Eglise Saint-Pierre - 92 metres
Inland Flanders, Steenvoorde, a small town in the countryside, thrives some thirty kilometers from the metropolis of Lille.
In the heart of Flanders, just off the A25 freeway linking Lille to Dunkirk, Steenvoorde stands out for its church, the tallest in Flanders and one of the tallest in France, its mills with their arms wide open, and its fields with their regular furrows unfolding harmoniously in the hollow of the Flanders hills.
The little lanes along the hedged farmland are perfect for strolling and discovering chapels, estaminets and Flemish games.
Steenvoorde is a veritable country dream in the land of ducasses and portly giants.
The Giants symbolize our joie de vivre, and when they dance the riguedon in the round, the whole town is in celebration.
Noordmeulen - Windmill
In 1853 for the Mi-Carême festivities that "la Belle Hélène"This makes her one of the oldest carnival giants in the Nord-Pas de Calais region. The Giantess owes her name to a 14th-century chanson de geste, which recounts her adventures in love and her journey to find her two sons.
Although other giants, such as Jocrisse at 1862the Belle Hélène de Steenvoorde was brought out for the Mi-Carême festivities with varying regularity until 1910.
At that time, the Giant was identified with the much-coveted Hélène, the young and seductive flower seller at the local markets. Hélène became popular more for her ample bosom and outspokenness than for her flowers. In the estaminets on carnival days, the masked gangs always find some wayward husband to take their Belle to task. Jealous and considered immoral, the Géante de Steenvoorde fell into disuse, abandoned in a shed.
She was mounted on a low cart used to take hop bales to the station, and wore a straw hat.
In April 1980 after an absence of 70 years, under the impetus of the "Friends of Gambrinus", La Belle Hélène returned to the Steenvoorde carnival. In 1993, for the 140th anniversary of the Belle's emergence, she was restored and given a new look.
In 2005the Belle Hélène was entirely recreated in wood and woven wicker in the pure tradition of the Giants of Northern France. The Géante measures 4.30m and weighs 65kg, carried by one person, she has a special feature: movable arms that rise when she dances.
Since the 2nd Ducasse de Géants portés in June 2015 two mini-giants Gambrinus and Ayman the pirate, created in Catalonia (E) by the Ventura-Hosta workshop, have accompanied La Belle Hélène.
"Jean le Bûcheron"was created in 1914 based on a legendary story by Julien Prouharam, tax collector in Steenvoorde.
The Giant was designed with the help of three Steenvoorde patrons, Mrs Tillie, Gillodts and Delebeau. The Reuze then had three names: "Jan de schoenmaker", "Jan de wever" and "Yan den Houtkapper".
Blond and blue-eyed, this warlike Giant wore a sword on the left side of his belt.
1940 the woodcutter's head is taken away by the Germans
At june 1943 no. 30 of "Le Lion de Flandre "Le Lion de Flandre Artois Boulonnais Hainaut".
"Its carcass was fashioned by a skilled local basket-maker, Father Tillie, its rib of mesh is lined on the inside with an envelope of hop husks donated by Mr Delobeau, the father of the current burgomaster, and the dress was cut and fitted by César Gilloots, whom you know well.
The four of us were responsible for sewing the strips of zine one by one (a patient job, I assure you) to form the stitches of the laubert. Only the head and hands were molded in Paris in a workshop specially equipped for this kind of work." ...
"I must confess that this account of the end of Jan den Houtkapper made my heart sink..."
In May 1940le Géant was decapitated and its head taken to the turret of a German tank, never to be found again.
The Giant reappeared in 1948 by Hazebrouck artists maurice and Georgette Deschodt. He now wears an axe on his right shoulder.
The colors of Jean le 2ème's wardrobe varied slightly over the years. From 1948 to 1974: Pink sleeve, gray under-armor, brown skirt and green cape. From 1974 to 1993: Orange sleeve, green under-armor and cape, brown skirt. And from 1993: Red sleeve, green underskirt and armor, red cape.
Carnival on April 25 1948 and the baptism of the Woodcutter were a great success. The local and regional press were unanimous.
The day after the party, "Le Nord Maritime" reported
"Brought in by truck in the morning, Jean le Bûcheron, 4.50 m tall, from the workshops of Hazebrouck master Maurice Deschodt, was dressed from head to toe m, from the workshops of Hazebrouck master Maurice Deschodt, was dressed from head to toe by Mr. César Gilloots, tireless president of the "Friends of Fromulus" association.
At noon, in Place de la Gare, the new giant was christened in the presence of Mayor Félix Delobeau, deputies, painter Maurice Deschodt and the organizing committee. The town band played its lively marches, and then godfather Jean-Marie Kieken and godmother Marie-Madeleine Camerlynck threw a number of well-received sugared almonds at the assembled audience.
Jean le Bûcheron was solemnly led to the Grand'Place, where he was exhibited during the brilliant concert performed by the local music band, under the direction of Monsieur Robert Théry.
At 4.45pm, the cavalcade set off. Jean le Bûcheron came last, greeted by the crowd who appreciated the success of this perfect creation".
Jean le 2ème is probably the most globetrotting of all the Giants in the Hauts-de-France region. During his 67 years of activity, he has visited many countries, including Sweden, Switzerland, England, Spain, India, Poland, Portugal, Quebec, Colombia...
