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Coordinates: 46°03′34″N 1°09′05″W / 46.059444°N 1.151389°W / 46.059444; -1.151389

Commune of La Rochelle
Blason de La Rochelle.png
HELR.jpg

Location
La Rochelle is located in France
La Rochelle
Administration
Country France
Region Poitou-Charentes
Department Charente-Maritime
Arrondissement La Rochelle
Canton Chief town of 9 cantons
Intercommunality La Rochelle
Mayor Maxime Bono
(2008–2014)
Statistics
Elevation 0–28 m (0–92 ft)
(avg. 4 m/13 ft)
Land area1 28.43 km2 (10.98 sq mi)
Population2 78,000  (2004)
 - Density 2,744 /km2 (7,110 /sq mi)
Miscellaneous
INSEE/Postal code 17300/ 17000
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.
2 Population sans doubles comptes: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

La Rochelle is a city in south-western France and a seaport on the Bay of Biscay, a part of the Atlantic Ocean. It is the capital of the Charente-Maritime department.

The city is connected to the Île de Ré by a 2.9 km (1.8 mi) bridge - the longest in France - completed on May 19, 1988. Its harbour opens into a protected strait, the Pertuis d'Antioche.

Contents

History

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Antiquity

Coin of the Santones Gauls, 5th-1st century BCE, Cabinet des Médailles. Early Celtic coins were often inspired by the coinage of Greeks in pre-Roman Gaul.[1]
Gallo-Roman warrior statuette found near La Rochelle in 1844. Orbigny-Bernon Museum.
Coastline around La Rochelle in Roman times.

The area of La Rochelle was occupied in antiquity by the Gaul tribe of the Santones, who gave their name to the nearby region of Saintonge and the city of Saintes.

The Romans then occupied the area, where they developed salt production along the coast as well as wine production, which was then reexported throughout the Empire. Roman villas were found at Saint-Éloi and at Les Minimes, as well as salt evaporation ponds dating to the same period.

Foundation

La Rochelle was founded during the 10th century, and became an important harbour in the twelfth century. The establishment of La Rochelle as a harbour was a consequence of the victory of Guillaume X, Duke of Aquitaine over Isambert de Châtelaillon in 1130 and the subsequent destruction of his harbour of Châtelaillon.[2] In 1137, Guillaume X essentially made La Rochelle a free port and gave it the right to establish itself as a commune. Fifty years later Eleanor of Aquitaine upheld the communal charter promulgated by her father, and for the first time in France, a city mayor was named for La Rochelle, Guillaume de Montmirail. Guillaume was assisted in his responsibilities by 24 municipal magistrates, and 75 notables who had jurisdiction over the inhabitants. Under the communal charter, the city obtained many privileges, such as the right to mint its own coins, and to operate some businesses free of royal taxes, dispositions which would favour the development of the entrepreuneurial middle-class (bourgeoisie).

Left image: Vauclair castle was built by the English in 1185.
Right image: Remnants of Vauclair castle, Place de Verdun, La Rochelle.

Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet in 1152, who became king of England as Henry II in 1154, thus putting La Rochelle under English rule, until Louis VIII recaptured it in 1224. During the English control of the city in 1185, Henry II had the Vauclair castle built, remains of which are still visible in the Place de Verdun.[3]

The main activities of the city were in the areas of maritime commerce and trade, especially with England, the Netherlands and Spain. In 1196, a wealthy bourgeois named Alexandre Auffredi sent a fleet of seven ships to Africa to tap the riches of the continent. He went bankrupt and went into poverty as he waited for the return of his ships, but they finally returned seven years later filled with riches.

Until the 15th century, La Rochelle was to be the largest French harbour on the Atlantic coast, dealing mainly in wine, salt and cheese.

Knights Templar

Left image: Court de la Commanderie in La Rochelle, ancient location of the Templars' headquarters.
Right image: Original Templar cross, Cour de la Commanderie.

