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1131. Massacre in Saint-Riquier. The Canteraine beast is coming...

Illustration picture | Mathias Appel / CC0
Abbey Massacre Benedictine Legend Saint-Riquier abbey

Blood and chaos

July 1131. Hey... there’s a smell of burning ! Aah, it was Hugues de Camp-d’Avesnes who was burning Saint-Riquier. Who ?

Oh, a horrible chap: Hugues, count of Saint-Pol! He committed many a crime. And in 1131, Hugues turned up in Saint-Riquier to burn the city and slaughter inhabitants. His goal?

To attack the recently rebuild abbey, where his enemy, lord Collet, took shelter. The city resisted, at first. Bowmen stood in the rampart’s towers and shot mortal arrows on Hugues’ troops! Camp-d’Avesnes, on the verge of a breakdown, finally gave up Saint-Riquier siege.

He changed his tactic: he started to throw feux grégeois (greek fire), a powerful burning weapon made of tar, saltpetre and sulphur.

Fires started to burn everything. Chaos was everywhere in Saint-Riquier’s streets. Inhabitants cut and ran to save their lives.

So Hugues entered in the city… and made a real bloodshed: he cut throats of inhabitants, plundered the abbey… and the fire razed everything.

The massacre was estimated at 2600 victims, in one single day!

The legend

But the punishment came. Even the pope heard about this story and everybody wanted Hugues to rebuild the church.

Abbot of Saint-Riquier refused. Why? Because a murderer could not be link to the abbey’s history…

Hugues founded 3 little abbeys: whoa, generous! But that was not enough to make up for his cursed soul!

So the legend says Camp-d’Avesnes became a cursed men, who changed into a wolf covered with chains, haunting the places he plundered.

He became the famous Bête Canteraine. A legend, but people said it was a true story, in Picardy. They said they heard him at night, howling with his sinister chains, in Saint-Riquier silent streets…

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!