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Rethel is an industrial and commercial center of the northern part of the department, with a textile industry specialized in woolen fabrics. The town's most famous public square features a large Gothic church known as "Notre-Dame de la Belle-Verrière". The 12th century saw development of Rethel in economic activity, arts and culture (the city was home to one third of all French painters at this time). In 1180 Alfonso II granted it municipal rights. Later in 1359 Charles V added to its privileges by declaring it free from tolls. This freedom was confirmed again by Francis I on 15 June 1535; however, some taxes for street cleaning remained due until 1789.