The Knights Templar had a strong presence in La Rochelle since before the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who exempted them from duties and gave them mills in her 1139 Charter.[4] La Rochelle was for the Templars their largest base on the Atlantic Ocean,[5], and where they stationed their main fleet.[6] From La Rochelle, they were able to act as intermediaries in trade between England and the Mediterranean.[5] There is a legend that the Templars used the port of La Rochelle to flee with the fleet of 18 ships which had brought Jacques de Molay from Cyprus to La Rochelle. The fleet would have left laden with knights and treasures just before the issuance of the arrest warrant against the Order in October 1307,[7][8] and the legend continues that the Templars would even have left for America, burying a treasure in Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada (a story taken up in the 2004 movie National Treasure starring Nicolas Cage).[9]

Hundred Years War

A coin of Charles VI, a "double d'or", minted in La Rochelle in 1420. Cabinet des Médailles.

The naval Battle of La Rochelle took place on 22 June 1372 during the Hundred Years War between a Castilian-French and an English fleet. The Spanish had 60 ships and the English 40. They also had more knights and men than the English. The French and Castilians decisively defeated the English, securing French control of the Channel for the first time since the Battle of Sluys in 1340. The naval battle of La Rochelle was one of the first cases of the usage of handguns on warships, which were deployed by the French and Spanish against the English.[10]

French Wars of Religion

During the Renaissance, La Rochelle adopted Protestant ideas. Cases of Reformation iconoclasm are known in La Rochelle from 30 May 1562, when Protestants pillaged churches, destroyed images and statues, and also assassinated 13 Catholic priests in the Tower of the Lantern.[11]

Left image: Remains of Reformation iconoclasm, Clocher Saint-Barthélémy, La Rochelle.
Right image: Remains of iconoclasm, Eglise Saint-Sauveur, La Rochelle.

The Rochelais Huguenots attempted to colonize the New World to find a new ground for their religion, under Pierre Richier and Jean de Léry. After the short-lived attempt of France Antarctique, they failed to establish a colony in Brazil, and finally resolved to make a stand in La Rochelle itself.[12]

From 1568, La Rochelle became a centre for the Huguenots, and the city declared itself an independent Reformed Republic on the model of Geneva.[13]

This led to numerous conflicts with the Catholic central government. The city supported the Protestant movement of William of Orange in The Netherlands, and from La Rochelle the Dutch under Louis of Nassau and the Sea Beggars were able to raid Spanish shipping.[14][15]

In 1571 the city of La Rochelle suffered a naval blocus by the French Navy under the command of Filippo di Piero Strozzi and Antoine Escalin des Aimars, a former protagonist of the Franco-Ottoman alliance.[16] The city was finally besieged during the Siege of La Rochelle (1572-1573) during the French Wars of Religion, following the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in August 1572, and occurred at the same time as other sieges of Protestant cities such as the Siege of Sancerre. The conflict ended with the 1573 Peace of La Rochelle, restricting the worship of Protestantism to the three cities of Montauban, Nimes and La Rochelle.

Huguenot rebellions

La Rochelle in 1628. Detail of Claude Lorrain Le siège de La Rochelle.
The naval battle in front of Ile de Ré in 1622, in which the fleet of La Rochelle was defeated against Charles de Guise.

Under Henry IV the city enjoyed a certain freedom and prosperity until the 1620s, but the city entered in conflict with the central authority of the King Louis XIII with the Huguenot rebellion (1622).[17] A fleet from La Rochelle fought a royal fleet of 35 ships under the Charles de Guise in front of Saint-Martin-de-Ré, but was defeated on 27 October 1622, leading to the signature of the Peace of Montpellier.[17]

Revolt of Soubise (1625)

In 1625, a new Huguenot revolt led by Duke Henri de Rohan and his brother Soubise led to the Capture of Ré island by the forces of Louis XIII. Soubise conquered large parts of the Atlantic coast, but the supporting fleet of La Rochelle was finally defeated by Montmorency, as was Soubise with 3,000 when he led a counter-attack against the royal troops who had landed on the island of Ré.[18]

