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This article is about the French commune of Orléans; for other meanings see Orleans .

Orléans is a commune in north-central Francemarker, about southwest of Parismarker. It is the capital of the Loiretmarker department and of the Centremarker region.

The commune is located on the Loire Rivermarker where the river curves south towards the Massif Centralmarker.

The city of New Orleansmarker (still called in French La Nouvelle-Orléans), in the United Statesmarker is named after the commune of Orléans.


Orléans is located in the septentrional bend of the Loiremarker, which crosses from east to west. Orléans belongs to the vallée de la Loiremarker sector between Sully-sur-Loiremarker and Chalonnes-sur-Loiremarker, which was in 2000 inscribed by UNESCOmarker as a World Heritage Site. The capital of Orléanais, 120 kilomètres south-south-west of Parismarker, she is bordered to the north by the Beauce region and the forêt d'Orléans, and the Orléans-la-Source neighborhood and the Sologne region to the south.

Five bridges in the town cross the river :
:* Pont de l'Europe
:* Pont du Maréchal Joffre (also called pont Neuf)
:* Pont George-V (also called pont Royal), carrying the commune tramway
:* Pont René-Thinat
:* Pont de Vierzon (rail bridge)

To the south of the Loire (on the "rive gauche") is to be found a small hill (102m at the pont Georges-V, 110m at the place du Martroi) which gently rises to 125m at la Croix Fleury, at the limits of Fleury-les-Aubraismarker.

Conversely, the north (on the "rive droite") has a gentle depression to about 95 m above sea level (at Saint-Marceau) between the Loire and the Loiret, designated a "zone inondable" (flood-risk zone).

At the end of the 1960s the Orléans-la-Source quarter was created, to the south of the original commune and separated from it by the Val d'Orléans and the Loiret Rivermarker (whose source is in the Parc Floral de la Sourcemarker). This quarter's altitude varies from about 100 to 110m.

Orléans is an autoroute intersection : the A10 (linking Parismarker to Bordeauxmarker) links to the commune outskirts, and A71 (whose bridge over the Loire is outside the commune limits) begins here, heading for the Mediterranean via Clermont-Ferrandmarker (where it becomes the A75).

The Loire and navigation

In Orléans, the Loire is separated by a submerged dike known as the dhuis into the Grande Loire to the north, no longer navigable, and the Petite Loire to the south. This dike is just one part of a vast system of construction that previously allowed the Loire to remain navigable.

The Loire was formerly an important navigation and trading route, but now large ships can only navigate the estuary up to about Nantesmarker.

Boats on the river were traditionally flat-bottomed boats, with large but foldable masts to gather wind from above the river banks but also to allow them to pass under bridges – they are known as gabarre, futreau, and so on, still on view for tourists near pont Royal.

The river's irregular flow strongly limits traffic on it, in particular at its ascent, though this can be overcome by boats being given a tow.

An "Inexplosible"-type paddle steamer owned by the mairie was put in place in August 2007, facing place de la Loire and containing a bar.

Every two years, the Festival de Loire recalls the role played by the river in the commune's history.

Joined to it, on the river's north bank near the town centre, is the canal d'Orléans, which rejoins the river at Montargismarker but is no longer used along its whole length. Its route within Orléans runs parallel to the river, separated from it by a wall or muret, with a promenade along the top. Its last pound was transformed into an outdoor swimming pool in the 1960s, then filled in. It was reopened in 2007 for the "fêtes de Loire", with the intention of reviving it and installing a pleasure-boat port there.


See also :fr:Histoire d'Orléans.

Prehistory and Roman

See also Cenabum.
Cenabum was a Gallic stronghold, one of the principal towns of the Carnutes tribe where the Druids held their annual assembly. It was conquered and destroyed by Julius Caesar in 52 BC, then rebuilt under the Roman Empire. The emperor Aurelian rebuilt the city, renaming it Aurelianum, "city of Aurelian" (cité d'Aurélien), which evolved into Orléans.

Accompanying the Vandals, the Alans crossed the Loire in 408. One of their groups, under Goar, joined the Roman forces of Flavius Aetius to fight Attila when he invaded Gaul in 451, taking part in the Battle of Chalons under their king Sangiban. Installed in Orléans and along the Loire, they were unruly (killing the town's senators when they felt they had been paid too slowly or too little) and resented by the local inhabitants. Many inhabitants around the present city have names bearing witness to the Alan presence – Allaines, Allainvillemarker, etc.

Early Middle Ages

In the Merovingian era, the city was capital of the kingdom of Orléans following Clovis I's division of the kingdom, then under the Capetians it became the capital of a county then duchy held in appanage by the house of Valois-Orléans. The Valois-Orléans family later acceded to the throne of Francemarker via Louis XII then Francis I. In 1108, one of the few consecrations of a French monarch to occur outside of Reimsmarker occurred at Orléans, when Louis VI the Fat was consecrated in Orléans cathedral by Daimbert, archbishop of Sens.

High Middle Ages

The city was always a strategic point on the Loire, for it was sited at the river's most northerly point, and thus its closest point to Parismarker. There were few bridges over the dangerous river Loire, and Orléans had one of them, and so became – with Rouenmarker and Paris – one of medieval France's three richest cities.

On the south bank the "châtelet des Tourelles" protected access to the bridge. This was the site of the battle on 8 May 1429 which allowed Joan of Arc to enter and liberate the city from the English during the Hundred Years' War, with the help of the royal generals Dunois and Florent d'Illiersmarker. The city's inhabitants have continued to remain faithful and grateful to her to this day, calling her "la pucelle d'Orléans" (the maid of Orléans), offering her a middle-class house in the city, and contributing to her ransom when she was taken prisoner (though this ransom was sequestred by Charles VII and Joan was never released).

