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Arras ( ARR-əss, French: [aʁɑs] (listen); Picard: Aro; Historical Dutch: Atrecht [ˈaːtrɛxt] (listen)) is the capital (chef-lieu/préfecture) of the Pas-de-Calais department, which forms part of the region of Hauts-de-France; prior to the reorganization of 2014 it was located in Nord-Pas-de-Calais. The historic centre of the Artois region, with a Baroque town square, Arras is located in Northern France at the confluence of the Scarpe river and the Crinchon River.The Arras plain lies on a large chalk plateau bordered on the north by the Marqueffles fault, on the southwest by the Artois and Ternois hills, and on the south by the slopes of Beaufort-Blavincourt. On the east it is connected to the Scarpe valley.
Established during the Iron Age by the Gauls, the town of Arras was first known as Nemetocenna, which is believed to have originated from the Celtic word nemeton, meaning 'sacred space.'.
Saint Vedast (or St. Vaast) was the first Catholic bishop in the year 499 and attempted to eliminate paganism among the Franks. By 843, Arras was seat of the County of Artois which became part of the Royal domain in 1191.
The first mention of the name Arras appeared in the 12th century. Some hypothesize it is a contraction of Atrebates, a Belgic tribe of Gaul and Britain that used to inhabit the area. The name Atrebates could have successively evolved to become Atrades, Atradis, Aras and finally Arras. Others believe it comes from the Celtic word Ar, meaning 'running water', as the Scarpe river flows through Arras. Louis XIII reconquered Arras in 1640; the town officially became part of France in 1659.
Arras is Pas-de-Calais’ third most populous town after Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer. The town counted 43,693 residents in 2012, with the Arras metropolitan area having a population of 124,200. Arras is located 182 kilometers (113 miles) north of Paris and can be reached in 2 hours by car and in 50 minutes by TGV. It is the historic center of the former Artois province. Its local speech is characterized as a patois. The city of Arras is well known for its architecture, culture, and history. It was once part of the Spanish Netherlands, a portion of the Low Countries controlled by Spain from 1556 to 1714.
Each year Arras attracts thousands of visitors, who explore the city's architecture and historic buildings. Some famous attractions include the splendid Town Hall and its Belfry (listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 15 July 2005), the "Boves" (a maze 10 m (33 ft) beneath the city), the Squares (La Place des Héros and La Grand'Place), the Art District (the Theatre of Arras and the Hôtel de Guînes), the Abbey District (The Saint-Vaast Abbey and the Cathedral of Arras), the Vauban Citadel, and the Nemetacum site (the ancient town founded by the Romans 2000 years ago). The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is just outside the town.
Unlike many French words, the final s in the name Arras should be pronounced.
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