Siege of La Rochelle (1627-1628)

Following these events, Louis XIII and his Chief Minister Cardinal Richelieu declared the suppression of the Huguenot revolt the first priority of the kingdom. The English came to the support of La Rochelle, starting an Anglo-French War (1627-1629), by sending a major expedition under the Duke of Buckingham. The expedition however ended in fiasco for England with the Siege of Saint-Martin-de-Ré (1627). Meanwhile, cannon shots were exchanged on 10 September 1627 between La Rochelle and Royal troops. This resulted in the Siege of La Rochelle in which Cardinal Richelieu blockaded the city for 14 months, until the city surrendered and lost its mayor and its privileges.

The growing persecution of the Huguenots culminated with the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1685. Many Huguenots emigrated, founding such cities as New Rochelle in the vicinity of today's New York in 1689. La Rochelle, and the siege of 1627 form much of the backdrop of the later chapters of Alexandre Dumas, père's classic novel, The Three Musketeers.

La Rochelle and the New World

La Rochelle slave ship Le Saphir ex-voto, 1741.
La Rochelle harbour in 1762. Joseph Vernet. Musée de la Marine.

Because of its western location, which saved days of sailing time, La Rochelle enjoyed successful fishing in the western Atlantic and trading with the New World, which served to counterbalance the disadvantage of not being at the mouth of a river (useful for shipping goods to and from the interior). Its Protestant shipowning and merchant class prospered in the sixteenth century until the Wars of Religion devastated the city.[19]

The period following the wars was a prosperous one, marked by intense exchanges with the New World (Nouvelle France in Canada, and the Antilles). La Rochelle became very active in triangular trade with the New World, dealing in the slave trade with Africa, sugar trade with plantations of the Antilles, and fur trade with Canada. This was a period of high artistic, cultural and architectural achievements for the city.

Robert de La Salle departed from La Rochelle, France, on July 24, 1684, with the objective of setting up a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi, eventually establishing Fort Saint Louis in Texas.[20]

The city eventually lost its trade and prominence during the decades spanning the Seven Years' War, the French revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. During that period France lost many of the territorial possessions it had in the new World, and also saw a strong decrease in its sea power in the continuing conflicts with Britain, ultimately diminishing the role of such harbours as La Rochelle.

In 1809, the Battle of the Basque Roads took place near La Rochelle, in which a British fleet defeated the French Fleet of the Atlantic.

19th century

In 1864, the harbour of La Rochelle (area of the "Bassin à flot" behind the water locks), was the site for the maiden dive experiments of the first mechanically-powered submarine in the World, Plongeur, commanded by Marie-Joseph-Camille Doré, a native of La Rochelle.

Second World War

U-boat bunker at the harbor of La Rochelle (2007).

During the Second World War, Germany established a submarine naval base at La Pallice (the main port of La Rochelle), which became the setting for the movie Das Boot. The U-Boat scenes in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark were also shot in La Rochelle.

A German stronghold, La Rochelle was the last French city to be freed at the end of the War. The Allied siege of La Rochelle took place between 12 September 1944, and 7 May 1945, in which the stronghold, including the islands of and Oléron, was held by 20,000 German troops under a German vice-admiral Ernst Schirlitz. Following negotiations by the French Navy frigate captain Meyer, and the general German capitulation on May 7, French troops entered La Rochelle on May 8.

Geography

Geology

La Rochelle seen from Spot Satellite
The limestone cliffs around La Rochelle display the Jurassic geology of the area.

The bedrock of La Rochelle and surrounding areas is composed of layers of limestone dating back to the Sequanian stage (upper Oxfordian stage) of the Jurassic period (circa 160 million years ago), when a large part of France was submerged. These rocks were formed by the accumulation of organisms falling on the seabed, where they solidified. This happened at the time dinosaurs were roaming the earth.

