The valley of Scarpe can boast a great monastic past. Marchiennes still retains architectural remains among the most important of the North Department.
The abbey was founded around 630 by Adalbaud, Count of Douai and member of King Dagobert's court.
The monastery first housed a community of men living under the Benedictine rule, for about 15 years. Then upon the death of Adalbaud, his wife withdrew to Marchiennes. The monastery became mixed and abbesses took power.
In 1024, following the religious reform, women were sent to the monastery of Denain founded between the 7th and 8th centuries and the abbey becomes exclusively male once again. Over the centuries, it counted among the most powerful abbeys in the north of France and Belgium, characterized by periods of splendor, of wars and of reconstructions. Around 1790, the monks were expelled and the abbey, become national property, was sold for its stones.
It still holds remains that can attest its rich past :
- The main gateway of the Abbey (1748) which now houses the town hall and the museum of local history
- A monumental dovecote (1754), the second door of the abbey, used by the monks to go to the fields and in the forest
- The old Dufour brewery, major witness of monk activities on the territory
- The presbytery, a part of the abbey dwelling and some farm buildings.
Discover the remains of the abbey with an MP3 player: visiting conditions in "Discover/Cultural visits".
Major representation of the Christianization of the north of Gaul during the Merovingian time, Sainte Rictrude undoubtedly merits the church to still wear her name.
The construction of the old church dates back to at least the fourteenth or fifteenth century. A cemetery surrounded it and the entrance was on the opposite side, "rue de Lille". It was considered too small to welcome all of the parishioners. It was weakened after the bell tower was struck in 1742 and an order of the Bishop of Arras in October 1779 forbade worshipping in it. Rather than to restore it, it was absolutely necessary to rebuild it anew.
The construction of the present church is given to the architect Jacques-Francois-Joseph LESAFFRE, as was the case for the transfer of the cemetery. The cemetery is transferred at the end of 1785 and the construction begins in early 1787. During the construction, the tower collapses onto itself, crushing the line of the first 3 vaults, the second row of arches and the first 2 columns of the nave. Benjamin Allard DEWARLEZ-LEPERS is tasked with reerecting the church, probably in 1808. Work begins in 1811 and work is delivered in 1815.
The inhabitants of Marchiennes didn't have a real place to pray for 35 years.
It is a neoclassical church like the ones in St-Amand, Wasquehal, Auby, Le Quesnoy... but in wich regional building uses, knowledge of classical models and opening to the neoclassical school of the late eighteenth century also coexist. The choice of materials depends on the building region, that is to say sandstone for the foundations, brick and limestone originated in Hordain, the limestone used in all of the Tournaisis, are traditionnally associated with it.
The facade and the tower were restored in 1902-1903. On May the 20th, 1903, during a City Council vote chaired by councillor Rene Bigot, a member proposed to engrave on the pediment the Republican motto. The motion was voted, but as there were equal numbers of voters for each part, the President decided for all. "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" could from then on be read on the pediment. This must be understood in the context of tension preliminary to the adoption of the law on separation between Church and State in 1905. About only thirty churches share this peculiarity in France.