Art Deco and Art Nouveau in Lille and Antwerp : Day Four

Day 4 : Morning visit on foot to the superb collection at Lille’s Musee des Beaux Arts, the second largest collection in France after the Louvre. Time allowed for lunch before transferring to the station for return by Eurostar to St Pancras.

Yes, the  visit to the Musée des Beaux Arts was wonderful but as no photography was allowed I have very little pictorial evidence from the visit.

Instead, I’ll post my final report from Lille about a young hero of the First World War and a yummy cake, waffles and chocolates shop – the Lille equivalent of Yorkshire’s Bettys.

Leon Trulin

Leon Trulin Statue

Each day as we left our hotel and each evening as we returned to it we passed the life-size statue of a young man with the collar of his jacket turned up. This is Lille’s memorial to the ‘glorious teenager’ whose name can be seen on the street sign nearby: Léon Trulin. Our tour manager Karen told us the gist of the story and when I got home I looked it up again on this website.

LT wording

Born in Ath in Belgium in 1897, Léon Trulin came to Lille with his family after the death of his father and went to work in a factory to help his mother bring up his brothers and sisters. And then war broke out.

In June 1915, with Lille and much of Belgium occupied by the Germans, Léon Trulin went to England to join the Belgian Army in exile only to be turned away because of his diminutive stature; however the British Army proposed that he collect information in the occupied zone.

He set up an organization which he called ‘Noel Lurtin’, an anagram of his name, to which he recruited his teenage friends, some of whom were still children.: 15 and 16 or 18, like their leader Leon. Together they sent reports, photos and plans back to Britain.

They were arrested near Antwerp and sent to Lille. Trulin, and two others were sentenced to death on 5 November 1915. His two colleagues saw their sentences reduced however Trulin was executed in the ditch before the Citadel three days later.

Léon Trulin occupies a prominent position in Lille’s memorial to the men of the Resistance. The monument stands on the very spot where he was executed in the defensive ditch of the Citadel. His grave in Lille East Cemetery is marked by a statue of him awaiting execution, his back to the wall. The monument to the Lille Resistance in Daubenton Square shows him lying on the ground next to members of the Jacquet Network.

The above statue was erected in his honour in 1934 on avenue du Peuple Belge before being moved to its current location on the street which now bears his name. The plinth of the statue bears an inscription taken from his final letter to his mother, ‘I forgive everyone, friend and foe. I show them mercy because of the mercy they have not shown me’.” Adapted from the website.

I bought some chocolates, as gifts, in Antwerp – Belgium being the place to buy. However, after the visit to the Beaux Arts Museum on Sunday morning and on our way to another museum (which turned out to be closed for two hours for lunch) we made a detour to visit and go inside and even buy from Maison Méert. All other shops in Lille were closed on Sundays.

Meert 1

Through the shop window

A past fan of Méert was General de Gaulle himself – a native of Lille. The speciality, I read later, is the Méert Waffle made with fine butter and Madagascar vanilla. “A masterpiece of of culinary refinement that has been the bedrock of Méert’s reputation since 1761.” So, Something to go on the shopping list for next time. The shop décor dates back to 1839 and “abounds with mirrors edged with Pompeian motifs, moldings and ornately carved balconies.” Being on a narrow busy road it wasn’t possible to take a picture of the exterior. There’s a charming looking teashop at the back with a restaurant, verandah and terrace beyond that. Another trip to Lille and Antwerp must definitely go on the cards.

Meert 2


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