Jean le Bûcheron the second
has had three presidents: César Gilloots, Claude Bécuwe and Michel Sansen.
He accompanied generations of carriers, connoisseurs and fans. They all loved and admired him, and watched him retire with a twinge of sadness.
The man who makes giants (Nord France 1948) -Maurice and Georgette Deschodt - Patteln
The mask thus formed forms a highly resistant shell that can only be notched with a saw. It is then fixed to a wooden support and coated with titanium oxide. All that remains is to polish and paint. The moustache and hair are made of thick rope. The duralumin helmet.
At 2015 the woodcutter is rebuilt in Catalonia (E) in the workshop of Toni Mujal. This Giant has kept the same characteristics as his predecessor.
It measures 4.50m and weighs 80kg, i.e. 10kg less than Jean the 2nd. He keeps his head slightly mobile and is always carried by two people in a row. His natural-looking hair and moustache give him a more jovial air. Like the previous 2 Giants, John the 3rd continues to wear a winged helmet.
"Jacobus", created 2004 in Catalonia (E) by Ramon Aumes, he represents the woodcutter's son. This Giant measures 2.50m and weighs 15kg. His godmother is Belle Hélène from Steenvoorde, and his godfather is Père Breughel from Neuve Église (B).
"Maria and Marona", created in 2006 in Catalonia (E) by Lluis Torner, Géante de Mataro (E), depicts a hippie carrying her naked baby in her arms. She arrived in Steenvoorde in April 2015, Maria becoming the woodcutter's wife. This Giant is 3.50m tall and weighs 55kg. The red and yellow ribbons hanging from her basket remind us of her Catalan origins.
"Rosalie" the milkmaid, a reminder of the existence of the brave dairy farmer from the hamlet of Ryvel, is the Giant of the association "Les Amis du Ryveld".
This association was created in September 1991 on the initiative of Mr. Derveaux, a school principal, supported by a few people keen to liven up the hamlet. Various activities were organized: a flea market, a local produce fair and, in 1993, the 1st Ryveld carnival.
Then came the long-standing idea of recreating the Rosalie Giant.
A dynamic team led by Bemard Pinat, Jacky Beck, Norbert Deram and Jean-Claude Crépin set about the task, and on March 13 1994rosalie was christened by Abbé M.Degrave with Belle Hélène as godmother and Jean le Bûcheron as godfather. A large procession accompanied Rosalie on her first outing, which ended with a blaze of fire and fireworks over the countryside of the hamlet of Ryvel.
For its 30th anniversary in 2024, the Géante is getting a makeover.
Rosalie's revival has been entrusted to Julien Barthélémy, who makes Géants in the Paris region.
"Edgar" Giant of the steenvoord Moto-club, created in 2007 in Catalonia (E) by Ramon Aumes, he represents a biker fraudster.
This Giant measures 3.80m and weighs 42kg. His godfather is Jean le Bûcheron and his godmother is Rosalie du Ryveld.
Edgar refers to and pays homage to a biker fraudster who actually existed.
Although his first name wasn't Edgar, it was Albert Capoen, who rode a Gnome Rhône, a motorcycle whose tank he rigged for minimum fuel capacity and maximum space to hide tobacco. This brave, rebellious biker was known to all, and was greeted as he passed, even by customs officers.
In the 19th century, carnival was spontaneous and popular, and took place every year during the Mi-Carême festivities.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the festival was organizedthen evolved into a summer carnival.
In the 21st century, the festival became international.
The Steenvoorde International Summer Carnival is traditionally held
the last Sunday in April.
Every year, it brings together crazy brass bands and local and regional folk groups.
Several prestigious foreign bands also take part.
The next Steenvoorde Carnival will be held on April 28, 2024
and will be organized by association "Les Amis du Ryveld".
We'll discover the new Rosalie, accompanied for the occasion by some forty giants.
Associations hosting the Steenvoorde Giants:
the Friends of Gambrinus la Belle Hélène - Friends of Fromulus - Friends of the Ryveld - Moto Club Steenvoordois.
References and sources: Bulletin Officiel Municipal 3ème trimestre (1964) -Bulletin Officiel Municipal N° 2 (1970) - Steenvoorde Info N°4 Juin (1994) - Revue Le Lion de Flandre Artois Boulonnais Hainaut N° 30 Juin (1943) - Jean Yves Cnapelynck, photo archive (Carnaval de Steenvoorde 1950 et 1951) - L'homme qui fabrique des géants, Nord-France (1948) - La Ballade des Géants de la Flandre maritine Française, Maurice Millon (1970) - Indicateur des Flandre, April 1979 - Indicateur des Flandres, Geo Hennebelle - Voix du Nord Hazebrouck, April 1981 - Patrimoine oral, audio recording:Georges Delaeter et Michel Haverbeque (1979) - Fiche PCI en France - Géants du Nord/Pas-de-Calais, Robert Chaussois (1998) - Dictionnaire des Géants du nord de la France, Gérard Tourpier (2007) - Gigantia, Un Mundo de Gigantes (2021) - Web archives: geant-belle-helene-org - les-amis-de-fromulus.com - mcsteenvoordois.fr - musique-steenvoorde.fr.
There are no sources that are never wrong, and no sources that are always wrong.