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Liège (Dutch: Luik, German: Lüttich) is a major city located in the Belgian province of Liège, of which it is the capital. It is situated in the valley of the Meuse River near Belgium's eastern borders with the Netherlands and Germany, at the point where the Meuse meets the Vesdre.

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View of Liège from the Citadel
Contents

Demographics

As of January 1, 2004, Liège had a total population of 185,488 (90,431 males and 95,057 females) and about 600,000 inhabitants in the area. The total area is 69.39 km² which gives a population density of 2,673.05 inhabitants per km².

The city is the principal cultural centre of Wallonia and its inhabitants are predominately French-speakers. The city is home to a major university, founded in 1817. The large Italian community (the Italian name of the town is Liegi) and smaller populations of recent immigrants add to the city's cultural mix.

Economy

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Liège, the sunday "Batte" market.

Liège is one of the steel-making centers of Belgium, the area around Charleroi being the other. It once boasted numerous blast furnaces and mills. Although now a mere shadow of its former self, steel production and manufacturing of steel goods remains a vital part of its economy. Other major industries include the manufacture of weapons, textiles, paper, and chemicals. The city possesses one of the largest river ports in Europe.

The city is an important transportation hub, linked by road and railway to Maastricht in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Antwerp, and Aachen in Germany. A high-speed Thalys railway link to Leuven was completed in 2003, cutting travelling times to Brussels to one hour and to Paris to 2.5 hours. The Albert Canal and Liège-Maastricht Canal also pass through Liège.

History

Liège is one of the oldest cities in Belgium, settled in Roman times and first recorded in writing in 558. It was a major intellectual and ecclesiastical centre during the Middle Ages and was renowned for its many churches (the oldest of which, St Martin's, dates from 682). The city, and the surrounding province, was ruled by a prince-bishop. Although nominally subject to the King of France, in practice it possessed a large degree of independence.

The strategic position of Liège has made it a frequent target of armies and insurgencies over the centuries. It was fortified early on with a castle on the steep hill that overlooks the city's western side. In 1345, the citizens of Liège rebelled against Prince-Bishop Engelbert de la Marck, their ruler at the time, and defeated him in battle near the city. After a rebellion against rule from Burgundy, King Louis XI of France and Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy captured and largely destroyed the city in 1468, after a bitter siege which was ended with a successful surprise attack. Liège was technically part of the Holy Roman Empire but after 1477, the city came under the rule of the Hapsburgs and, after 1555, under Spanish sovereignty, although its immediate rule remained in the hands of its prince-bishops.

The city changed hands repeatedly from the 18th century onwards. The Duke of Marlborough captured it from the French in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession. 90 years later, a revolutionary French army retook the city and imposed a harsh and strongly anticlerical regime, destroying the great cathedral of Saint Lambert in 1794. France lost the city in 1815 when the Congress of Vienna awarded it to the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Dutch rule lasted only until 1830, when the Belgian Revolution led to the establishment of an independent, Catholic and neutral Belgium which incorporated Liège. After this, Liège developed rapidly into a major industrial city which became one of continental Europe's first large-scale steelmaking centres.

Liège's fortifications were redesigned by Henry Alexis Brialmont in the 1880s and a chain of twelve forts was constructed around the city to provide defence in depth. This presented a major obstacle to Germany's army in 1914, whose Schlieffen Plan relied on being able to quickly pass through the Meuse valley and the Ardennes en route to France. The German invasion on August 5, 1914 soon reached Liège, which was defended by 30,000 troops under General Gérart Leman. The forts initially held off an attacking force of about 100,000 men but were pulverised into submission by a five-day bombardment by the Germans' 42cm Big Bertha howitzers. The Belgian resistance was shorter than had been intended, but the twelve days of delay caused by the siege nonetheless contributed to the eventual failure of the German invasion of France. The city was subsequently occupied by the Germans until the end of the war.

The Germans returned in 1940, this time taking the forts in only three days. Most Jews were saved, with the help of the sympathising population. Many Jewish children and refugees were hidden in the numerous monasteries.

The German occupants were expelled by the United States Army in May 1944 but Liège was subsequently subjected to intense aerial bombardment, with more than 1,500 V1 and V2 missiles landing in the city between its liberation and the end of the war.

After the war, Liège suffered from the collapse of its steel industry, which produced high levels of unemployment and stoked social tension. In January 1961, disgruntled workers went on a rampage and severely damaged the central railway station Guillemins.

Liège showed strong signs of economic recovery in recent years with the opening up of borders within the European Union, surging steel prices, and improved administration. Several new shopping centres were built, and numerous repairs executed. Its surviving historic sights attract many tourists. Presently, a grand new railway station is under construction.

Famous inhabitants

See also

External link

ca:Lieja da:Liège sv:Liège de:Lüttich es:Lieja fr:Liège li:Luuk nl:Luik (stad) pt:Liège wa:Lidje pl:Liège

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