Friday, July 13, 2012

Laon, France - May 24, 2012

Laon is the capital city of the Aisne department in the Picardy region of northern France. We had visited Laon a few years back on a cold gray day and caught a couple of pictures of the cathedral. This visit was to explore the city in more detail.
Topographically, Picardy is a fairly flat plain with few exceptions. Laon is built on one of these exceptions - a 330 foot flat topped prominence providing a natural command over the surrounding area.
The strategic importance of this was not lost on the Romans and Julius Ceaser fortified the existing Gallic village that existed when he arrived and successfully warded off invasions by the Franks, Burgundians, Vandals, Alans and Huns over the following years. 
Remegius, the archbishop of Reims, was born in Laon and instituted the bishopric of Laon at the end of the fifth century, elevating it to one of the principal towns of the kingdom of the Franks. During the Hundred Years' War Laon was attacked and taken by the Burgundians, who subsequently lost it to the English only to be retaken by the French after the consecration of Charles VII.
Following the Revolution in 1789, Laon permanently lost its rank as a bishopric as religion throughout the country was snuffed out. The city was next caught up in the Napoleonic Wars when, in 1814, Napoleon unsuccessfully laid siege to it. In 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, the cathedral and the old episcopal palace were damaged before the city surrendered to the Germans in September 9. 
In 1914, during World War I, German forces captured the town again and held it until the Allied offensive in the summer of 1918. The city still contains a number of medieval buildings, some of which are detailed in the pictures here.

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