town of the Suessiones, mentioned, by Julius Caesar (B. G. ii. 12). Caesar (B.C. 57), after leaving the Axona (modern Aisne), entered the territory of the Suessiones, and making one day's long march, reached Noviodunum, which was surrounded by a high wall and a broad ditch. The place surrendered to Caesar.

From 457 to 486, under Aegidius and his son Syagrius, Noviodunum was the capital of the "Kingdom of Soissons," until it fell to the Frankish king Clovis I in the Battle of Soissons.

Part of the Frankish territory of Neustria, the Soissons region, and the Abbey of Saint-Médard, built in the 8th century, played an important political part during the rule of the Merovingian kings (A.D. 447-751). After the death of Clovis I in 511, Soissons was made the capital of one of the four kingdoms into which his states were divided. Eventually, the kingdom of Soissons disappeared in 613 when the Frankish lands were amalgamated under Clotaire II.

In 744 the Synod of Soissons met at the instigation of Pippin III, and Saint Boniface, the Pope's missionary to pagan Germany, secured the condemnation of the Frankish bishop Adalbert and the Irish missionary Clement.

During the hundred years in a famous massacre English Archers from the garrison and the townsfolk (who were in sympathy with French) were massacred by French forces when they took the city after beseiging it In 1999, the town was on the main path of totality for Solar eclipse of August 11, 1999.


Today, Soissons is a commercial and manufacturing centre with the 12th century Cathedral of Saint-Gervais et Saint-Protais and Saint Jean des Vignes Abbey as one of its most important historical buildings. The nearby Espace Pierres Folles contains a museum, geological trail, and botanical garden.


Soissons is the birth place of:

The saints Crispin and Crispinian were martyred c. 286 at Soissons for preaching Christianity to the local Gauls.

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