The eastern part of Nanterre, bordering the communes of Courbevoie and Puteaux, contains a small part of the La Defense business district of Paris and some of the tallest buildings in the Paris region. Because the headquarters of many major corporations are located in La Défense, the court of Nanterre is well known in the media for the number of high-profile lawsuits and trials that take place in it. The city of Nanterre also includes the Paris West University Nanterre La Défense, one of the largest universities in the Paris region.
Origin of « Nanterre »
Evidence of a human presence on the Nanterre site from the neolithic period has been found as stone tools. The name Nanterre appears in texts from th 6th century but its Celtic roots, « Nemeto-Dor », indicate a much older origine. The name was latinized to Nemetodorum then Nemptorodo, and later turned into the more French-sounding Nantuerre and Nanturra in the 12th century.
A Gaul Village
The discovery of the tomb of an important Gaul figure establishes the presence of a Gaul town on the ancient road from Paris to Normandy. The town remains an important religious center of the Parisis tribe after the Roman conquest.The Gaul village was excavated in 1993. Moreover, in 2003, an important Gaul Necropolis dating from between the end of the 5th century to the beginning of the 3rd B.C.E. was discovered. A recent theory places Nanterre as the original Lutetia described by Julius Caesar in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico.
A Holy Site
The Life of St. Genevieve, a document written in the early 6th century, mentions her birth in Nanterre around 426 and credits her with the miraculous healing of her mother from blindness with water taken from the house well. After the death of St. Genevieve, the Frank King Clovis and his wife Clotilde found the St. Genevieve Abbey, with vast possessions. Nanterre is one of the abbey's dependent villages. Numerous Merovingian sarcophagi have been found under the cathedral's parvise in 1973, which show the importance of Nanterre during this era.
During the Hundred Years' War the church is burned several times. Starting in the 15th century St. Genevieve's miraculous well becomes an important pilgrimage site.
In 1634 a priest, Paul Beurrier, is placed in charge of opening a seminary and mending the troublesome spiritual situation of the church. He fights the Reformation and gains the assistance of Anne of Austria (1601-1666) who has made several pilgrimages to St. Genevieve's well. He founds a school, the Queen laying the first stone. Another religious community, the Calvary Priests, is established at the Mont-Valerien.
The Paris - Saint-Germain-en-Laye railway line, first line from Paris, is inaugurated on 24 august 1837 and cuts Nanterre in two. Another line joining Paris and Rouen goes through Nanterre in 1841. The rail connection allows a new population growth, with houses and appartment buildings appearing close to the train station.
Industry flourishes in Nanterre thanks to the easy access to Paris: paper, chemical, pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic industry, metallurgy and automobile manufacturing.
In the 1960s and 1970s the vast and dense office complex called "la Defense" is built as the new business district for the Paris metropolitan area, at the intersection of Nanterre, Courbevoie and Puteaux.