La Rochelle

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Rochelle, La

(lä rôshĕl`), city (1990 pop. 73,744), capital of Charente-Maritime dept., W France, on the Bay of Biscay. Industries include naval, aircraft, and automobile construction. La Rochelle is the principal French fishing port on the Atlantic coast. Chartered in the 12th cent., it soon became one of the chief seaports of France. It was a Huguenot stronghold during the Wars of Religion and successfully resisted Catholic besiegers for half a year (1572–73). However, when Cardinal Richelieu resolved to crush the HuguenotsHuguenots
, French Protestants, followers of John Calvin. The term is derived from the German Eidgenossen, meaning sworn companions or confederates. Origins

Prior to Calvin's publication in 1536 of his Institutes of the Christian Religion,
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, La Rochelle fell after a siege of 14 months (1627–28). Louis XIV had the port refortified by Vauban; his revocation (1685) of the Edict of NantesNantes, Edict of,
1598, decree promulgated at Nantes by King Henry IV to restore internal peace in France, which had been torn by the Wars of Religion; the edict defined the rights of the French Protestants (see Huguenots).
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 resulted in the foundation of New Rochelle, N.Y., by Protestant refugees. La Rochelle prospered again as it became the chief center of trade with Canada, but it suffered from the loss of Canada by France and from the Continental System under Napoleon. Although its fisheries, canneries, and shipyards still make it a busy port, La Rochelle never recovered its former importance. The principal harbor is now at La Pallice, some 3 mi (5 km) distant. The picturesque old fishing port in the heart of the city, the Renaissance town hall, and other old buildings make the city a favorite tourist center.

La Rochelle


a city and port in western France, on the Bay of Biscay. Administrative center of the department of Charente Maritime. Population, 75,000 (1968). The freight turnover of the port is more than 3 million tons. It is a center of the fishing industry and of fish processing. Other industries include shipbuilding, aircraft and auto production, and textile manufacture. The city has an arsenal.

La Rochelle is first mentioned in 11th-century sources. In the 16th century it was the most important Huguenot stronghold. Some medieval and early Renaissance buildings have been preserved in the Old Town. Remains of the fortifications of the old port—the towers of la Chaîne and St. Nicolas, both dating from the second half of the 14th century—have also been preserved. The main architectural monuments are the tower of La Lanterne (middle of the 15th century), the Porte de la Grosse-Horloge (13th and 14th centuries, completed in the 17th and 18th centuries), and the Cathedral of St. Louis (rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries, architects J. and J. A. Gabriel) with its 14th-century tower. Noteworthy 18th-century buildings are the Hôtel de la Bourse, Hôtel d’Orbigny, and Hôtel Fleuriau. There is a museum of fine arts in the former bishop’s palace.


Crozet, R. La Rochelle. Paris [1957].

La Rochelle

a port in W France, on the Bay of Biscay: a Huguenot stronghold until its submission through famine to Richelieu's forces after a long siege (1627--28). Pop.: 76 584 (1999)
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