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Montreuil-Bellay

 

Montreuil-Bellay is a French commune, located on the Thouet river, in the department of Maine-et-Loire, in the Pays de la Loire region. This Angevin town in the south of the Loire is located in the Saumur region. Located in the extreme south-east of the department of Maine-et-Loire, Montreuil-Bellay borders the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region and the departments of Vienne (commune of Pouançay) and Deux-Sèvres (commune of Saint-Martin -de-Sanzay).

Bathed by the Thouet, Montreuil-Bellay is located in the heart of the Loire-Anjou-Touraine regional natural park, less than 25 kilometers from Saumur (Maine-et-Loire), Thouars (Deux-Sèvres) and Loudun (Vienne). The town is also watered by a tributary of the Thouet, the Losse, as well as by the old canal of the Dive.

 

History

A small monastic establishment, probably at the origin of the current name of the city, is attested from the eleventh century near a ford of Thouet (future lower town). The parish church of Saint-Pierre was built there shortly afterwards, near the priory of Saint-Nicolas known as “Les Nobis” founded between 1097 and 1103. Around 1026, Foulques Nerra established a keep, on the heights, and a stronghold entrusted to his vassal Berlai (which by deformation will become Bellay), the beginnings of the future upper town.

Son of Foulque le Réchin, Foulques V le Jeune became count of Maine and Anjou in 1109. He subdued the rebel vassals, taking several castles including that of Montreuil-Bellay in 1124.

A few years later baron revolts broke out in Anjou. It will take several years of siege to Geoffroy V of Anjou, from 1148, for the place of Montreuil-Bellay to fall.

The Berlai family came into conflict with their suzerain several times and kept the estate until 1217. A new family settled there for two centuries, the Melun-Tancarville, then the Harcourt, who left strong traces in the city in completing, in particular, the castle as well as the fortified enclosure destroyed several times before.

Montreuil-Bellay is one of the 32 closed towns in Anjou. The intramural city, still very homogeneous today, did not change until very little after the fifteenth century.

Under the Ancien Régime, Montreuil-Bellay became the capital of an important election bringing together 57 parishes (including that of Cholet until 1750, when Cholet had its own subdelegate and powers extended to all of Mauges. ).

Like the rest of Anjou, Montreuil-Bellay is part of the generality of Tours, of the judicial authority of the senechaussee of Saumur and of the diocese of Poitiers on the religious level.

The hitherto flourishing trade collapsed from the middle of the 18th century, despite the channeling of the Thouet since the 15th century.

The priority house of the congregation of Saint-Maur had as its attorney the philosopher Dom Deschamps, from 1759 until his death in 1774.

The move of the administrative center to Saumur, during the French Revolution, completes the reduction of the commercial, economic and administrative importance of the city, a simple capital of the canton since 1790.

The city was temporarily taken by the Vendeans on June 8, 1793. The Tree of Liberty was torn up.

It was not until the end of the nineteenth century to see an extension of the city outside its walls, along the roads of Angers and Saumur opened in 1841, or that of Poitiers created in 1885.

 

The city has been located since the end of the nineteenth century on the railway line that connects Tours to La Roche-sur-Yon via Saumur, Thouars, Bressuire, old Paris - Les Sables-d'Olonne line very busy, and is therefore therefore connected to the rail network for regular trips to Paris. In addition, a tram line existed until the Second World War between Montreuil-Bellay and Bressuire via Argenton-Château.

On November 23, 1911, a rail accident occurred on municipal territory at kilometer point (PK) 94.5 of the line from Loudun to Angers-Maître-École, on a section inaugurated in February 1877 and incorporated in 1878 into the network of l 'State. A bridge over the Thouet River collapsed when a train passed, killing 14 people. Coming four years after the equally fatal collapse of another bridge on the same line at Ponts-de-Cé, the event sparked an outcry against the state railway contractor.

From November 8, 1941 to January 16, 1945, France made the site of Montreuil-Bellay a camp for "homeless individuals, nomads and fairgrounds, having the Romani type". They were Manouches, Gypsies, Roma, Sinti, and more generally Gypsies. This camp was basically a stalag set up by the Germans on June 21, 1940, and which was then managed by the Vichy regime. In July 2010, the ruins of this camp were listed as historical monuments in order to prevent their total disappearance and to make it a place of lasting memory8.

During the first presidential visit to the site of this former internment camp, François Hollande acknowledged on October 29, 2016 France's responsibility for the internment of thousands of Gypsies by the Vichy regime and until 1946.

"The day has come and this truth had to be told" said the French president. "The Republic recognizes the suffering of the nomads who have been interned and admits that its responsibility is great in this tragedy," he continued during a tribute ceremony, in which several survivors were present.
On January 1, 1968, the former commune of Méron was attached to that of Montreuil-Bellay (simple merger).