The Full Wiki

La Rochelle: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

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

The city is connected to the Île de Rémarker by a bridge - the longest in France - completed on May 19, 1988. Its harbour opens into a protected strait, the Pertuis d'Antiochemarker.



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 Saintesmarker.

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 Minimesmarker, as well as salt evaporation ponds dating to the same period.


La Rochelle was founded during the 10th century, and became an important harbour from 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 Châtelaillonmarker. 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).

Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet in 1152, who became king of Englandmarker 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.

The main activities of the city were in the areas of maritime commerce and trade, especially with Englandmarker, the Netherlandsmarker and Spainmarker. 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

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. La Rochelle was for the Templars their largest base on the Atlantic Oceanmarker,, and where they stationed their main fleet. From La Rochelle, they were able to act as intermediaries in trade between Englandmarker and the Mediterraneanmarker. 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 Cyprusmarker 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, and the legend continues that the Templars would even have left for Americamarker, burying a treasure in Oak Islandmarker, Nova Scotiamarker, Canadamarker (a story taken up in the 2004 movie National Treasure starring Nicholas Cage).

Hundred Years War

The 1372 naval battle of La Rochelle.
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 Channelmarker 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.

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.

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 Brazilmarker, and finally resolved to make a stand in La Rochelle itself.

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

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

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. The city was finally besieged during the Siege of La Rochelle 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 Montaubanmarker, Nimesmarker and La Rochelle.

Huguenot rebellions

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 . A fleet from La Rochelle fought a royal fleet of 35 ships under the Charles de Guise in front of Saint-Martin-de-Rémarker, but was defeated on 27 October 1622, leading to the signature of the Peace of Montpellier.

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.

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 , 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 . 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. Many Huguenots emigrated, founding such cities as New Rochellemarker in the vicinity of today's New Yorkmarker 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

Because of its western location, which saved days of sailing time, La Rochelle enjoyed successful fishing in the western Atlanticmarker 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.

The period following the wars was a prosperous one, marked by intense exchanges with the New World (Nouvelle France in Canadamarker, 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 Canadamarker. 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 Mississippimarker, eventually establishing Fort Saint Louis in Texasmarker.

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 Britainmarker, 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, Germanymarker 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. A siege took place between 12 September 1944, and 7 May 1945, in which the stronghold, including the islands of marker and Oléronmarker, 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.



La Rochelle seen from Spot Satellite
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.

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

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


Although at the same latitude as Montrealmarker in Canadamarker or the Kuril islandsmarker in Russiamarker, 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 Rivieramarker on the Mediterraneanmarker 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


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


800 px
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 Pallicemarker. 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 Minimesmarker, 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 Rochellemarker).

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 Singaporemarker (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.


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'Aixmarker and Fort Boyardmarker (home to the internationally famous tv show of the same name). Nearby Île de Rémarker is a short drive to the North. The countryside of the surrounding Charente-Maritime is very rural and full of history (Saintesmarker). 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 Cognacmarker and Pineau. The attractive Île de Rémarker is accessible via a bridge from La Rochelle.

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


Notable people

Born in La Rochelle

Lived in La Rochelle


See also

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

La Rochelle is twinned with:



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

External links

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address