|Intercommunality||Agglomeration community of Poitiers (CAP)|
|• Mayor (2008–2014)||Alain Claeys|
|Area1||42.11 km2 (16.26 sq mi)|
|• Density||2,200/km2 (5,600/sq mi)|
|INSEE/Postal code||86194 / FR86000|
|Elevation||65–144 m (213–472 ft)
(avg. 75 m or 246 ft)
|1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries. 2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.|
Poitiers [pwatje] ( listen) 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. Two major military battles occurred near the city: in 732, the Battle of Poitiers (also known as the Battle of Tours), in which the Franks commanded by Charles Martel halted the expansion of the Umayyad Caliphate, and in 1356, the Battle of Poitiers, a key victory for English forces during the Hundred Years' War.
- 1 Geography
- 2 History
- 3 Attractions
- 4 Sport
- 5 Demography
- 6 Tourism
- 7 Transport
- 8 Education
- 9 International relations
- 10 Notable people
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Geography[edit | edit source]
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 (masculin) and Pictaviennes (feminin) because Pictavis was the ancient name for the town. It is not uncommon for inhabitants of Poitiers to call themselves Poitevins or Poitevines, although this name can be used for anyone from the Poitou province. One out of three people in Poitiers is under the age of 30 and one out of four people in Poitiers are students.
History[edit | edit source]
Antiquity[edit | edit source]
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. After Roman influence, the town became known as Pictavium.
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[edit | edit source]
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 centre 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.
Eleanor of Aquitaine frequently resided in the city, which she embellished and fortified, and in 1199 entrusted with communal rights.
In 1418, the royal parliament moved from Paris to Poitiers, where it remained in exile until the Plantagenets 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[edit | edit source]
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; 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 16th century, 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
17th century[edit | edit source]
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.
18th century[edit | edit source]
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 razed and boulevards built in its place
19th century[edit | edit source]
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[edit | edit source]
Poitiers was bombed during World War II, particularly the area round the railway station which was heavily hit on 13 June 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 Aboville 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 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[edit | edit source]
- Baptistère Saint-Jean (4th century) – the oldest church in France
- Palace of Poitiers – the seat of the Dukes of Aquitaine
- Église Notre-Dame-la-Grande – oldest romanesque architecture church in Europe
- Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, Poitiers's cathedral (12th century)
- Musée Sainte-Croix, the largest museum in Poitiers
- Église Sainte-Radegonde-de-Poitiers
- Église Saint-Hilaire-le-Grand (11th century)
- Hypogée des Dunes (underground chapel)
- Jardin des Plantes de Poitiers, a park and botanical garden
- Église de Montierneuf
- Parc du Futuroscope (European Park of the Moving Image, some 10 km (6.2 mi) north of Poitiers; theme is visual communication technology in ultramodern buildings)
- La Fanzinothèque
- Le Confort Moderne
Sport[edit | edit source]
The Stade Poitevin founded in 1900 is a multi sports club. It includes a volleyball team that play in Pro A, a basketball team, an amateur football team and also a professional rugby team (season 2008–2009).
The PB86 for Poitiers Basket 86 plays in the proA league. Three Americans play there Rasheed Wright, Kenny Yougner and Tommy Gunn. The team has play the playoffs in 2009_2010 season and was the proB France Champion for the 2008–2009 season http://www.pb86.fr/ the communication of the team is recognize as one of the best in france basketball league.
Demography[edit | edit source]
Tourism[edit | edit source]
Historic churches, in particular Romanesque, are the main attraction of Poitiers itself. Poitiers' tourist industry has greatly benefited from the opening of the Futuroscope in nearby Chasseneuil-du-Poitou in 1987. The city centre is visited in complement to the theme-park and benefits from a larger proportion of European tourists, notably from the United Kingdom.
Transport[edit | edit source]
Poitiers railway station is 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.
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 is assured by the car "ligne en Vienne".
From January 2009 to December 2012, the town centre circulation will go through deep changes called "Projet Coeur d'Agglo". This project focuses on new ways of thinking about the way people use cars to access the town centre and as an everyday way of transportation. Since 29 September 2010, cars are forbidden to use the access to 12 new streets. Finally, a new line of fast buses will be added around 2017.
Education[edit | edit source]
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 also has two engineering schools and two business schools:
- École nationale supérieure de mécanique et d'aérotechnique (ENSMA)
- École nationale supérieure d'ingénieurs de Poitiers (ENSIP)
- Ecole Supérieure de Commerce Et Management (ESCEM)
- Institut d'Administration des Entreprises de Poitiers (IAE).
The law degree is one of the best in France, rank 2nd by Etudiant magazine in 2005.
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[edit | edit source]
Twin towns – Sister cities[edit | edit source]
Poitiers is twinned with:
Notable people[edit | edit source]
This is a list of people of interest who were born or resided in Poitiers:
- Hilary of Poitiers (c300–367), elected bishop of Poitiers around the year 350, exiled and returned to die there
- Charles Martel, French general who defeated the Muslim Umayyad army in the Battle of Tours in 732
- François Rabelais, Renaissance writer and humanist
- Pope Clement V
- St. Venantius Fortunatus, 6th-century Latin poet and hymnodist and Bishop in the Roman Catholic Church
- Blessed Marie Louise Trichet
- William Longchamp, buried at the abbey of Le Pin, 1197
- René Descartes studied law at the University of Poitiers
- Saint Louis de Montfort
- Michel Aco, the explorer, was born in Poitiers.
- Louis Vierne, organist & composer, eventually at the Notre Dame cathedral, Paris.
- Paul Rougnon, composer and professor at the Conservatoire de Paris
- Camille Guérin, born in Poitiers in 1872, discovered a vaccine against tuberculosis with Albert Calmette in 1924
- Michel Foucault, French philosopher
- Joël Robuchon, born in Poitiers in 1945, French chef and restaurateur
- Brian Joubert, French ice skating champion
- Jean-Pierre Raffarin, French politician and senator for Vienne, former Prime Minister of France (2002–2005)
- Jean-Pierre Thiollet, born in Poitiers in 1956, French author
- Mahyar Monshipour, Ex World Boxing Association Super bantamweight champion in 2003–2006.
- Ribar Baikoua basketball player
- Francis N'Ganga footballer
- Maryse Ewanje-Epee athlete
- Monique Ewanje-Epee athlete
- Elsa N'Guessan swimmer
- Simon Pagenaud race car driver
- Bruce Inkango footballer
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
- 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.
- 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.
- ibid., p. 2.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- ^ "Habitants.fr". http://www.habitants.fr/habitants_poitiers_86194.html. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
- ^ 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."
- ^ "Acordos de Geminação" (in Portuguese). © 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 25 June 2009.
- ^ Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607–1896. Marquis Who's Who. 1967.
[edit | edit source]
- Official website of the City of Poitiers.
- website CAP.
- Prefecture of the Vienne.
- Official website Vitalis (Urban Transportation).
- Official website Ligne en Vienne (Vienne transpotation).
- Official website TER Poitou-Charentes.
- Official Website of the train station in Poitiers.
- Site of the Tourist Office of Poitiers.
- The University of Poitiers website.
- Poitiers – History, Churches, Streets and Museum
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