10 largest cities in France




Épernay is a French commune located in the Marne department, in the new Grand Est region. The town is divided into two cantons. Épernay is the capital and had 23,084 inhabitants in 2016. It is the 3rd most populous city in the Marne behind Reims and Châlons-en-Champagne. It is the center of the community of communes Épernay Pays de Champagne.

A city located in the heart of a wine-growing region, most of its modern history and its economy are linked to champagne, the production of which began in the 18th century and which constitutes its main tourist asset. The town also has many buildings protected as historical monuments. Its inhabitants are called the Sparnaciens.


Épernay is located in the western part of the Marne department, in Champagne-Ardenne. It is located 27 km south of Reims, 31 km west of Châlons-en-Champagne, 48 km east of Château-Thierry and about 140 km north-east of Paris.

The town of Épernay borders Magenta to the north, Pierry to the south and Mardeuil to the west. However, the Sparnacian territory also borders Ay and Chouilly to the east and Hautvillers to the north. The forest of Épernay, to the west of the town, is surrounded from north to south by Vauciennes, Boursault, Saint-Martin-d'Ablois, Vinay and Moussy.



No documents concerning the founding of the city have been found, but we know that in Gallo-Roman times, the Marne served as the boundary between Celtic Gaul and Belgian Gaul. Épernay, being on the left bank, belongs to Celtic Gaul. It appears in certain writings from the fifth century, the date generally considered to be that of the founding of the city. It is generally accepted that the founding of Épernay dates back to 418, the place being already considerable in 445. However, it seems that the founding of Épernay predates the installation of the tanners as legend has it. Tombs dating from the 5th century BC have been found there, notably rue de Bernon.

After the Germanic invasions, the city came under the domination of the Franks and it was Euloge, an officer of Clovis, who was assigned it. He is, according to tradition, the first lord of Épernay. Euloge is guilty of a crime for which Clovis condemns him to death. It was then that he asked for the help of Saint Remi, who succeeded in convincing the king of Franks to pardon him. Legend has it that to thank the bishop of Reims, Euloge cedes the city to him. Remi, who refuses this donation, buys the city for 5,000 pounds of silver. It would seem, however, that in reality Remi wanted to own the castle of Epernay and that Euloge could not refuse him. Saint Remi will confirm in his will the appropriation of Épernay to the Church of Reims.


The city's position on the banks of the Marne means that it has often found itself caught up in battles:

In 533, Childebert I, King of Paris, took the city and put all the inhabitants to the sword.
In 562, Chilpéric Ier besieged it, and from 565, demanded such high taxes on the vines to finance his incessant wars that the inhabitants preferred to flee by abandoning their land.
In 593, it was Frédégonde who had it looted.
In 720 and then in 765, the region suffered from the wars of Charles Martel who invaded the city in 765.
Épernay was returned to the Church of Reims in 846, at the request of Archbishop Hincmar.

Late Middle Ages
In 1024, the city entered the domain of the Counts of Champagne following a treaty between the Archbishop of Reims Eble de Roucy and Eudes II, Count of Champagne. She remained under their influence until 1284 when Joan I of Navarre, last countess of Champagne, married King Philippe IV le Bel, bringing her the seigneury of Épernay. During this period, Count Eudes II had the castle rebuilt, near Cubry.

Around 1145, Hermentorix, a wealthy inhabitant of the city, financed the construction of a first hospital then called "leprosarium" or "sickroom", although it was not only treated for leprosy. In 1166, Henri le Large, Count of Champagne, established the “foire de la Madeleine” in a franchise. In 1205, Pope Innocent III recalls with a bull that the Counts of Champagne are the vassals of the Archbishop of Reims, for Épernay, Fismes, Châtillon-sur-Marne, Vertus, and Vitry-en-Perthois As for Count Thibault IV , he granted the city a municipal charter in 1231 as well as the right to organize a company of archers which subsequently gave its name to the rue des Archers. In 1229, the city was set on fire during the conflict between Count Thibault IV and Hugues de Lusignan over the rights claimed by Alix, Queen of Cyprus in the county of Champagne. During the Hundred Years War, Épernay was pillaged several times: by Edward III of England in 1359, then by his son in 1366.

Although returning to the Crown, the city still changed hands in 1388 when King Charles VI gave the seigneury of Épernay to his brother, Louis of Orleans. His memory remains in the names of certain localities and surrounding woods, such as the Orléans pond or the Enghien forest, named after his mistress Mariette d'Enghien. In 1398, Louis I of Orleans, count of Château-Thierry, de Vertus and lord of many places including Épernay, received the king of the Romans Wenceslas there.

