Place:Val de Loire, France


NameVal de Loire
Alt namesLoire Valleysource: Canby, Historic Places (1984) I, 527
TypeHistorical region
Located inFrance
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names

Val de Loire is a historical region. Beginning in the Paleolithic period, people have settled on the banks of the Loire river and the many other rivers of the region. From 10000 b.c. to abour 4000 b.c., hunter-gatherer populations slowly made the transition to the totally sedentary lifestyle associated with farmng and raising cattle. This transformation was the consequence of the migration of reindeer herds northward as well as the arrival of farming populations from the Near East.

The communities then organized into structured societies that reached the territorial organization of the Gallic people around their cities. In the 4th century, the land of the Carnutes, where the Orléanais is now, was considered the center of Gaul, where the annual meeting the [Wikipedia:Druid|druids]] took place. This assembly took place, depending on which version one believes, in one of two cities: Cenabum (Orléans) or Autricum (Chartres). Long before the Roman conquest, the sites of the current important cities were already in existence.

Except for attempted upheavals by the Carnutes of the Andécaves, Julius Caesar did not meet much resistance during his conquest. Gauls rapidly adopted the Roman lifestyle, partcularly in the existing towns (Orléans, Tours, Angers) around the Roman Forum, the Theater or the Thermae. The Gallo-Roman era witnessed a remarkable development of production and commerce.

Christianity took hold in the 4th century, under the impulse of the bishops of Tours, Orléans and Angers. Martin de Tours, one of the founders of the Church, bishop from 371 until his death in 397, was one of the most active artisans of the Christian Mission. Monasteries were built. Under the Carolingian dynasty, two of Charlemagne's close aides, Alcuin and Theodulphus, created monastic schools in the region which had a considerable cultural influence. The "barbaric" invasions did not bypass the Val-de-Loire: although the Saracens, pushed back in 732 by Charles Martel, did not cross the Loire, the Vikings, in the middle of the 9th century came upstream on their longships and pillaged the towns and the abbeys of the valley.

In the Middle Ages, the Val-de-Loire was the scene of quasi-uninterrupted combats form the 10th to the 15th century. First they involved the succession to the English crown, then the dispute between Capetiens and Plantagenets for the possession of the Kingdom of France. The last chapter in these disputes, the Hundred Years' War (1340-1453), featured the leadership of Jeanne d'Arc, who liberated Orleans on 8 May, 1429, an event which the city has celebrated yearly since 1430 through its "Johannic Festival Days".

The Renaissance was the apex of the role of the Val-de-Loire in the Kingdom of France. From Louis XI, who made Tours his capital city in 1461, to Henri IV, who brought the capital back to Paris, the region contained the center of French power. The Valois, who had discovered in Italy a new type of esthetic and a new lifestyle, persisted in bringing those to the Loire valley, by bringing many Italian artists and craftsmen, including the most famous of them all, Leonardo da Vinci. This was the beginning of what was later called the first French Renaissance, during which the royal castles of Amboise and Blois were renovated, while "court castles", destined for pleasure, were built, the most remarkable being Chambord.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the region increased its role of communication hub thanks to the creation of canals. This started a prosperous period for the navigation of the Loire. The French Revolution did not lead to major disturbances in the region and was well accepted, except for a peasant rebellion in southern Anjou.

In the 19th century, the appearance ot the railroad triggered radical changes in the landscape, leading to the decline of the Loire navigation and the activity of its harbors.

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