10 largest cities in France




Lorient is a French commune located in the department of Morbihan, in the Brittany region. Active port city and maritime arsenal at the end of the Lorient harbor, the city is at the heart of the urban unit of Lorient which is the largest in the department and ranks third in the Brittany region.

The history of the city begins in 1666 when the East India Company obtained land from Louis XIV to establish its facilities at the place called Faouédic. The Royal Navy also settled there in 1688 to have boats built there. The Lorient Arsenal will produce many ships during the following centuries, including the first French battleships. Fishing allows the city to experience a new phase of growth, from the opening of the fishing port of Keroman in the 1920s. World War II leads to the almost total destruction of the city, the occupant having chosen the city ​​to build the largest submarine base of the time. A reconstruction phase followed until the 1970s.

The city's economy is geared towards maritime activities, Lorient hosting one of the main French military arsenals, as well as the largest French fishing port in value with the port facilities of Keroman. Lorient also has an offshore racing pole, the main pole of the Sailing Valley, a commercial port in Kergroise, and installations dedicated to passenger transport. These facilities have earned the city its nickname "City of Five Ports".

The city underwent major changes at the end of the 1980s which changed its activities. The opening of the Université de Bretagne-Sud in 1995, or the rise of the Lorient interceltic festival, which became one of the largest French music festivals in the early 2000s, accompanied this period of transition.



Prehistory and Antiquity
The presence of megalithic monuments confirms the settlement of the country of Lorient from 3000 BC. The remains of Roman roads (connecting Vannes to Quimper and Port-Louis to Carhaix-Plouguer) confirm the occupation of the Gallo-Romans.

Creation and first developments of the city
The French Company for the Trade of the East Indies was created by Colbert in 1664. It received by an ordinance of Louis XIV of June 1666, land in Port-Louis as well as on the other side of the harbor at the place called Faouédic . One of its directors, Denis Langlois, bought land there in August 1666 at the end of the harbor, at the confluence of the Scorff and Blavet rivers, and had wedges built there. At first, the place only functions as an annex to the Port-Louis facilities where the company's offices and stores are located. The establishment was threatened with abandonment several times in the following years, but in the midst of the Dutch war, the Compagnie des Indes decided in 1675 to abandon its base in Le Havre, too exposed in times of war, and to transfer its infrastructure there. . In the area which took the name of the Enclosure, the company then built a chapel, workshops, forges, and offices, and it left the shores of Port-Louis for good.

The Royal Navy was also established in 1690 on the site under the leadership of Colbert's son who inherited the post of Secretary of State for the Navy from his father, and privateers from Saint-Malo also found refuge there. at the same time. The city developed outside the perimeter of the Enclosure following a shutdown in 1700 which forced the populations to leave the area around it to settle on the large moor of Faouédic. In 1709, the parish of Lorient was created from that of Ploemeur. The city then had some 6,000 inhabitants in 1702, but the activities of the Compagnie des Indes like those of the Royal Navy remained reduced, and the city began to decline.

Developments under the Perpetual India Company
The city experienced a new period of growth when John Law de Lauriston created the Perpetual Company of the Indies by buying several other commercial companies, and he chose Lorient as the base for his operations. Despite the collapse of Law's system in 1720, the city experienced a new phase of development. It was during this period that the city took part in the triangular trade, and that 156 ships took part in it between 1720 to 1790, deporting some 43,000 slaves. In 1732, the Company decided to transfer the headquarters of all its sales from Nantes to Lorient, and asked the architect Jacques Gabriel to build new freestone buildings to accommodate its activities, and to embellish the space of the Enclosure. Sales were made there from 1734, and traded up to 25 million pounds tournaments. The monopoly of the Company was however abolished at the same time as it in 1769 under the influence of the physiocrats.

The city benefits from the prosperity of the Company, and there are 14,000 inhabitants in 1738, and 20,000 including the population of the suburbs of Kerentrech, Merville, La Perrière, Calvin, and Keryado. In 1735, new streets were drawn in the intramural, and in 1738 the city acquired the status of city community. Embellishment work then began, such as the paving of the streets, the construction of quays and wedges along the Faouédic stream, or the demolition of thatched cottages replaced by houses copied from the Enclosure models. Walls were erected in 1744 to close the city, and were put to use in September 1746 by an English raid against the city. The end of the Perpetual Company of the Indies, however, resulted in the loss of about a seventh of the city's population.