From the 15th century to the French Revolution
Charles VI will give it to his brother Louis I of Orleans. His son Charles inherited it but being prisoners in England for twenty-five years gave it to his brother Jean and in 1467 it returned to Charles de Valois-Angoûlème then in 1496 to François. In 1508, François instituted the Company of the Knights of the Arquebus there, while Louis XII reigned, it was made up of notables from Sparnacians in order to allow them to practice using this weapon, then new, to defend the town. This company leaves its name to the rue de l'Arquebuse. Sacred king, the seigneury of Épernay was given to Louise of Savoy in 1515; she had new fortifications built because her son was at war against Charles V and the city was a gateway to France, these constructions forced the course of the Le Cubry stream to be diverted from its original bed to the one it still has today 'hui, but it is thus used to bathe the ramparts. She also paved the central street, from Châlons to Paris, in 1522 had three free fairs in mid-Lent, Sainte-Croix and All Saints, confirmed by royal edict.

Louise of Savoy died in 1532 and the city was reunited with the crown until 1536, which gave it in usufruct to Claude de Lorraine, Duke of Guise. He died in 1550 and the city returned in usufruct to Pierre Strozzi who died in 1558; it then passes to Philippe Strozi, then Diane de Castro, François de Montmorency.

Despite the protection of these ramparts and arquebusiers, the city suffered the ravages of wars. Thus in September 1544, François Ier, then at war against Charles V, will set fire to the city to delay the march of the latter who, after having burned Vitry-en-Perthois, tries to take Épernay to threaten Paris. Pierre de Ronsard alludes to these military facts in The Hymn of Henri II.

Because you are very clever, and of valiant courage:
Tesmoing is of your heart this young fury
Whom you wanted near Marne to assault the Emperor,
Which having crossed the boundaries of the Meuse
Menassoit your Paris, your great famous city


However, the technique of the "scorched earth" of François Ier forces Charles V to sign the peace and the king helps in the reconstruction of the city, in particular by exempting the inhabitants of taxes and by allowing them to sell the marshes around the city.
Religious quarrels turned into real wars of religion around 1560 when the city was under the protection of Mary I of Scotland. On September 14, 1567, the Prince of Condé seized Épernay and the Huguenots overturned the baptismal font, which was raised in 1583 by the inhabitants, and smashed organs, bells and statues. They only withdraw from the city after having disarmed it and against a ransom of 10,500 pounds.

In 1591, the city fell into the hands of Baron de Rosne; Henri IV then decided to take it back and Marshal de Biron, faithful to the king, died during the siege of the city on July 26, 1592. The city was finally taken over by Henri IV on August 9, 1592.

On October 1, 1615, the Prince of Condé seized the city. He finally obtained it by treaty in 1616. He ceded the city to Henri II of Orleans-Longueville, Count of Saint-Pol, who kept it until his death in 1631.

Being on the route of many invasions, the city has long and regularly served as a garrison. Thus in 1629, tired of accommodating troops because of the incessant wars taking Épernay to part, the inhabitants of the city threw many cavaliers of the Saint-Simon regiment into the public wells; the municipality had to pay a fine over 80 years in compensation.

In 1634, it is the nobiliary revolt against Richelieu, led by the count of Soissons, which seizes Epernay. In 1635, Louis XIII presented himself in front of the city and the sum to surrender, which he did on September 1, 1635. At the end of the year, the plague struck the city and left it ruined.

Under the minority of Louis XIV, in 1646, Épernay and other estates such as Château-Thierry or Évreux were traded to the Duke of Bouillon with Sedan, Rocroi and Raucourt, in order to consolidate the north-eastern markets. The city remained in the hands of the Dukes of Bouillon until 1789. This period of relative calm, during which Hercule-Meriadec, prince of Rohan-Soubise was governor of Champagne, allowed technical developments and developments. Thus in 1725, work was undertaken to open the mountain of Mardeuil and take the road from Châlons-sur-Marne to Paris there. In 1750, the streets of the city were paved for the first time and in 1790, Thomas-Isidore Paroissien established the first printing press in the city.

From the French Revolution to the present day
During the Revolution, the history of France merges with that of Épernay when on June 23, 1791, Louis XVI, arrested during his escape attempt at Varennes-en-Argonne, made a stop in the city on the way back to Paris. The royal family stays at the Hôtel de Rohan where they have dinner and stay for about an hour before continuing their journey to Dormans. Three Sparnacians are victims of revolutionary denunciations during the Terror. The end of the century was however calm and allowed new developments in the city.

