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Encyclopedia

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Coordinates: 46°34′55″N 0°20′10″E / 46.581944°N 0.336111°E / 46.581944; 0.336111

Commune of Poitiers

Poitiers hill.jpg
Location
Poitiers is located in France
Poitiers
Administration
Country France
Region Poitou-Charentes
Department Vienne
Arrondissement Poitiers
Intercommunality Poitiers
Mayor Alain Claeys
(2008–2014)
Statistics
Elevation 65–144 m (213–472 ft)
(avg. 75 m/246 ft)
Land area1 42.11 km2 (16.26 sq mi)
Population2 91,395  (2006)
 - Density 2,170 /km2 (5,600 /sq mi)
Miscellaneous
INSEE/Postal code 86194/ 86000
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.

Poitiers (French pronunciation: [pwatje]) is a city on the Clain river in west central France. It is a commune and the capital of the Vienne department and of the Poitou-Charentes region. The centre is picturesque and its streets are interesting for predominant remains of historical architecture, especially from the Romanesque period. Poitiers is associated with great historical events from the Late medieval era.

Contents

Geography

Poitiers is strategically situated on the Seuil du Poitou, a shallow zone which is a gap between the Armorican and the Central Massif and connects the Aquitaine Basin to the Paris Basin. Poitiers's primary site sits on a vast promontory between the valleys of the Boivre and the Clain. The old town occupies the slopes and summit of a plateau which rises 130 feet (40 m) above the streams which surround it on three sides.

Inhabitants of Poitiers are called Pictaviens. One out of three people in Poitiers is under the age of 30 and one out of four people in Poitiers are students.[citation needed]

History

Antiquity

Poitiers was founded by the Celtic Pictones tribe as the oppidum Lemonum before Roman influence. The name is said to have come from the Celtic word for elm, Lemo.

Until 1857 Poitiers contained the ruins of a vast Roman amphitheatre larger than that of Nîmes. Remains of Roman baths, built in the 1st century and demolished in the 3rd century, were laid bare in 1877. In 1879 a burial-place and tombs of a number of Christian martyrs were discovered on the heights to the south-east, the names of some of the Christians being preserved in paintings and inscriptions. Not far from these tombs is a huge dolmen (the Pierre Levée), which is 22 feet (6.7 m) long, 16 feet (4.9 m) broad and 7 feet (2.1 m) high, and around which used to be held the great fair of Saint Luke. The Romans also built at least three aqueducts. This extensive ensemble of Roman constructions suggests Poitiers was a town of first importance, possibly even the capital of the roman province of Gallia Aquitania during the 2nd century.

As Christianity was officialized and introduced across the Roman Empire during the 3rd and 4th centuries, the first bishop of Poitiers from 350 to 367, Saint Hilarius, evangelized the city. The first foundations of the Baptistère Saint-Jean are traced to that era. In the 4th century, a thick wall six meters wide and ten meters high was built around the city. It was 2.5 km (1.6 mi) long and stood lower on the naturally defended east side and at the top of the promontory.

At this time, the town began to be known as Poitiers, after the original Pictones inhabitants.

Fifty years later the city fell into the hands of the Arian Visigoths, and became one of the principal residences of their kings. Visigoth King Alaric II was defeated by Clovis I at Vouillé, not far from Poitiers, in 507, and the town came under Frankish dominion.

Middle Ages

Charles-de-Gaulle place and it medieval heritage

During most of the Early Middle Ages, the town of Poitiers took advantage of its defensive site and of its location, which was far from the center of frankish power. As the seat for an évêché (bishop) since the 4th century, the town was the capital of the Poitou county. The Counts of Poitiers governed a large domain, including both Aquitaine and Poitou.

The first decisive Christian victory over Muslims—the Battle of Tours—was fought by Charles Martel's men in the vicinity of Poitiers on October 10, 732. It was one of the world's pivotal moments.[1]

Eleanor of Aquitaine frequently resided in the city, which she embellished and fortified, and in 1199 entrusted with communal rights.

The Battle of Poitiers was fought at Poitiers on September 19, 1356, during the Hundred Years' War.

