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Wissant photo
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Wissant, a small town of great historical interest.

Wissant is exceptionally important from a historical viewpoint. It was a Channel port long before Calais was developed by the English (1347 – 1558). Pilgrims flocking to or from England used to file through Wissant.

The plaque shown on a wall of the church reminds everyone of Thomas Becket’s last return journey to England, where he met his death 28 days later (1170). Canterbury Cathedral became a major centre of pilgrimage once the martyr was canonized as St Thomas.

The name of Wissant is equally famous from a literary point of view. It occurs in three capital medieval books. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, King William is said to have spent a few days at Hwitsand before sailing to Dover in 1095. Incidentally, the Old English name of the town clearly shows its formation. Indeed, when seen from Cape Blanc-Nez in the sunshine, the site fully deserves its name (white sand).

Later gallicized as Guitsand in Old French, Wissant appears as such in the Chanson de Roland (Chapter 111). Last but not least, this ancient port is referred to as Guzzante in Dante’s Divine Comedy (Inferno – chapter 15).

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