10 largest cities in France




Laon is a French commune, prefecture of the department of Aisne and therefore located in the Hauts-de-France region. Its inhabitants are called the Laonnois (pronounced / lanwa / "lanoi").

Fortified city on a plateau, benefiting from the largest protected area in France (370 hectares) Laon has many medieval monuments, mansions and houses from the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in large numbers, especially in the streets Sérurier, Saint- Jean, Saint-Cyr or Vinchon, real urban museums. Its basement is crisscrossed with underground passages, quarries and wells, the preservation of which is one of the current heritage issues. Located at its summit, its cathedral has earned it the nickname "Crowned Mountain".

Evoking the city in a letter to his wife Adèle, Victor Hugo wrote that: “Everything is beautiful in Laon, the churches, the houses, the surroundings, everything…”.



The topography of the city makes it an exceptional defensive site which, however, also creates a hiatus between the urban center - seat of power - and its suburbs.

Prehistory and protohistory
The upper town probably experienced a small Neolithic occupation around 3000 BC. However, no trace of a site from the Bronze and Iron Ages has been discovered to date.

The permanent occupation of the upper town did not begin until the middle of the 1st century BC. We have, of Laon during Antiquity, only a very summary vision. The status of the city is totally unknown to us for the entire ancient period. In the lower town, several Gallo-Roman sites are attested.

The Gallo-Roman period is present everywhere in the upper town, both for the Upper Empire and the Lower Empire. At least for late Antiquity, it is certain that the castrum was fortified, most likely with a masonry wall. The occupation of the Lower Empire seems more dense in the City, inside the castrum, than in the Bourg.

The first traces of Christianity date back to the 5th century, as evidenced by an early Christian funerary stone discovered in 1998.

Merovingians and Carolingians
Between 497 and 513, Saint Remi, a native of the Laonnoise region, raised Laon to the dignity of a city by creating a bishopric dismembered from that of Reims. In the tenth century, the episcopal power was added to the royal power, Laon being a frequent place of residence of the last Carolingian kings.

In the 6th century, the City probably still merges with the castrum of the Lower Empire. In 580, Duke Loup de Champagne put his wife in safety inside the walls of the city of Laon (Grégoire de Tours, Historia Francorum, book VI).

The layout of the city walls, rebuilt or enlarged during the Carolingian period, is completely unknown. Outside the city walls, to the west, settlement is growing in the area of ​​Saint-Julien church. One or more population centers also appear to develop on the southwest arm of the mound. In the lower town, the suburb of Vaux probably existed even before the High Middle Ages and the suburbs of Saint-Marcel, Semilly and Leuilly perhaps appeared at this time. The Ardon suburb seems quite late and still almost nonexistent in the tenth century (the La Neuville suburb was not founded until the end of the twelfth century).

The city contains the cathedral, rebuilt in the first third of the ninth century, the residence of the bishop and the cloister of the canons to the north, and, to the south, the royal palace and the abbey Saint-Jean, a double monastery, founded outside the walls by Saint Salaberge, mother of Saint Baudouin de Laon, in 648, or 641 according to the historian Dominique Barthélemy and dedicated to Saint John the Baptist.

Saint-Vincent Abbey does not appear in historical sources until the end of the ninth century. The earliest mention of the existence of this church dates from 886. Until 961 it is referred to as an ecclesia. It was only around 961 that Saint-Vincent became an abbey, when the bishop of Laon, Roricon, bastard son of King Charles the Simple promotes the arrival of a community of Benedictine monks from Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire who replace a college of canons.

On March 29, Holy Thursday or April 2, Palm Sunday in the year 991, thanks to the betrayal of Bishop Ascelin, Hugues Capet, helped by his son Robert (the future Robert II the Pious), y taken prisoner following a long siege (988-991) Charles of Lorraine, uncle of the last Carolingian king Louis V, who claimed the crown of France.



From the end of the eleventh century, Laon experienced a very important development, and by the middle of the thirteenth century, the city was home to a population of at least 10,000 inhabitants, of which about two thirds occupied the upper town. The city remains the center of power, the king and the bishop being co-signers of the city. Throughout the Middle Ages, it was the closed field of conflicts that opposed or united the king, the bishop, the cathedral chapter, the abbeys and the municipal institution. However, the increasingly absent king left the Church and a burgeoning bourgeoisie from the local aristocracy face to face. In 1111, the inhabitants of the city formed a commune and signed an agreement with the bishopric. Bishop Gaudry, already responsible for several disloyal maneuvers in his management of the city, broke the agreement. An exceptional revolt arouses the population, which pursues the bishop. This one hides in a barrel, but it is discovered and put to death. After the revolt of 1112, the bishop no longer played a preponderant role, but the most important cathedral chapter in France - 83 canons in 1270 - weighed heavily on the city. The conflict was resolved by a municipal charter granted by King Louis VI the Fat in August 1128, which gave the city carefully framed autonomy.