The city begins its reconversion with the purchase by the king of the installations of the Company for 17,500,000 pounds tournaments to install his navy there. The American War of Independence led to an increase in activity from 1775, and several privateers used the city as their home port. At the end of the war, several transatlantic lines were opened to the United States, and in 1785, a new commercial company was created, the Compagnie de Calonne, and settled in Lorient.

The French Revolution and the wars against England that followed put an end to commercial activities in Lorient for almost two decades. Thanks to its support for the Revolution, the city acquired the title of canton capital in 1790, of district capital and maritime district capital in 1800, a court of first instance in the same year, as well as than a prison in 1795.


Nineteenth and early twentieth century modernizations
The maritime activities of the city decline at the beginning of the 19th century, and the arsenal as the port of war turn with a reduced activity during a period which extends until the Restoration and the Monarchy of July. She then turned to administrative activities, and received a secondary course in 1822 which foreshadowed a college then a high school, a lazaretto in 1823, and a barracks in 1839.

The city began to modernize in the first half of the 19th century: the arsenal began to modernize with the opening of a first form of refit due to Antoine-Élie Lamblardie, then a first covered hold in 1825, a factory canned sardines using the Appert method opened in 1825, and a gas plant opened in 1845.

The arrival of the steam engine in the second half of the nineteenth century enabled ports to relaunch their activities. A first locomotive crossed the Scorff in 1865 on a viaduct built for the line from Savenay to Landerneau, the first railway line serving southern Brittany. The first form of refit was extended and a second opened in 1861. The same year, the armored frigate La Couronne left the arsenal, followed in 1876 and 1879 by the battleships La Dévastation and Le Redoutable.

The navy rapidly increased the tonnages and draft of its units. In 1881, the battleship "La Dévastation" ran aground in the eastern pass of the harbor, and the city was thus demoted into a second-rate military port, but remained a shipyard.

But Lorient was also then a garrison town (the 62nd infantry regiment and the 1st colonial infantry regiment were based there).

In 1898, the Lorient tram network was created, developing several lines across the city. It operated until 1944.

Fishing began to develop at this time following the creation of the municipal auction in 1889, and the arrival of the first steam trawler in 1900. From 1909, the traffic in Lorient equaled that of the three ports of Douarnenez, Pont -The Abbot and Concarneau together.

The fishing port developed after the 1914-1918 war: the appearance of the engine on fishing boats made Lorient as competitive as Groix and Étel. The fishing port of Kéroman was created from 1920. The region experienced significant Italian immigration; Italian houses were built in number at this time.

The Second World War
In 1941, the Germans, who then occupied France, chose to establish in Keroman one of the headquarters of their submarine fleet. But, very quickly, the submarines will be the target of constant bombardments by the Allied air force. It is therefore decided to erect the largest of the German submarine bases of the Second World War, where the second and tenth flotillas will be installed. Admiral Dönitz installs his staff at Kernevel castle.

Lorient will be almost entirely razed in 1943-1944 by the Allied bombardments, which will not succeed in destroying the base of the submarines in spite of the dumping of 4,000 tons of bombs.

The German garrison will not lay down its arms until May 10, 1945; it is the surrender of the Lorient pocket. The city of Lorient, "dead for France", was awarded the Legion of Honor in 1949 and the Croix de Guerre 1939-1945.

The reconstruction of the city and its development until today
From 1943, it was the urban architect Georges Tourry who was appointed responsible for the reconstruction project. In April 1945, the Ministry of Reconstruction recommended the construction of temporary wooden barracks. These barracks were delivered as a kit and it was enough to assemble them on site. In 1948, there were twenty-eight cities under the authority of the city of Lorient, the agglomeration will have more than twenty more divided between the cities of Ploemeur, Lanester, Hennebont, Quéven. These temporary neighborhoods are sometimes made up of more than 280 houses. Each of these barracks had different specificities according to their origin (Swedish, Finnish, Swiss, French, American, Canadian). During this time, the military used a take-of-war, a German three-masted school, renamed Duchess Anne as accommodation for submariners or dormitory for summer camps. The so-called provisional period will last between 10 and 40 years depending on the location. The city center and the nearby suburbs were gradually rebuilt over the next twenty years. In the city center, only a few buildings remain to bear witness to the time of the Compagnie des Indes.