In 1418, the royal parliament moved from Paris to Poitiers, where it remained in exile until the English withdrew from the capital in 1436. During this interval (1429) Joan of Arc was subjected to a formal inquest in the town. The University of Poitiers was founded in 1431. Also, John Calvin had numerous converts at Poitiers. Of the violent proceedings which attended the Wars of Religion, the city had its share. In 1569 it was defended by Gui de Daillon, comte du Lude, against Gaspard de Coligny, who after an unsuccessful bombardment retired from the siege at the end of seven weeks.

16th century

The type of political organisation existing in Poitiers during the late medieval or early modern period can be glimpsed through a speech given on 14 July 1595 by Maurice Roatin, the town's mayor. He compared it to the Roman state, which combined three types of government: monarchy (rule by one person), aristocracy (rule by a few), and democracy (rule by the many). He said the Roman consulate corresponded to Poitiers' mayor, the senate to the town's peers and échevins, and the democratic element in Rome corresponded to the fact that most important matters "can not be decided except by the advice of the Mois et Cent (broad council).1 The mayor appears to have been an advocate of a mixed constitution; it should be noted that not all Frenchmen in 1595 would have agreed with him, at least in public; many spoke in favour of absolute monarchy. We should also note that the democratic element was not as strong as the mayor's words may seem to imply: in fact, Poitiers was similar to other French cities, Paris, Nantes, Marseille, Limoges, La Rochelle, Dijon, in that the town's governing body (corps de ville) was "highly exclusive and oligarchical": a small number of professional and family groups controlled most of the city offices. In Poitiers many of these positions were granted for the lifetime of the office holder.2

The city government in Poitiers based its claims to legitimacy on the theory of government where the mayor and échevins held jurisdiction of the city's affairs in fief from the king: that is, they swore allegiance and promised support for him, and in return he granted them local authority. This gave them the advantage of being able to claim that any townsperson who challenged their authority was being disloyal to the king. Every year the mayor and the 24 échevins would swear an oath of allegiance "between the hands" of the king or his representative, usually the lieutenant général or the sénéchaussée. For example, in 1567, when Maixent Poitevin was mayor, king Henri III came for a visit, and, although some townspeople grumbled about the licentious behaviour of his entourage, Henri smoothed things over with a warm speech acknowledging their allegiance and thanking them for it.2

In this era, the mayor of Poitiers was preceded by sergeants wherever he went, consulted deliberative bodies, carried out their decisions, "heard civil and criminal suits in first instance", tried to ensure that the food supply would be adequate, visited markets.2

In the 1500s, Poitiers impressed visitors because of its large size, and important features, including "royal courts, university, prolific printing shops, wealthy religious institutions, cathedral, numerous parishes, markets, impressive domestic architecture, extensive fortifications, and castle."3

Poitiers is closely associated with the life of François Rabelais and with the community of Bitards.

17th century

The town saw less activity during the Renaissance. Few changes were made in the urban landscape, except for laying way or the rue de la Tranchée. Bridges were built were the inhabitants had used gués. A few hôtels particuliers were built at that time, such as the hôtels Jean Baucé, Fumé and Berthelot. Poets Joachim du Bellay and Pierre Ronsard met at the University of Poitiers, before leaving for Paris.

Many Acadians or Cajuns living in North America can trace ancestry to this region as their ancestors left from here in the 17th century.

18th century

The city at this time lived mostly off of its administrative functions: royal justice, évêché, monasteries and the intendance of the Généralité du Poitou. The Vicomte de Blossac, intendant from 1750 to 1784, had a french garden landscaped. He also had Aliénor d'Aquitaine's wall raised and boulevards built in its place

19th century

During the 19th century, many army bases were built in Poitiers because of its central and strategic location. Poitiers became a garrison town, despite its distance from France's borders.

The train station was built in the 1850s.

20th century

Poitiers was bombed during World War II, particularly the area round the railway station which was heavily hit on June 13, 1944.