Many of these layers are visible in the white cliffs that border the sea, which encapsulate many small marine fossils. Layers of thick white rocks, formed during period of relatively warm seas, alternate with highly friable layers containing sands and remains of mud, formed during colder periods, and with layers containing various corals, that were formed during warmer, tropical times.[21]

The limestone thus formed is traditionally used as the main building material throughout the region.

The area of La Pointe du Chay, about 5 kilometres from La Rochelle is a popular cliff area for leisurely archaeological surveys.

Panoramic view of the Pertuis d'Antioche from the Pointe du Chay promontory with, from left to right, Fouras, Fort Enet, Ile d'Aix, Fort Boyard, Ile d'Oléron, Ile de Ré, La Pallice, La Rochelle, Aytré.

Climate

Although at the same latitude as Montreal in Canada or the Kuril islands in Russia, the area is quite warm throughout the year due to the influence of the Gulf Stream waters, and insolation is remarkably high, on a par with the French Riviera on the Mediterranean Southern coast of France.

Weather averages for La Rochelle, France
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Avg low (°C) 3.4 4.0 5.4 7.4 10.7 13.7 15.8 15.7 13.7 10.5 6.3 3.9 9.2
Avg high (°C) 8.5 9.9 12.1 14.7 17.9 21.3 23.8 23.5 21.8 18.0 12.6 9.2 16.1
Average (°C) 5.9 6.9 8.7 11.1 14.3 17.5 19.8 19.6 17.8 14.2 9.4 6.6 12.7
Insolation (h) 84 111 174 212 239 272 305 277 218 167 107 85 2250
Precipitation (mm) 82.5 66.1 57.0 52.7 61.1 42.9 35.1 46.4 56.5 81.6 91.8 81.8 755.3

Demographics

La Rochelle population by year
1821 1831 1836 1841 1846 1851 1856 1861
12,327 14,629 14,857 16,720 17,465 16,507 16,175 18,904
1866 1872 1876 1881 1886 1891 1896 1901
18,710 19,506 19,583 22,464 23,829 26,808 28,376 31,559
1906 1911 1921 1926 1931 1936 1945 1954
33,858 36,371 39,770 41,521 45,043 47,737 48,923 58,799
1962 1968 1975 1982 1990 1999 2004
66,590 73,347 75,367 75,840 76,094 76,584 78,000

Today

Panoramic picture of the harbour towers at night.

The city has beautifully maintained its past architecture, making it one of the most picturesque and historically rich cities on the Atlantic coast. This helped develop a strong tourism industry.

La Rochelle possesses a commercial harbour in deep water, named La Pallice. The large submarine bunker built during World War II still stands there, although it is not being used. La Pallice is equipped with oil unloading equipment, and mainly handles tropical wood. It is also the location of the fishing fleet, which was moved from the old harbour at the center of the city during the 1980s.

La Rochelle also maintains strong links with the sea by harbouring the largest marina for pleasure boats in Europe at Les Minimes, and a rather rich boat-building industry.

La Rochelle has a very big aquarium, and a small botanical garden (the Jardin des plantes de La Rochelle).

The Calypso, the ship used by Jacques-Yves Cousteau as a mobile laboratory for oceanography, and which was sunk after a collision in the port of Singapore (1996) is now displayed (sadly rotting) at the Maritime Museum of La Rochelle.

One of the biggest music festivals in France, "FrancoFolies," takes place each summer in La Rochelle, where Francophone musicians come together for a week of concerts and celebration. 2004 marked the 20th anniversary of this event.

La Rochelle is the setting for the best-selling series of French language textbooks in the UK, titled Tricolore. The central character, Martine Domme, lives with her family at the fictional address of 12, Rue de la République.

Panoramic view of the La Rochelle from the Pointe du Chay promontory with, from left to right, Ile de Ré, La Pallice, Les Minimes.

Tourism

Harbour towers at night.

