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Once the bishop’s residence, the courthouse stands out for its stunning classical architecture
The old bishop residence
Starting in the 7th century, the city of Thérouanne was the seat of a powerful diocese, but in 1553, Charles Quint commanded its total destruction. The cathedral and the bishop of Thérouanne disappeared, and in turn, the collegial church Notre-Dame of Saint Omer became a cathedral in 1561. It was erected in the previous location of the church founded by Saint Omer in the 7th century. It was surrounded by an enclosure lined by the former houses of priests and clerks who made up the canon of the cathedral. The house of the provost of the canon was rebuilt in the 18th century after burning down and ultimately became the bishop’s residence.
In 1677, the territory of St-Omer was turned back over to the French kingdom under Louis XIV. The area was frenchified, particularly in its architecture causing the Flemish influence to cede to French styles. The bishops named by the king were agents of this expansion of French culture, and the former bishop’s residence is a perfect example of French classicism.
The residence was a mansion with an exquisite garden and court. Its facade is understated and simple, but also very monumental. It is evident in its style that the construction expressed the power of the Church and the glory of the king, particularly in the pediment featuring the Sun King as the leader watching over his people and the whole earth, offering abundance and plenty. The Sun King’s motto is of couse present: “nec pluribus impar” or literally “not unequal to many,” implying his sufficiency and superiority.
The residence was confiscated in the French Revolution and became the courthouse in 1795.