During the late fifties until the late sixties when Charles De'Gaulle ended the American military presence, the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force had an array of military installations in France, including a major Army logistics and communications hub in Poitiers, part of what was called the Communication Zone (ComZ), and consisting of a logistics headquarters and communications agency located at Abboville Caserne, a military compound situated on a hill above the city. Today, hundreds of graduates (called "Military Brats) of Poitiers American High School, a school operated by the Department of Defense School System (DODDS), have gone on to successful careers, including the recent commander-in-chief of U.S. Special Forces Command, Army General Bryan (Doug) Brown. The Caserne also housed a full support community, with a theater, commissary, recreation facilities and an affiliate radio station of the American Forces Network, Europe, headquartered in Frankfurt (now Mannheim), Germany.

The city benefited from industrial décentralisation in the 1970s, for instance with the installation of Michelin and Compagnie des compteurs Schlumberger factories during that decade.

The Futuroscope theme park and research park project, built in 1986-1987 in nearby Chasseneuil-du-Poitou after an idea from René Monory, established the city as a touristic destination and opened it to the era of information technology

Attractions

Église St-Hilaire-le-Grand
Poitiers
Église Notre-Dame la Grande

Sport

The Stade Poitevin founded in 1900 is a multi sports club. It includes a volleyball team that play in Pro A, a basketball team in Pro B, an amateur football team and also a professional rugby team (season 2008-2009).

Brian Joubert, the figure skating champion, practices at Poitiers ice rink and lives with his family in the city.

Demography

Change in population
1936 1954 1962 1968 1975 1982 1990 1999 2006
44,269 52,681 62,178 71,129 81,313 79,350 78,894 83,448 91,395

Tourism

Poitiers' tourist industry has greatly benefited from the opening of the Futuroscope in nearby Chasseneuil-du-Poitou. The city center is visited in complement to the theme-park and benefits from a larger proportion of European tourists, notably from the United Kingdom.

Transport

Poitiers has a railway station on the TGV Atlantique line between Paris and Bordeaux. The station is in the valley to the west of the old town centre. Services run to Angoulême, Limoges and La Rochelle in addition to Paris and Bordeaux. The direct TGV puts Poitiers 1h40 from Paris' Gare Montparnasse.

Poitiers - Biard Airport is located 2.4 km (Template:Convert/) west of Poitiers with flights to Lyon-Satolas, London-Stansted and Birmingham

Urban transport is provided by the company Vitalis. Transport in the region are provided by the TER Poitou-Charentes (regional express train) . Transportation in the department of Vienne are insured by the car "ligne en Vienne".

Education

The city of Poitiers has a very old university tradition. The University of Poitiers was established in 1431 and welcomed many famous thinkers ( François Rabelais; René Descartes; Francis Bacon ). It is the second oldest university in France. Poitiers is nowadays one of the biggest student cities in France; it has more students per inhabitant than any other city in France. There are more than 27,000 university students, nearly 4000 of them foreigners, from 117 countries. The University covers all major fields such as sciences, geography, history, languages. It had engineering (ENSMA; ESIP) and business schools (ESCEM; IAE).

The law degree is one of the best in France, rank 2nd by Etudiant magazine in 2005.[citation needed]

Since 2001, the city of Poitiers has hosted the first cycle of "South America, Spain and Portugal" from the Paris Institute of Political Studies.

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Poitiers is twinned with:

Personalities

This is a list of people of interest who were born or resided in Poitiers:

See also

References

Bibliography

  1. Archives communales de Poitiers, reg. 54, pp. 211–213; in Harry J. Bernstein, Between Crown and Community: Politics and Civic Culture in Sixteenth-Century Poitiers. 2004, Ithica N.Y., USA: Cornell University Press, p. 22.
  2. Harry J. Bernstein, Between Crown and Community: Politics and Civic Culture in Sixteenth-Century Poitiers. 2004, Ithaca N.Y., USA: Cornell University Press, p. 22-30.
  3. ibid., p. 2.

Notes

  1. ^ Professor of religion Huston Smith says in The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions: "But for their defeat by Charles Martel in the Battle of Tours in 733 [sic], the entire Western world might today be Muslim."
  2. ^ "Acordos de Geminação" (in Portugese). © 2009 Câmara Municipal de Coimbra - Praça 8 de Maio - 3000-300 Coimbra. http://www.cm-coimbra.pt/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=62&Itemid=128. Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  3. ^ Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607–1896. Marquis Who's Who. 1967. 

