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Discovering Orléans > History and cultural heritage > In the course of time

In the course of time

In the beginning...

In the beginning, there was a Gaulish oppidum called Genabum, the prosperous stronghold of the Carnutes. Later renamed Aurelianis, in 451, thanks to its Bishop Aignan, the town drove back the Hun Invasion led by Attila.

Clovis held an important council here in 511, as much in religious terms as in political terms. The capital of one of the four kingdoms created on the death of the Frankish king, two centuries later, Orléans played a leading role in the “Carolingian Renaissance”.

Fief of the Capetian
It was at Orléans Cathedral, the fief of the Capetian family, that, in 987, Hugues Capet and his son Robert le Pieux were crowned to form the cornerstone of power which was going to last for eight centuries. The number of monasteries and their schools increased.

Very quickly, Orléans became a recognised teaching centre, particularly in Roman Law and, later, in Civil Law. In 1305, the Orléans Schools were granted the status of University. Among some of its famous students were Saint-Yves, Budé, Calvin and Pothier.

From 1344, through tradition, the Duchy of Orléans became the property of the King's second son. The town's coat of arms bears witness to this loyalty to the kingdom.

The Hundred Years War

The troubled times of the Hundred Years War did not spare Orléans. The siege of the town, lifted in 1429 by Joan of Arc, marked the start of the recapture of territories occupied by the English.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the town was considered to be one of the most beautiful in France. The number of churches and townhouses increased. However, the Wars of Religion greatly disturbed this prosperity when Condé turned Orléans into the capital of the insurrection. The town suffered a devastating siege and its ramparts were dismantled.

Trade, sugar and vinegar

With the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), the town lost its last Protestants. Monarchical order generated new prosperity based on river trade, which was at its zenith in the 18th century. It was during this period that the town adopted the layout which is still visible today. At that time, local wealth was based on processing and trade in sugar from the colonies and the manufacturing of vinegar and fabrics.

More than the Revolution, it was the arrival of the railway and the loss of the sugar colonies which, for a time, were responsible for an upheaval in the town's economy. The 1870 war did not spare Orléans, which was occupied by the Prussian forces.

The reconstruction

The 1914 War stole the town's children and the Second World War struck at its very heart causing widespread destruction. During the years following its liberation by General Patton's troops, Orléans undertook a huge reconstruction campaign.

The growth

In the 1960s, the town was marked by population growth and industrial decentralisation, and by the creation of the La Source neighbourhood, where the University Campus and the Floral Park were set up.

Orléans, Regional Capital

Today, loyal to its past, Orléans is focusing on developing the economy, culture and teaching in order to maintain the quality of life for which it has always been famous. It affirms its role as regional capital with great dynamism.

Orléans Municipality – Archaeological Service

Website of the town of Orléans

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