La Rochelle's main feature is the "Vieux Port" ("Old Harbour"), which is at the heart of the city, picturesque and lined with seafood restaurants. The city walls are open to an evening promenade. The old town has been well-preserved. From the harbour, boating trips can be taken to the Île d'Aix and Fort Boyard (home to the internationally famous tv show of the same name). Nearby Île de Ré is a short drive to the North. The countryside of the surrounding Charente-Maritime is very rural and full of history (Saintes). To the North is Venise Verte, a marshy area of country, criss-crossed with tiny canals and a popular resort for inland boating. Inland is the country of Cognac and Pineau. The attractive Île de Ré is accessible via a bridge from La Rochelle.

La Rochelle and its region are served by the international La Rochelle - Île de Ré Airport, which has undergone a steady progress on the last 5 years. Currently, it is the biggest airport in the Poitou-Charentes region.

Landmarks

Notable people

Born in La Rochelle

Antoine Albeau, windsurfer.
Jean-Loup Chrétien, astronaut.

Lived in La Rochelle

Sport

See also

Twin towns — Sister cities

La Rochelle is twinned with:[22]

Notes

  1. ^ Boardman, p.308
  2. ^ Reformation in La Rochelle: tradition and change in early modern Europe by Judith Chandler Pugh Meyer p.19 [1]
  3. ^ Bradshaw's illustrated travellers' hand book in [afterw.] to France by George Bradshaw [2]
  4. ^ The new knighthood by Malcolm Barber p.26
  5. ^ a b The history of the Knights Templars by Charles Greenstreet Addison, p.15]
  6. ^ The Knights Templar in Britain Evelyn Lord, p.155
  7. ^ The Templars and the Grail by Karen Ralls, p.26
  8. ^ Templars in America by Tim Wallace-Murphy, p.17
  9. ^ The complete idiot's guide to freemasonry S. Brent Morris p.194
  10. ^ From crossbow to H-bomb by Bernard Brodie p.64
  11. ^ Fortress of the soul: violence, metaphysics, and material life by Neil Kamil p.148 [3]
  12. ^ Fortress of the soul: violence, metaphysics, and material life by Neil Kamil p.133 [4]
  13. ^ Fortress of the soul: violence, metaphysics, and material life by Neil Kamil p.149 [5]
  14. ^ The rise and fall of Renaissance France, 1483-1610 by Robert Jean Knecht p.355 [6]
  15. ^ The Counter-Reformation and price revolution, 1559-1610 Richard Bruce Wernham p.288 [7]
  16. ^ Memoirs of Maximilian de Bethune, duke of Sully p.20
  17. ^ a b Champlain by Denis Vaugeois, p.22
  18. ^ Penny cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge Page 268 [8]
  19. ^ Kurlansky, Mark. Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. Walker and Co., New York, 1997 pp. 51-52. ISBN 0-8027-1326-2.
  20. ^ From a watery grave by James E. Bruseth
  21. ^ Source: La Rochelle touristic board at the "Pointe du Chay"
  22. ^ a b c d e f g "La Rochelle: Twin towns". www.ville-larochelle.fr. http://www.ville-larochelle.fr/en/decouvrir-la-ville/villes-jumelles.html. Retrieved 2009-11-07.  

References

  • Boardman, John The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity, Princeton 1993 ISBN 0691036802

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

La Rochelle is a city in the province of Charente-Maritime, France.

Get in

By plane

Daily flights to La Rochelle are available from London Stansted.

La Rochelle Airport is quite close to both La Rochelle town center and the Île de Ré. Taxis can be found immediately outside the terminal building and it will cost approximately 15 Euro to reach the town center (as of April 2008).

By Train

La Rochelle is linked to Paris by a high speed rail service (TGV). There are several trains a day. The shortest trip time is three hours. Ticket prices are greatly reduced with a youth discount card, a family discount pass or an old age pensioner's pass. The railway station (a splendid building, recently restored) is close to the town centre and a half hour walk from the Youth Hostel. Cars can be rented from agencies located opposite the station.

Get around

La Rochelle can be explored by foot or by bicycle. There are some rental-bike services, called les velos jaunes, available around the town (for example there are some available at the bus station).