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Poitiers is the capital city of the Poitou-Charentes region of central France.

Understand

Poitiers is a pleasant, relatively small city of around 85,000 inhabitants that has strong medieval roots. It is situated on the Clain river.

Charles Martel changed the course of French and European history near Poitiers in 732 by halting the advancing Moors in the Battle of Tours, which was the first decisive Christian victory over the Moorish invaders. The battle took place just a few kilometres north of the city.

Get in

Poitiers is some 350 km due south of Paris, and 120 km east of the Atlantic coast. It can easily be reached by high-speed train (a little over 1 hour) or by bus from Paris. The train station and bus station are in the same building.

Upon arrival, the city is to the west of the train/bus station, on the hill. Climb up the stairs.

You can also visit nearby cities by local buses from the train/bus station.

See

There isn't a lot to do at Poitiers, but it is a pleasant small city, and visitors will find relaxed atmosphere, especially compared to Paris. Poitiers is also a good base to visit nearby towns and cities. These days, a lot of retirees move to Poitiers, attracted by its warm and climate (snow is rare).

  • City Centre Has a small square in front of the City Hall is surrounded by cafes, where you can sit down with a glass of wine or coffee or get something to eat. It gets packed on weekends, especially during summer. Other parts of the town may give you an impression of a ghost town, especially during lunchtime, when the shops are closed.
  • Baptistry of St. John One of the oldest Christian buildings in Europe, dating back to 4th century. Inside, you can see the baptismal pool on the floor.
  • St. Pierre Cathedral Has organ performances.
  • Church of Notre Dame Virgin Mary is the Patron Saint of France, so every city of town will have a church named Notre Dame (Our Lady). Poitiers' Notre Dame has light shows some evenings after dark.
  • The Futuroscope, located 15 km north of the town.

Learn

The local university, the Université de Poitiers, has over 24,000 students. Poitiers is the first town in France considering the proportion of students in the population, around 25%.

Sleep

There are many hotels in Potier, with prices ranging from 30 euros for a double room in a one star hotel to more than 200 in a relais et chateaux. you can also sleep in a hotel in Paris and take the train or car early in the morning

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

POITIERS, a town of western France, formerly the capital of Poitou, and now the chief town of the department of Vienne, 61 m. S.S.W. of Tours on the railway to Bordeaux. Pop. (1906), town, 31,532; commune, 39,302.39,302. Poitiers is situated at the junction of the Boivre with the Clain (a tributary of the Loire by the Vienne), and occupies the slopes and summit of a plateau which rises 130 ft. above the level of the streams by which it is surrounded on three sides. The town is picturesque; and its streets are interesting for their remains of ancient architecture, especially of the Romanesque period, and the memories of great historical events. Blossac park, named after the intendant of the "generality" of Poitiers (1751-1786), and situated on the south side of the town, and the botanical garden on the north-east, are the two principal promenades. Till 1857 Poitiers contained the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre more extensive than that of Nimes; remains of Roman baths, constructed in the 1st and demolished in the 3rd century, were laid bare in 1877; and in 1879 a burial-place and the tombs of a number of Christian martyrs were discovered on the heights to the south-east - the names of some of the Christians being preserved in paintings and inscriptions. Not far from these tombs is a huge dolmen (the "Pierre Levee"), 22 ft. long, 16 ft. broad and 6 or 7 ft. high, around which used to be held the great fair of St Luke.

