Saturday 05 10 2024
Event code
Meeting point
Entrance of La Coupole/WWII museum, rue André Clabaux (D210) 62570 Wizernes ( 5km from Saint- Omer)
€ 70
Non- members
€ 75
Max Attendees
Registration closes on
September 28
Rescue Phone
0474 464 009

Please find driving directions below the main text

Bank account of “National Trust Belgium” (NTAB)
BE17 0016 2443 2021

Saint-Omer and La Coupole (F)

La Coupole, located at 5km from St Omer ( Nord-Pas-de-Calais), is one of the most impressive remnants of World War II. This huge bunker was designed  as a base for launching V2 rockets against London. It was built by the Todt Organisation in 1943-1944.

It is a truly impressive place that makes us realize the continued threat posed by the Nazis, even so late in the war, due to the nature of the underground facilities and their advanced technology. It is also a monument of symbolic value, because of its overwhelming mass and the memory of the suffering of the slave laborers who built it. Heavily bombed by the allies, La Coupole was abandoned during the summer of 1944, after the Normandy landings.

Since 1997 this place has been transformed into a History and Remembrance Centre and a WWII museum.

The nearby town of Saint-Omer (twinned with Deal in Kent) will impress us as well, with its rich historic and cultural heritage. The town derives its name from Audomar, one of the monks who christianised the region in de mid -7th century, by order of King Dagobert of the Gauls. In the 9th century, the village that grew up round the monasteries took the name of St Omer. The monks also started draining and clearing the wetlands around St-Omer.  The Audomarais are today the only cultivated marshes in France.

Our guided tour of the historic town will take us to the main square, Place Foch, which is dominated by a splendid town hall, which also boasts an Italian style theatre. The streets surrounding Place Foch have been the home of shops and commercial activities since the Middle Ages. But the highlight of our visit will be the beautiful Notre Dame cathedral. Its construction started in the 13th century and took 3 centuries to complete. Many consider this building the most beautiful and intact vestige of gothic architecture north of Paris . The interiors boast a famous Rubens painting (Christ being removed from the Cross) and a most interesting astronomical clock, dating from 1558  and considered to be one of the oldest clocks in France. The public park around the cathedral includes a pretty English style garden.

Weekend programme

Saturday October 5th

  • 15.00- 17.00 : guided visit of La Coupole historic centre
  • Free evening
  • Overnight stay: Participants are free to make their own arrangements. Recommended: Ibis Saint-Omer Centre , 2-4 rue Henri Dupuis 62500 Saint-Omer ( favourable rates, centrally situated, spacious parking).

Sunday October 6th:

  • 10.00- 12.00:  guided visit of the historic centre of Saint-Omer and the Notre Dame cathedral
  • 12.30-14.30: lunch in the restaurant “ Au bon Acceuil”, 29 rue du rivage 62500 Salperwick ( boat embarkation point and a 5km /10’ min. drive from Saint-Omer centre. Three courses including 1 glass of wine/beer/soft drink/water plus coffee or tea. All additional drinks are at the expense of participants. Vegetarians or gluten free meals will be served to participants who indicated this at registration.
  • 14.30-15.30: boat trip through the Audemarois marshes.

How to get there:

From Brussels ( 180 km/2.30 hrs) take motorway E429 to Lille then continue on A25  to Dunkerque. Exit Hazebrouck/Saint- Omer. There is ample parking space in front of the museum.  Members/participants are kindly asked to consider car-pooling or communicate their willingness to give a lift to others who have no car.

Historical background of St-Omer

Situated on the borders of territories frequently disputed by French, Flemish, English and Spaniards, St Omer for most of its history continued to be subject to sieges and military invasions.

In 932 Arnulf, the count of Flanders conquered the County of Artois and Saint-Omer (Sint-Omaars in Dutch) became part of the County of Flanders for the next three centuries. Along with its textile industry, St-Omer flourished in the 12th and 13th century. In 1127 the town received a communal charter from the count, becoming the first town in West Flanders with city rights. Later on the city lost its leading position in the textile industry to Bruges. 

In 1214 the king of France defeated the Count of Flanders and forced him to sign the Treaty of Pont-à-Vendin, in which Artois was yielded to France. Despite the political separation for the next 170 years, the city remained part of the economic network of Flanders. 

From 1384, St-Omer was part of the Burgundian Netherlands, from 1482 of the Habsburg Netherlands and from 1581 to 1678 of the Spanish Netherlands.

During the Thirty Years’ War, in 1677, after a seventeen-day siege, Louis XIV forced the town to capitulate. The peace of Nijmegen (1678) permanently confirmed the conquest and its annexation by France.