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History

History

Currency of Nantes:
Formerly : Oculi omnium in to sperant domine
"Eyes of all turn with hope to you Lord "

Since the revolution : Neptunus favet eunti
"Neptune smiles to those that dare"

The Namnates settled along the north shore of the Loire River at the beginning of the first millennium, and gave their name to the city of Nantes. They were a Celtic tribe, one of the five tribes of Brittany, the Celtic province in the west of France. The Pictons, from Latin origin, remained on the south shore of the Loire.
Nordic invaders attacked the city in 843 and killed the bishop in his cathedral. The Normands stayed for a century until Alain Barbe Torte came back from England and defeated them. He became the Duke of Brittany and chose Nantes as its capital. Later, the Duke Francois II encouraged trade, and the city became the country's first port on the Atlantic coast during the Middle Ages. The Edict of Nantes, signed by Henri IV, guaranteed civil rights and freedom of religion to French Protestants.

In the 18th century, Nantes' port economy reached its peak thanks to trading activity with India. Then it became the most important centre for the slave trade. Ships were leaving Nantes with manufactured goods, bartered these for slaves in West Africa who were then sold in the West Indies for tropical products such as sugar, tobacco, coffee, cotton, and cocoa. It is at this time that the Dubigeon naval shipyards developed and remained a major factor in the economy of the city for the next two centuries. In 1793 Nantes resisted the attacks of the Vendéens who were rebelling against the French Revolution. The traders of the city, supportive of the Revolution, went as far as to drown anti-government suspects in the Loire River.

World War II took its toll on the city, when 48 innocent citizens (out of 50 initially chosen) were executed on what became the Place des 50 Otages, after a German colonel was killed in a coup attempt. Greatly modified by an urban renewal plan that was adopted in 1920, Nantes was further altered and extended after having been partly destroyed in World War II. Arms of the river have been filled up and made into roads; the railway, which used to cut across the town, now runs largely underground; and the port has been extensively rebuilt. Under a national planning scheme, Nantes has been made a major economic development centre.

In the late 20th century, road, air, and rail communications were being extended, and vast industrial zones were being built. The well-equipped port has more than 2 mi of quays,and the river has been dredged to allow access to larger vessels; it functions in close association with Saint-Nazaire, its out port (seaward terminal for deep-draft vessels).

The shipbuilding yards are important. The chemical (fertilizers, paint) and mechanical (rail and aircraft equipment) industries expanded during the 1970s. The traditional food industries (fruit preserves and baked goods) continue. The original university founded in 1460 was abolished during the French Revolution, but a new one was established in 1961.

Although the cathedral of Saint-Pierre was built over a period between the 15th and 20th centuries, it retains a Gothic unity. The imposing facade (1434-1508) has three finely sculptured doorways and two high towers. The cathedral, bombed during World War II, had been nearly completely restored in 1972 when a fire largely destroyed the roof. The magnificent Renaissance tomb of Francis II, duke of Brittany (ruled 1458-88), was luckily unharmed. This same Francis II had rebuilt the medieval castle in 1466. Viewed from without, it looks like a fort with crenulated towers, but the inner courtyard is a typical Renaissance palace. The Musée des Beaux-Arts has one of the most important and varied collections of paintings in France.


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