The cathedral of St Peter, begun in 1162 by Henry II. of England and Eleanor ofGuienne on the ruins of a Roman basilica, and well advanced by the end of the 12th century, is a building in the Romanesque and Early Gothic style, the latter predominating. It consists of three naves almost equal in height and width, both of which decrease towards the west, thus enhancing the perspective. Its length is 308 ft., and the keystone of the central vaulted roof is 8 9 ft. above the pavement. There is no apse, and the exterior generally has a heavy appearance. The principal front, the width of which is excessive in proportion to its height, has unfinished side-towers 105 and 110 ft. in height, begun in the 13th century. Most of the windows of the choir and the transepts preserve their stained glass of the 12th and 13th centuries; the end window, which is certainly the first in the order of time, contains the figures of Henry II. and Eleanor. The choir stalls, carved between 1235 and 1257, are among the oldest in France. The church of St Jean near the cathedral is the most ancient Christian monument in the country. Built as a baptistery in the first half of the 4th century, it was enlarged in the 7th century, since when it has suffered little structural alteration. It contains frescoes of the 12th century and a collection of tombs of the Merovingian period. The church of St Hilaire was erected at the close of the 4th century over the tomb of the celebrated bishop. At first an oratory, it was rebuilt on a larger scale by Clovis, and afterwards became, in the loth, 1 rth and 12th centuries, a sumptuous collegiate church, of which the nave was flanked by triple aisles and surmounted by six cupolas. Great damage was done to it in the Wars of Religion and the French Revolution, and the facade was entirely rebuilt in the 19th century. The confessional or oratory under the choir contains the relics of St Hilary and a Christian sarcophagus of the 4th century. The church of St Radegonde, a great resort of pilgrims, commemorates the consort of Clotaire (d. 587), and preserves in its crypt the tomb of Radegonde, who founded at Poitiers the abbey of the Holy Cross, and two others reputed to be those of St Agnes and St Disciola. The choir and tower above the entrance are of the 11th century, while the nave (late 1 2 th century) is in the Angevin style. In a recess in the nave known as the Chapelle du Pas de Dieu, there is a footprint which tradition asserts to j-)e that of Christ, who appeared in a vision to St Radegonde. Notre-Dame la Grande, which dates from the close of the IIth century, and represents a collegiate church of one or two hundred years older, has a sculptured Romanesque facade rivalled in richness only by that of St Pierre of Angouleme. The first stone of the church of Montierneuf (M onasterium Novum) was laid in 1077 by William VI., duke of Aquitaine and count of Poitiers, who is buried within its walls; and the choir (in the 13th century XXI. 29 modified by the erection of a "lantern") was solemnly consecrated by Urban II. in 1096. Mutilated about 1640 and during the Revolution, the building was partly restored between 1850 and 1860. The tower of St Porchaire, a precious remnant of 1 1 th-century architecture, was restored in the 19th century under the auspices of the well-known Societe des antiquaires de l'ouest. Among the secular buildings the first place belongs to the law courts, formerly the palace of the dukes of Aquitaine and counts of Poitiers, and rebuilt between the 12th and the 15th century. The Salle des Pas Perdus forms a fine nave 160 ft. long by 56 ft. wide, with a vaulted wooden roof. The southern wall is the work of duke Jean de Berry (d. 1416), brother of Charles V.; above its three vast fireplaces are mullioned windows filled with stained glass. The Maubergeon tower attached to the palace by the same duke represented the feudal centre of all the lordships of the countship of Poitiers. The house known as the prevote or provost's mansion, built about 150o, has a fine façade flanked by turrets, and there are other houses of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. In the Hotel de Ville, erected between 1869 and 1876, are museums of natural history and painting. The museum of the Antiquaires de l'ouest occupies the chapel and the great hall of the old university, adjoining the old Hotel de Ville; it is a valuable collection comprising Roman antiquities, Merovingian sculptures, medals, a fine Renaissance fireplace, &c. The building devoted to the faculties also contains the library. The municipal records are very rich in charters of Eleanor of Guienne, Philip Augustus, Alphonse of Poitiers, &c.

Poitiers is the seat of a bishop, a prefect, a court of appeal and a court of assizes, and centre of an educational division (academic), and has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a board of trade arbitration, a chamber of commerce and a branch of the Bank of France. Its educational institutions comprise a university with faculties of law, science and letters, and a preparatory school of medicine and pharmacy, a school of theology, training colleges for both sexes, a lycee for boys and a school of fine art. Trade is in farm produce, wine, cattle, wool, honey, goose-quills and leather. The industries include the preparation of goose-skins, printing, tanning, and the manufacture of brushes, paint and candles.

