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Fontenay-Le-Comte

 

Fontenay-le-Comte is a commune in western France, a sub-prefecture of the Vendée department in the Pays de la Loire region. The municipal territory of Fontenay-le-Comte covers 3,416 hectares. The average altitude of the municipality is 28 meters, with levels fluctuating between 2 and 68 meters. The relief of Fontenay-le-Comte is relatively hilly, except for the Loges district located in an alluvial zone.

 

History

Prehistory
The origin of Fontenay-le-Comte is unknown. The discovery of numerous cut or polished flints shows that the place was inhabited for a very long time.

The first settlements on the Fontenay-le-Comte site date from Prehistoric times and can no doubt be explained by the presence of a ford allowing the crossing of the Vendée.

antiquity
A route running from the south to the northwest crosses where the water is shallower. This ford, surmounted by a roadway and facilitating the obligatory passage for the movement of goods and people, imposed the construction of means of protection. Houses, which were perhaps only huts, came to adjoin these constructions, thus placing themselves under their protection in this troubled period. The security of the place being established, this meeting point served as a stopover and relay and was suitable for exchanges. The discovery in the nineteenth century of many debris and coins in Fontenay and the surrounding area attests to the human presence.

During the Gallo-Roman period, this city, like all of the current Vendée, belonged to the city of the Pictons, included in the province of Gaul in Aquitaine.

A batch of ceramics found at the site of Genats (locality near toll 8 of the motorway, shared between Fontenay-le-Comte and Fontaines to the south) is largely dominated by the sigillata of Montans (Tarn).

A fountain, vital for the city, gives it its name.

Middle Ages
It was not until 841 that the Chronique de Nantes mentioned the existence of Fontenay, a town in the Poitou region. It is related that Renaud d'Herbauges and Lambert, Count of Nantes, united their army there to come to the aid of Charles the Bald against his brother Lothaire. In the Middle Ages, like other cities, it acquired means of defense: a fortified castle, solid walls and ditches of which only vestiges remain.

In the tenth century, Fontenay was a meeting place for hunting. Louis IV of Overseas is received there by the count of Poitou Guillaume Tête d'Étoupe.

From the twelfth century, the city is in turn the property of the Counts of Poitou and Mauléon, then of Geoffroy "La Grand'dent", famous for his atrocities such as the looting and burning of the abbey of Maillezais. far. He is the son of Geoffroy de Lusignan and Eustache Chabot, popularized since under the name of Mélusine, fairy half-woman, half-fish who haunted the forest of Mervent-Vouvant. The house of Lusignan is a noble poitevin dynasty originating from Limousin, attested since the tenth century and which gave rise to the counts of Marche, counts of Angoulême, kings of Jerusalem then of Cyprus and Armenia. This Geoffroy "La Grand'dent", embracing the party of the Comte de la Marche against King Louis IX, forced the latter to come himself to lay siege to Fontenay which was taken in May 1242.

The city then becomes the property of Alphonse de Poitiers, brother of the king. It is since that time that she has been given the nickname of Le Comte. On the death of this prince on August 21, 1271, the city returned to the crown, Philippe the Bold, taking possession and going there the same year.

Fontenay-le-Comte then becomes the capital of Bas-Poitou.

It experienced significant economic development from the Middle Ages thanks to the cloth and leather industry. Tried by the English in 1361, then reconquered 11 years later by the French led by Bertrand du Guesclin, the city was greatly shaken during the Hundred Years War. After that, she retains royal protection well.

In March 1471, Louis XI erected the city as a commune. The charter granted gives this liberality as a reason: "that the city is seated in great death and close enough to the sea, surrounded by good fertile land, that it is old and widely renowned in the country of Poitou, that it has a chastel ancient, greatly fortified the past time, by means of which and the scituation of the said city, there are very large frequentations of the fact of goods and even of drapery which is done there and works there every day, which makes that several foreigners and others of the said city make their refuge and their abode there and even a time of hostility of war, as well in the said city, which is fortified and largely seized of walls of fossez, as also its boroughs and suburbs which are fortified of dump. ". During the Renaissance, its fame was reinforced by the gathering within its walls of an intellectual elite whose fame extended beyond the limits of the kingdom, a dimension such that Francis I gave the city its motto of "Fountain and springing source of beautiful spirits ”.

