town harbour century france tower
ROCHELLE, LA, a town and seaport of France, the chef-lieu of the department of Charente-Inferieure, is situated on the Atlantic coast in 46° 9' N. lat., 296 miles by rail south-west of Pa,ris. Its fortifications, which were con-structed by Vauban, have a circuit of 3i miles with seven gates. In population (20,028 in 1881 ; 22,464 in the commune) it ranks after Rochefort. The harbour, one of the safest and most accessible on the coast, comprises an outer harbour, a tidal basin, a wet dock, and a graving dock. The outer harbour is still protected by the dry stone mole, about a mile long, constructed by Richelieu. The wet dock (7 acres) is capable of receiving ships of 1000 tons. Behind these is the Maubec basin, the water of which along with that of the Niort Canal helps to scour the port and navigable channel. On the fortifications towards the sea are three towers, of which the oldest (1384) is that of St Nicholas. The apartment in the first story was formerly used a,s a chapel. The chain tower (1476) was at one time connected with that of St Nicholas by a great pointed arch. The lantern tower (1475-76), seven stories high, affords a fine view of the town, the roadstead, and the surrounding islands, and at present is used as a military prison. Of the ancient gateways only one has been preserved in its entirety, that of the " grosse hor loge," a huge square tower of the 14th or 15th century, the corner turrets of which. have been surmounted with trophies since 1746. The cathedral of La Rochelle (St Louis or St Bartholomew) is a heavy Grecian ' building (1742-1862) with a dome above the transept, erected on the site of the old church of St Bartholomew, destroyed in the 16th century and now represented by a solitary tower dating from the 14th century. Externally the town-house (1486-1607) has the appearance of a fortress in the Gothic style and internally that of a Renaissance palace. The belfries are beautifully decorated with carved work, and the council-chamber, where the mayor Guiton pre,sided during the siege, is now adorned by his statue. In the old episcopal palace (which was in turn the resid-ence of Sully, the prince of Conde, Louis XIII., and Anne of Austria, and the scene of the marriage of Alphonso VI. of Portugal with a princess of Savoy) accommodation has been provided for a library of 25,000 volumes a collection of records going back to the 13th century, and a museum founded in 1842 by the society of the Friends of the Arts. Other buildings of note are an arsenal, an artillery museum, a large hospital, a special Protestant hospital, a military hospital, and a lunatic asylum for the department. In the public gardens there is a museum of natural history. Medimval and Renaissance houses still give a peculiar character to certain districts of the town : several have French, Latin, or Greek inscriptions of a moral or religious turn and in general of Protestant origin. Of these old houses the most interesting is that of Henry II. or Diana of Poitiers. The parade-ground, which forms the principal public square, occupies the site of the ca,stle demolished in 1590. Some of the streets have side-arcades ; the public wells are fed from a large reservoir in the Champ de Mars ; and among the promenades are the Cours des Dames with the statue of Admiral Duperre (1869), and, outside, the tree-plauted ramparts and the Mail, a beautiful piece of greensward. In this direction are the sea-bathing estab-lishments. La Rochelle, besides a. celebrated. manufactory of barrels, contains saw-mills, copper and iron foundries, and factoties for patent fuel made out of coal dross. In 1882 465 vessels (225,449 tons) entered and 431 (215,820) cleared. Coals from England and iron-ore from Spain are among the staple imports. In the neighbourhood the principal industries are getting salt from the marshes and rearing oysters and mussels.
La Rochelle existed at the close of the 10th century under the name of Rupella. In 1199 it received a communal charter from Eleanor, duchess of Guienne, and it was in it,s harbour that John Lackland disetnbarked when he came to try to recover the domains seized by Philip Augustus. Captured by Louis VIII. in 1224, it was restored to the English in 1360 by the treaty of Bretigny, but it shook off the yoke of the foreigner when Duguesclin recovered Saintonge. During the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries La Rochelle, then an almost independent commune, was one of the great maritime cities of France. Frdin its harbour in 1402 Jean de Bethencourt set out for the conquest of the Canaries, and its seamen were the first to turn to account the discovery of the New World. The salt-tax provoked a rebellion at Rochelle which Francis I. had to come to repress in person ; in 1568 the town secured exemption by the mment of a large sum. At the Reformation La Rochelle early became one of the chief centres of Calvinism, and during the reli-gious wars it armed privateers which preyed on Catholic vessels in the Channel and the high seas. In 1571 a synod of the Protestant churches of France was held within its walls under the presidency of Beza for the purpose of drawing up a confession of faith. After the massacre of St Bartholomew, La, Rochelle held out for six and a half months against the Catholic army, which was ultimately obliged to raise the siege after losing more than 20,000 men. The peace of 24th June 1573, signed by the people of La Rochelle in the name of all the Protestant party, granted the Calvinists full liberty of worship in several places of safety. TJnder Henry IV. the town remained quiet, but under Louis XIII. it put itself again at the head of the Huguenot party. Its vessels blockaded the mouth of the Gironde and stopped the commerce of Bordeaux, and also seized the islands of Re and Oleron and several vessels of the royal fleet. It was then that Richelieu resolved to subdue the town once for all. In spite of the assistance rendered by the English troops under Buckingham and in spite of the fierce energy of their mayor Guiton, the people of La Rochelle were obliged to capitulate after eight months' siege (October 1628). During this investment Richelieu raised the celebrated mole which cut off the town from the open sea. La Rochelle then became the principal port for the trade between tho mother-country of Franco and the colony of Canada. But the revocation of the Edict of Nantes deprived it of 3000 of its most industrious inhabitants, and the loss of Canada by France convicted the ruin of its commerce. Its privateers, however, still maintained a vigorous struggle with the English during the republic and the empire.
Among the men of mark born at La Rochelle rnay be mentioned Jean Guiton, Tallemant des Reaux, Reaumur the physicist, Admiral Duperre, Bonpland the botanist, and the painters Fromentin and Bouguereau.