Poitiers, called Limonum at the time of the Roman Conquest, afterwards took the name of its Gallic founders, the Pictones or Pictavi. Christianity was introduced in the 3rd century, and the first bishop of Poitiers, from 350 to 367, was St Hilarius. Fifty years later the city had fallen into the hands of the Arian Visigoths, and became one of the principal residences of their kings. Alaric II., one of their number, was defeated by Clovis at Vouille, not far from Poitiers, in 507, and the town became a part of the Frankish dominion. This was the first occasion on which the peoples of northern and southern Gaul met in conflict in the neighbourhood of the town which was destined to see them so frequently join battle. By his victory in 732 over the Mahommedans at Moussais-la-Bataille in this region, Charles Martel proved the saviour of Christendom. Eleanor of Guienne frequently resided in the city, which she embellished and fortified, and in 1199 entrusted with communal rights. Alphonse of Poitiers, at a plenary court held in 1241 in the great hall of the Palais de Justice, received the homage of his numerous vassals. After the battle of Poitiers in 5356 (see below), Poitou was recognized as an English possession by the treaty of Bretigny (1360); but by 1373 it was recovered by Bertrand Du Guesclin. It was at Poitiers that Charles VII. was proclaimed king (1432); and he removed thither the parlement and university of Paris, which remained in exile till the English withdrew from the capital in 1436. During this interval (1429) Joan of Arc was subjected to a formal inquest in the town. The university was founded in 1432. Calvin had numerous converts at Poitiers. Of the violent proceedings which attended the Wars of Religion the city had its share. In 1569 it was defended by Gui de Daillon, comte du Lude, against Gaspard de Coligny, who after an unsuccessful bombardment retired from the siege at the end of seven weeks.

Counts of Poitiers

In the time of Charlemagne the countship of Poitiers, which was then a part of the kingdom of Aquitaine, was represented by a certain Abbon. Renoul (Ranulph), who was created count of Poitiers by the emperor Louis the Pious in 839, was the ancestor of a family which was distinguished in the 9th and 10th centuries for its attachment to the Carolingian dynasty. One of his successors, Ebles the Bastard (d. 935), took the title of duke of Aquitaine; and his descendants, who bore the hereditary name of William, retained the same title. William IV., Fierebrace, joined Hugh Capet, his brother-in-law, in 987. William V. the Great (993-1030) was a patron of letters, and received from the Italian lords the offer of the imperial crown after the death of the emperor Henry II. in 1024. William IX. (1086-1127) went on crusade in 110o, and had violent quarrels with the Papacy. His son William X. (1127-1137) sided with the anti-pope Anacletus against Innocent II. In accordance with the dying wishes of William X. his daughter Eleanor was married in 1137 to Louis, the son of Louis VI. of France. Sole heiress of her father, she brought her husband a large dowry, comprising Poitou, Saintonge, Aunis, a part of Touraine and Berry, Marche, Angoumois, Perigord, Auvergne, Limousin, Bordelais, Agenois and Gascony. After the dissensions between Louis VII. and Eleanor had resulted in a divorce in 1152, Eleanor married the count of Anjou, Henry Plantagenet, who became king of England as Henry II. The west of France thus passed into the hands of England, a transfer which gave rise to long wars between the two kingdoms. Philip Augustus reconquered Poitou in 1204, and the province became in succession an apanage of Alphonse, son of Louis VIII., in 1241; of Philip the Tall, son of Philip the Fair, in 1311; of John, son of Philip of Valois, in 1344; and of John, duc de Berry, son of John the Good, in 1356; and passed to the dauphins John (1416) and Charles (1417),(1417), sons of Charles VI. When Charles VII. ascended the throne he finally united the countship of Poitiers to the Crown.

See P. Guerin, Recueil des documents concernant le Poitou (Paris, 1880-1906); and A. Richards, Histoire des comtes de Poitou (Paris, 1903).