 

The Renaissance was for Fontenay-le-Comte a period of splendor with the construction of the most beautiful buildings in the city: the castle of Terre-Neuve, the mansions and the emblem of the city: the Quatre-Tias fountain. Its fairs of yesteryear were also famous. Trade there was important and particularly that of horses and mules, very popular with the Spaniards. Of these fairs, those of April 2 and Saint-Venant have disappeared. Only that of Saint-Jean has found its extension in the current "Fair Exhibition".

The year 1560 marks the beginning of the spread of Protestantism in the region and the city is the scene of very hard struggles between Catholics and Huguenots. In the space of 25 years, Fontenay-le-Comte was taken and retaken eight times, causing extensive damage to the city. One of these sieges resulted in the capture of the city by the Duke of Montpensier in 1575.

Henri III of Navarre, future Henri IV, is at the head of the Huguenot party. At the beginning of the year 1587, he stayed in Marans, a locality close to twenty kilometers away. In February, Catherine de Médicis, wishing to meet him, because in search of an appeasement to these political and religious quarrels which ruin the country, is in Fontenay. But mistrust reigns on both camps and the interview cannot take place, neither resigns itself to surrender at the invitation of the other.

Henri comes to lay siege in front of Fontenay in May 1587 and seizes the city, Sully accompanies him.

On December 21, 1608, Richelieu was there, going to Luçon to take possession of his bishopric. Louis XIII stayed there for a short time in 1621, when the castle was dismantled.

The revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 dealt a fatal blow to the city. The flight of many Huguenots caused him to lose a large part of his trade and particularly that of draperies. This period is one of the darkest in its history and marks its decline.

During the 18th century, the old town was transformed: town planning, creation of wide arteries, canalization of the Vendée.

 

The French Revolution marks a turning point for the city. On January 27, 1790, the National Assembly decides that Fontenay-le-Comte will be the capital of the Western Department of Poitou, which will be called Vendée, of which Fontenay-le-Comte becomes the capital. 1793 does not spare the city. Placed at the edge of the military Vendée, it suffered all kinds of exactions following the revolutionary disturbances. The "Whites" seized it on May 15, 1793, they evacuated it three days later after having freed many prisoners. There were about 230 executions to which must be added a large number of prisoners who died from lack of treatment. It was then that, for a short time, on November 15, 1794, the town would be called Fontenay-le-Peuple, the Convention wishing to remove all traces of the Ancien Régime. The city remains republican and constitutes a point of support of the republicans in the war of Vendée.

In 1804, Napoleon I, judging Fontenay too eccentric and wishing to pacify the Vendée, transferred the prefecture of Fontenay to the new town of Napoleon (La Roche-sur-Yon). Fontenay-le-Peuple becomes Fontenay-le-Comte again. In 1812, the town became sub-prefecture of Vendée in place of Montaigu. On August 7, 1808, the Emperor and his wife Joséphine de Beauharnais arrived in Fontenay, coming from Spain to leave the following day. A Fontenaisian and general of the Empire, Augustin-Daniel Belliard, distinguished himself in particular in the various Napoleonic wars. He was peer of France and ambassador in Brussels under the Restoration where he took an important part in the agreements which sealed the independence of Belgium.

The Duchess of Berry will come to the city on July 11, 1828, then in 1832, to attempt an uprising against the government of Louis-Philippe I.

From the second half of the 19th century, the economic recovery which took place led Fontenay-le-Comte to develop outside its walls. The railroad finally arrives and the city station will be linked to La Roche-sur-Yon, Niort, Bressuire and La Rochelle at the beginning of the twentieth century.

General de Gaulle, President of the Fifth Republic, visited the city on May 20, 1965.

From 1969, unprofitable rail lines were closed and passenger service was transferred to the road. The old passenger building and the station platform are integrated into the city's new cultural space, called “René Cassin-La-Gare” and inaugurated on January 22, 2005.