On May 23, 1797, the municipality adopted the provisions concerning the city library, including, for the first time, its public character. In 1806, a company of firefighters was created.

During the French Campaign, the city suffered the ravages of the coalition armies. After the fall of the Empire, Épernay settled in a period of calm which allowed him to devote himself to its organization (in 1837, the streets of the city were named and its houses numbered) and its facilities. On December 26, 1846, public gas lighting was installed. The Meaux - Épernay section of the Paris-Strasbourg railway line was inaugurated on September 2, 1849 by Prince-President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the future emperor. The entire line was opened on August 12, 1852. In 1849, an epidemic of cholera pushed to enlarge the cemetery. Five years later, the Épernay - Reims railway line was put into service.

With the war of 1870, the territory was occupied by the Prussians on September 8 and multiple constraints were put in place such as the suppression of hunting. In the meantime, the railway line between Épernay and Romilly-sur-Seine is inaugurated. November 1, 1872 marks the end of the occupation.

Despite these torments, the city grew and, in 1900, the first electrical plant was built, modernized in 1912 to provide alternating current; it was no longer sufficient for demand from 1934.


In 1878, the 26th Hunter Battalion left the city. However, the city quickly called for a new military presence to protect it, but despite its insistence, the 31st Dragon Regiment did not settle until April 15, 1896 on land at a place called Terres Rouges. In 1907, it is the 9th regiment of dragoons which settles down until the Second World War. Then followed the 8th battalion of chasseurs portés, a special artillery unit (7th artillery regiment), two engineer regiments (34th engineer regiment then after the dissolution of this one, the 13th engineer regiment) before that the land is not allocated to the community of communes due to the reduction in military personnel.

On July 27, 1903, the city was linked to Montmirail by the C.B.R train, then to Ambonnay on April 8, 1904 to be able to go to Reims or Châlons.

In the twentieth century, Épernay was severely affected by the two world wars.
During the First World War, the city was destroyed two-thirds. It was occupied, during the retreat from the Marne, from September 4 to 11, 1914, by the German army which blew up the Marne bridge during its retreat. On the morning of September 5, 1914, the mayor, Maurice Pol Roger, was taken hostage and taken by car to Cuis to be questioned about the disappearance of German parliamentarians. He was finally released in the evening and returned to his town hall on foot.
It subsequently became a rear-front town, the front stabilizing from the end of 1914 to May 1918 towards Reims, 35 km to the north. As such, it is a crossing point for troops stationed there in large numbers; thus Épernay becomes an important hospital center. Its proximity to the front made it undergo numerous bombardments, especially from 1917, and made it fear it would fall into enemy hands during the German offensive of May 1918.
On May 27, General von Boehn's German army crossed the Aisne then the Vesle and entered the Tardenois. From June 2 to 18, 1918, Épernay was bombarded by artillery and air force, then again from July 14 to 25. The bombings of July destroyed a large part of the rue du Commerce (now avenue de Champagne): the buildings of the champagne houses Chanoine Frères, Mercier, Moët & Chandon and Raoul Chandon were devastated. The rue du Paulmier and the Notre-Dame church were also seriously damaged.
Between 1916 and 1918, 1,422 shells or bombs fell on the city, killing 63 Sparnacians and injuring 84 others.
On July 15, a new German offensive began from Bligny to Château-Thierry and from Massiges to Fort de la Pompelle with the main objective of Épernay and Montmirail, which must be taken from the start. Von Boehn's troops managed to cross the Marne and a murderous engagement took place towards Montvoisin, in the commune of Œuilly. Attacked on the flank by General Mitry's troops, von Boehn's troops crossed the Marne again and retreated, thus freeing Épernay for good.

The city was decorated with the Croix de Guerre on February 8, 1920, by the President of the Republic Raymond Poincaré, for its resistance to the sufferings of war. He took the opportunity to inaugurate the new town hall, the former Auban-Moët hotel.

During the Second World War, Épernay was evacuated on June 12, 1940 using rail convoys. She suffered the arrival of the Nazis from June 14 in a dead city where only a few rare inhabitants remained despite the warnings. The capture was without massive bombardment, with the exception of the road bridge over the Marne quickly replaced by a wooden bridge.
Épernay was liberated on August 28, 1944 by the 7th Armored Division, led by General Silvester, of General Patton's 3rd Army. During this war, the city deplores the loss of 34 executed, 88 deportees who died in the camps and 137 various victims and decorated with the Croix de Guerre 1939-1945.