Battle of Poitiers

This battle, fought on the ,9th of September 1356 between the armies of King John of France and Edward the "Black Prince," was the second of the three great English victories of the Hundred Years' War. From Bordeaux the prince had led an army of his father's Guienne vassals, with which there was a force of English archers and men-at-arms, into central France and had amassed an enormous booty. King John, hitherto engaged against the army of John of Gaunt duke of Lancaster, in Normandy, hurried south to intercept the raiding army and to bar its homeward road. The Black Prince, by forced marching, was able to slip past the French, but reaching Maupertuis, 7 m. south-east of Poitiers, with the king's army in chase, he found himself compelled to choose between fighting and abandoning his spoil. He chose the former course, in spite of the enemy's great superiority in numbers (16,000 to 650o), and in order to give his trains time to draw off took up a defensive position on the 18th of September, with a slight hollow in front and a wood behind, between the Poitiers-Bordeaux main road and the River Maussion.' John, instead of manoeuvring to envelop the English, allowed the Cardinal Talleyrand de Perigord to attempt to negotiate a peace. This proving vain, the French army attacked without any attempt at manoeuvre or reconnaissance, and on a front so narrow that the advantage of superior numbers was forfeited. Moreover, King John ordered all but the leading line to dismount and to attack on foot (tactics suggested by the success on the defensive of the dismounted English men-at-arms at Crecy and the Scots at Bannockburn), and thus condemned the best part of his army to a fatiguing advance on foot across difficult country in full armour.

The French arblasters, who might have crushed the relatively 1 The view adopted is that of Professor Oman, Art of War, Middle Ages, p. 631.

few English archers present, were mingled with the 300 picked mounted men in first line, but, as the latter charged, their advance masked the fire of the arblasters in the first few seconds, besides leaving the other, dismounted, lines far in rear. Thus the first attack on the Black Prince's line, which was greatly strengthened by trees and hedges in front of it, was promptly brought to a standstill by the arrows of the archers lining a hedge which overlooked the hollow in front; and the earl-of Oxford hastily drawing out a body of archers beyond the defenders' left, into the low-lying ground of the Maussion valley, completed their rout by firing up the hollow into their flank. But it was not so easy to deal with the second line of dismounted men-at-arms, led by the dauphin, which was the next to arrive on the French side. The hedge indeed was held, and the assailants, unable to advance beyond the hollow, gave way, but to achieve this the prince had to use all but 400 of his men. Had the third body of the French advanced with equal spirit the battle would probably have ended there and then, but the duke of Orleans, who commanded it, was so demoralized by the retirement of the dauphin's division that he led his whole force off the field without striking a blow. Thereupon the king himself advanced furiously with the fourth and last line, and as it came on the situation of the English seemed so desperate that the prince was advised to retreat. But his determined courage was unshaken; seeing that this was the last attack he put his reserve into line, and rallying around this nucleus all men who could still fight, he prepared not only to repulse but to counter-attack the French. He despatched a small force under the Captal de Buch to ride round the flank of the enemy and to appear in their rear at the crisis of the fight. Though a medieval knight, he knew as well as Napoleon at Arcola that when the moral force of both sides has passed its culminating point even a materially insignificant threat serves to turn the balance. And so it fell out. When both lines were fighting hand-to-hand, the fifty horsemen of the Captal de Buch appeared in rear of the French. The front ranks fought on, but the rear of the French melted away rapidly, and at last only a group of the bravest, with King John and his son Philip, a boy of fourteen, in their midst, were left. This band continued their hopeless resistance for a time, but in the end they were killed or captured to a man. The rest of the French army, totally dispersed, was pursued by the victors until nightfall. Two thousand five hundred of the French, 2000 of them knights and men-at-arms, were killed, including the constable, one of the marshals, the standardbearer and six other great lords. The prisoners included the king and his son Philip, the other marshal and 25 great lords, and 1933 knights and men-at-arms as well as 500 others.


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File:Poitiers Cathé
Cathedral of St. Peter, west side

Poitiers is a town on the Clain River in west central France. It is the capital (préfecture) of the Vienne department and of the Poitou-Charentes region. The town is picturesque; and its streets are interesting for their remains of ancient architecture, especially of the Romanesque period, and the memories of great historical events. About 86.000 people live in Poitiers.

The city itself is very old. It already existed as a Gaulish fort in the time when Julius Caesar came to Gaul. It was the capital of the tribe of the Pictones.

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