Belfry of Aire-sur-la-Lys (1)The town hall of Aire-sur-la-Lys is located on the Grand'Place and has the particularity of housing the belfry slightly offset, a condition of Louis XIV in order to separate civil power and state power.
©Belfry of Aire-sur-la-Lys|Tourisme en Pays de Saint-Omer

The giants Lyderic and Chrymhilde

The founding legend of the city of Aire-sur-la-Lys narrates an incredible adventure whose veracity is difficult to prove as it mixes story and fantasy. It is the story of the hero Lydéric du Buc, great forester of Flanders, his wife Chrymhilde and the terrible giant Phinaert.


A Duel of Giants

It all begins around the year 620 during the reign of Clotaire II, King of France, when terrible wars of sedition ravage the kingdom. Prince Salvaert, prince of Dijon and Burgundy, is driven from his lands because he is a cousin of the king of England and hostile to the fatherland. He takes his pregnant wife Ermengaert and his followers to England. Arriving in the land of Bucq, they pass through the Sans Mercy Wood where the local tyrannical lord was none other than the infamous giant Phinaert. Learning of Salvaert’s daring journey, Phinaert ambushes and murders the prince and his escort. Princess Ermengaert miraculously manages to escape, pregnant, and takes refuge in the forest.

A divine apparition then appears to her and predicts the birth of a son who, when he comes of age, will avenge his father. Ermengaert gives birth to the child, whom she hides in some thickets, before becoming Phinaert’s captive. A local hermit hears the infant’s wails, takes him in, and gives him his own name: Lyderic, a doe replacing the maternal nurturing breast.

As an adult, now a handsome young man, Lyderic enters the service of the King of England. But, in 640, fate calls him to return to the lands that saw his father die and his mother taken captive to avenge them. He requests an audience with King Clotaire in order to obtain the judicial duel against Phinaert.

At a place called the Bridge at Fins, on June 15, 640, Lyderic confronts Phinaert, wins the duel and returns his mother to freedom. Lyderic, by his courage and in reparation, obtains from the king of France the property of Phinaert and the title of first forester of Flanders worth his descendants to become the counts of Flanders.

Lyderic, the foundation of Aire-sur-la-Lys and his legacy

In 641, according to Father Malbrancq writing in the 17th century, Lyderic would have come to settle on Mount Saint-Martin above the Lys, to defend the entrance to Flanders against the Huns. He is said to have built the church of Saint-Martin, which would have been the first Christian temple erected in this place. A version of the legend would even have it that Phinaert having had his life saved came to help Lyderic repel the invaders at the risk of his life.

The only vestige of the castle that would have been erected by his care on an islet of the Lacquette, the Castel bridge would thus perpetuate the memory of it. Tradition reports, moreover, that the great forester and his wife Yonne, daughter of King Clotaire, were buried in Aire in 692, and their tombs visible in the collegiate church until the sixteenth century.

True to the tradition of the Nord Pas-de-Calais, Aire-sur-la-Lys has a legendary giant in the guise of Lydéric, brought out in particular during the fête de l’andouille, on the first Sunday of September.

The giant of Aire has his song or "Hymn to Lyderic":

“Honor and glory to Lyderic
the founder of Aire-sur-la-Lys
I proclaim it, faith of Arthémise,
He made me r’ find Ménélick
Live forever Viv’ Lyderic!”

“Before, it was only woods
all filled with animals
Y’ had chamois
Buffaloes and bulls.

We paid a pheasant
A simple javelin shot.
Wouldn’t pay 25 francs
For the shadow of a leg.

The Lys and the Laquette
Were full of salmon
Nothing but diving s’casquette
We caught six kilos of fish.”

Words of Mr. Jules Casiez, brewer in Aire-sur-la Lys.

Chrymhilde, the new wife of Lyderic

On Sunday, April 27, 1981, took place the baptism of the giant ” Chrymhilde “, Scottish princess, under the watchful eye of her promised Lyderic, legendary hero, founder of the city of Aire. From the Bailliage’s bretèche, Madame Germaine Petit, the godmother, and Mr. Bécuwe, mayor of the Aire city and the godfather of the beautiful, proceeded to the baptism of their goddaughter before distributing the traditional sugared almonds.

Chrymhilde, bearer of symbol and history, was welcomed with dignity by the great Airoise family of which she is now a part and whose marriage to Lyderic took place on September 6, 1981 during the traditional andouille festival of Aire-sur-la-Lys for its twentieth edition in a whirlwind of rhythm and color.

Nowadays, Lydéric, Chrymhilde and Phinaert welcome visitors in the guise of giants in the hall of the town hall of Aire-sur-la-Lys and parade during the various processions of the city such as the andouille festival on the first weekend of September.



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