Buses heading towards Ile de Ré, Aytré, Plage de Châtelaillon and Port des Minimes can be taken from the Place de Verdun. A single ticket costs 1.20€ (which is valid for another transit if it is within 45 minutes). If you intend to travel a lot by bus you can buy the a 20-unit ticket for 20€, which can be used more than 20 times and can be shared by more than one person.

Moreover, if you would like to visit the nearby islands and the Fort Boyard, there are some boat and ferry services available in the Vieux Port. You can also take a boat ride from the Vieux Port straight to Port des Minimes.

See

The Old Port ("Vieux Port")

This is the oldest and also the most picturesque part of La Rochelle. Most of the town buildings are hundreds of years old and very well maintained. The narrow streets and pale stone buildings give the Old Port a distinctly mediterranean quality.

The Three Towers (Tour St. Nicolas, Tour de la Chaine & Tour de la Lanterne)

When visiting the Old Port you cannot fail to notice the the three defensive towers, which guard the harbour. They date back to medieval times when control the city was contested by both French and English. They are well worth a visit although you will have to be in good health to climb the stairs. The staff are friendly and speak both English and French. All the signs to the various rooms and exhibits are also both in French and English. You'll also be given a returnable booklet containing lots of historical information about what is in each room. The cost of visiting each tower is 5,00 Euro (as of April 2008).

The Aquarium

Nature fans will enjoy the huge aquarium, which can be found within easy walking distance of the harbour (Location [1] ). The whole tour takes approximately 2-3 hours to experience and is an excellent activity if the weather outside is poor. Audio devices for various languages are available but all educational notices for each exhibit are also translated into English. The cost is 13,00 Euro for adults and 10,00 Euro for children (as of April 2008).

Port des Minimes One of the biggest ports of pleasure boats in Europe. Be prepared to be blown away by the number of yachts in this enormous port. Also, visit the beach beside the port.

Ile de Re

Beautiful beaches, excellant food and a cyclists heaven.

Eat

Seafood is the specialty in La Rochelle, and there are many excellent restaurants around the Vieux Port. Try the mussels "Cherantais" in a creamy white wine and onion sauce. For a more traditional meal "A Cote de Chez Fred" offers a variety of local specialties in a comfortable setting.

As an alternative, for budget travellers, some locals recommande to try some sandwichs or kebabs at "Le Rif" restaurant on the "Rue St Nicolas", not very far away from "A Coté de Chez Fred". They offer some of their specialities like Royal Rif and Royal Fajitas.

Drink

La Guignette Head to this local spot for a La Rochelle specialty, white whine mixed with fruit syrup. Open only in the early evening, this bar is a popular place for students starting a night of partying. The bar is located downtown on Rue St. Nicholas, in an excellent run down and dirty building. A lot of fun, but be careful, the sweet drink will quickly get you very drunk!

The General Humberts Be sure to stop by this Irish Pub on Rue St. Nicholas. A comfortable place to meet with friends, or watch some football or rugby. The owners are extremely friendly, and most of the staff speak English. Occasional live music.

Callhoute Just off of Rue St. Nicholas is this small and comfortable nightspot. Great music is always playing, and drink are not to expensive. Try a pitcher of "Jacquline" wine mixed with tonic and fruit syrup. It comes in many flavours, try peach or melon.

Sleep

There are many hotels in and around the Vieux Port, ranging in price from affordable to decadent. Prices will be much more expensive in the summer months. The only hostel (Auberge de Jeunesse) is located near the Port des Minimes.

Besides, you can stay at Altica Hotel, situated near a university, about 15 minutes walk form the Centre Ville... It is connected regularly by bus (no 10,7 and 19). The price is quite affordable (30-40 euro per room).