1453 to 1699

Once the Hundred Years' War was over, the city recovered its former prosperity. The bridge brought in tolls and taxes, as did the merchants passing through the city. King Louis XI also greatly contributed to its prosperity, revitalizing agriculture in the surrounding area (particularly the exceptionally fertile land around Beauce) and relaunching saffron farming at Pithiviersmarker. Later, during the Renaissance, the city benefited from it becoming fashionable for rich châtelains to travel along the val-de-Loire (a fashion begun by the king himself, whose royal domains included the nearby Chambordmarker, Amboisemarker, Bloismarker, and Chenonceaumarker).

The University of Orléans also contributed to the city's prestige. Specializing in law, it was highly regarded throughout Europe. John Calvin was received and accommodated there (during which time he wrote part of his reforming theses) and in return Henry VIII of England (who had drawn on Calvin's work in his separation from Rome) offered to fund a scholarship at the University. Many other Protestants were sheltered by the city. Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known by his pseudonym Molière, also studied law at the University, but was expelled for attending a carnival contrary to University rules.

From 13 December 1560 to 31 January 1561, the French States-General met here. This was just after the death of Francis II of France, the eldest son of Catherine de Médicis and Henry II, on 5 December 1560 in the Hôtel Groslot in Orléans, with his queen Mary at his side.

The cathedral was rebuilt several times. The present structure had its first stone laid by Henry IV, and work on it took a century. It thus is a mix of late Renaissance and early Louis XIV styles, and one of the last cathedrals to be built in France.


When France colonised America, the territory it conquered was immense, including the whole Mississippi River (whose first European name was the River Colbert), from its mouth to its source at the borders of Canadamarker. Its capital was named "la Nouvelle-Orléansmarker" in honour of Louis XV's regent, the duke of Orléans, and was settled with 8000 French and Cajun inhabitants against the threat from British troops to the north-east.

The Dukes of Orléans hardly ever visited their city since, as brothers or cousins of the king, they took such a major role in court life that they could hardly ever leave. Officially their castle was that at Bloismarker. The duchy of Orléans was the largest of the French duchies, starting at Arpajon, continuing to Chartresmarker, Vendômemarker, Bloismarker, Vierzonmarker, and Montargismarker. The duke's son bore the title duke of Chartres. Inheritances from great families and marriage alliances allowed them to accumulate huge wealth, and one of them – Philippe Égalité is sometimes said to have been the richest man in the world at the time. His son, Louis-Philippe I, inherited the Penthièvre and Condé family fortunes.

1852 saw the creation of the "Compagnies ferroviaires Paris-Orléans" and its famous gare d'Orsaymarker in Paris. In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the city again became strategically important thanks to its geographical position, and was occupied by the Prussians on 13 October that year. The armée de la Loire was formed under the orders of général d'Aurelle de Paladines and based itself not far from Orléans at Beauce.

1900 to present

During the Second World War, the Nazis made the d'Orléans Fleury-les-Aubrais railway station one of their central logistical rail hubs. The Pont Georges V was renamed "pont des Tourelles". A transit camp for deportatees was built at Beaune-la-Rolandemarker. During the Liberation, the American Air Force heavily bombed the city and the train station, causing much damage. The city was one of the first to be rebuilt after the war: the reconstruction plan and city improvement initiated by Jean Kérisel and Jean Royer was adopted as early as 1943 and work began as early as the start of 1945. This reconstruction in part identically reproduced what was lost, such as Royale and its arcades, but also used innovative prefabrication techniques, such as îlot 4 under the direction of the architect Pol Abraham.

The big city of former time is today an average-sized city of 250,000 inhabitants. It is still using its strategically central position less than an hour from the French capital in attracting businesses interested in reducing transport costs.


Orléans's coat of arms
According to Victor Adolphe Malte-Brun in La France Illustrée, 1882, Orléans's arms are "gules, with three caillous in cœurs de lys of argent, two and one, at the top azure, charged with three fleur de lys or. Charle Grandmaison, in the Dictionnaire Héraldique of 1861, states that it is "Or, with three hearts in gules", without the azure top. Sometimes, in faulty designs, we find it described "gules, with three fleurs de lys of argent, azure at the top charged with three fleurs de lys, or.

It is to be noted that the design shown left shows three "cœurs de lys" (heart of a lily), seen from above. This "cœurs de lys" is therefore not a true lily, which would have 6 tepals, but a hypothetical aerial view of a symbolic lily. It has probably also been stylised more and more in heraldry, as in the heart in a pack of cards. Certain authors solve the problem by calling this symbol a "tiercefeuille", defined as a stemless clover leaf, with one leaf at the top and two below, thus making this coat of arms "gules, with three reversed tiercefeuilles in argent, etc".


"Hoc vernant lilia corde" (granted by Louis XII, then duke of Orléans), meaning "It is by this heart that lilies flourish" or "This heart makes lilies flourish", referring to the fleur de lys, symbol of the French royal family.



Commune transport

SEMTAO manage buses and tram lines in Orleans. the tram line was inaugurated the 20 November 2000 .

2 SNCF stations : Fleury les Aubrais and Orleans Center

Roads and Highway


Orléans is the patrie (birthplace) of:

Main sights


  • Charles Peguy Center
  • Joan of Arc's House
  • Fine Arts Museum
  • City's Historical and Archeological Museum
  • Natural Sciences Museum


International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Orléans is twinned with:



The University campus is in the La Source area in southern part of the commune, and has 15000 students, 879 lecturers and researchers, 39 public laboratories, and 52 private laboratories.

See also

Sources and external links

Notes and references

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