PV-Holidays Residence Maeva Centre +33 1 58 21 55 84, This 2-storey residence has a indoor, heated swimming pool and lies in the heart of the town, in the "Bastion Saint Nicolas" district. It is 2.5 km from the beach and 200 m from the shops.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LA ROCHELLE, a seaport of western France, capital of the department of Charente-Inferieure, 90 m. S. by E. of Nantes on the railway to Bordeaux. Pop. (1906) town 24,524, commune 33,858. La Rochelle is situated on the Atlantic coast on an inlet opening off the great bay in which lie the islands of Re and Oleron. Its fortifications, constructed by Vauban, have a circuit of 3-1m. with seven gates. Towards the sea are three towers, of which the oldest (1384) is that of St Nicholas. The apartment in the first storey was formerly used as a chapel. The Chain Tower, built towards the end of the 14th century, is so called from the chain which guarded the harbour at this point; the entrance to the tidal basin was at one time spanned by a great pointed arch between the two towers. The lantern tower (1445-1476), seven storeys high, is surmounted by a lofty spire and was once used as a lighthouse. Of the ancient gateways only one has been preserved in its entirety, that of the "Grosse Horloge," a huge square tower of the 14th or 15th century, the corner turrets of which have been surmounted with trophies since 1746. The cathedral of La Rochelle (St Louis or St Bartholomew) is a heavy Grecian building (1742-1762) with a dome above the transept, erected on the site of the old church of St Bartholomew, destroyed in the 16th century and now represented by a solitary tower dating from the 14th century. Externally the town-house is in the Gothic style of the latter years of the 15th century and has the appearance of a fortress, though its severity is much relieved by the beautiful carving of the two entrances, of the machicolations and of the two belfries. The buildings looking into the inner court are in the Renaissance style (16th and early 17th centuries) and contain several fine apartments. In the old episcopal palace (which was in turn the residence of Sully, the prince of Conde, Louis XIII., and Anne of Austria, and the scene of the marriage of Alphonso VI. of Portugal with a princess of Savoy) accommodation has been provided for a.library, a collection of records and a museum of art and antiquities. Other buildings of note are an arsenal with an artillery museum, a large hospital, a special Protestant hospital, a military hospital and a lunatic asylum for the department. In the botanical gardens there are museums of natural history. Medieval and Renaissance houses give a peculiar character to certain districts: several have French, Latin or Greek inscriptions of a moral or religious turn and in general of Protestant origin. Of these old houses the most interesting is one built in the midddle of the 16th century and wrongly known as that of Henry II. The parade-ground, which forms the principal public square, occupies the site of the castle demolished in 1590. Some of the streets have side-arcades; the public wells are fed from a large reservoir in the Champ de Mars; and among the promenades are the Cours des Dames with the statue of Admiral Duperre, and outside the Charruyer Park on the west front of the ramparts, and the Mail, a beautiful piece of greensward. In this direction are the sea-bathing establishments.

La Rochelle is the seat of a bishopric and a prefect, and has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a chamber of commerce and a branch of the Bank of France; its educational establishments include an ecclesiastical seminary, a lycee and a training college for girls. Ship-building, saw-milling and the manufacture of briquettes and chemicals, sardine and tunnypreserving and petroleum-refining are among the industries. The rearing of oysters and mussels and the exploitation of salt marshes is carried on in the vicinity.

The inlet of La Rochelle is protected by a stone mole constructed by Richelieu and visible at low tide. The harbour, one of the safest on the coast, is entered by a channel 2730 yds. long, and comprises an outer harbour opening on the one hand into a floating basin, on the other into a tidal basin with another floating basin adjoining it. Behind the tidal basin is the Maubec reservoir, the waters of which, along with those of the Marans canal, help to scour the port and navigable channel. Some 200 sailing ships are engaged in the fisheries, and the fish market of La Rochelle is the most important on the west coast. The harbour is, however, inaccessible to the largest vessels, for the accommodation of which the port of La Pallice, inaugurated in 1891, was created. Lying about 3 m. W.S.W. of La Rochelle, this port opens into the bay opposite the eastern extremity of the island of Re. It was artificially excavated and affords safe anchorage in all weathers. The outer port, protected by two jetties, has an area of 29 acres and a depth of 162 ft. below lowest tide-level. At the extremity of the breakwater is a wharf where ships may discharge without entering the basin. A lock connects with the inner basin, which has an area of 27 acres, with 5900 ft. of quayage, a minimum depth of 28 ft., and depths of 291 ft. and 36 ft. at high, neap and spring tides. Connected with the basin are two graving docks. La Pallice has regular communication with South America by the vessels of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company and by those of other companies with London, America, West Africa, Egypt and the Far East. The port has petroleum refineries and chemical manure works.

In 1906 there entered the port of La Rochelle, including the dock of La Pallice, 441 vessels with a tonnage of 629,038, and cleared 468 vessels with a tonnage of 664,861 (of which 235 of 241,146 tons cleared with ballast). These figures do not include vessels entering from, or clearing for, other ports in France. The imports (value, £1,276,000 in 1900 as compared with 1,578,000 in 1907) include coal and patent fuel, superphosphates, natural phosphates, nitrate of soda, pyrites, building-timber, wines and alcohol, pitch, dried codfish, petroleum, jute, woodpulp. Exports (value, £1,294,000 in 1900; £1,979,000 in 1907) include wine and brandy, fancy goods, woven goods, garments, skins, coal and briquettes, furniture, potatoes.

La Rochelle existed at the close of the 10th century under the name of Rupella. It belonged to the barony of Chatelaillon, which was annexed by the duke of Aquitaine and succeeded Chatelaillon as chief town in Aunis. In 1199 it received a communal charter from Eleanor, duchess of Guienne, and it was in its harbour that John Lackland'disembarked when he came to try to recover the domains seized by Philip Augustus. Captured by Louis VIII. in 1224, it was restored to thebEnglish in 1360 by the treaty of Bretigny, but it shook off the yoke of the foreigner when Du Guesclin recovered Saintonge. During the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries La Rochelle, then an almost independent commune, was one of the great maritime cities of France. From its harbour in 1402 Jean de Bethencourt set out for the conquest of the Canaries, and its seamen were the first to turn to account the discovery of the new world. The salttax provoked a rebellion at Rochelle which Francis I. repressed in person; in 1568 the town secured exemption by the payment of a large sum. At the Reformation La Rochelle early became one of the chief centres of Calvinism, and during the religious wars it armed privateers which preyed on Catholic vessels in the Channel and on the high seas. In 1571 a synod of the Protestant churches of France was held within its walls under the presidency of Beza for the purpose of drawing up a confession of faith. After the massacre of St Bartholomew, La Rochelle held out for six and a half months against the Catholic army, which was ultimately obliged to raise the siege after losing more than 20,000 men. The peace of the 24th of June 1573, signed by the people of La Rochelle in the name of all the Protestant party, granted the Calvinists full liberty of worship in several places of safety. Under Henry IV. the town remained quiet, but under Louis XIII. it put itself again at the head of the Huguenot party. Its vessels blockaded the mouth of the Gironde and stopped the commerce of Bordeaux, and also seized the islands of Re and Oleron and several vessels of the royal fleet. Richelieu then resolved to subdue the town once for all. In spite of the assistance rendered by the English troops under Buckingham and in spite of the fierce energy of their mayor Guiton, the people of La Rochelle were obliged to capitulate after a year's siege (October 1628). During this investment Richelieu raised the celebrated mole which cut off the town from the open sea. La Rochelle then became the principal port for the trade between France and the colony of Canada. But the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) deprived it of some thousands of its most industrious inhabitants, and the loss of Canada by France completed for the time the ruin of its commerce. Its privateers, however, maintained a vigorous struggle with the English during the republic and the empire.

See P. Suzanne, La Rochelle pittoresque (La Rochelle, 1903), and E. Couneau, La Rochelle disparue (La Rochelle, 1904).


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Simple English

La Rochelle is a city in western France near the Bay of Biscay. The Huguenots there rebelled in 1627 and 1628.


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