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Le Mans History, France

The ‘Menhir’ standing against the wall close to the main entrance of St. Julien Cathedral indicates that the first chapter of Le Mans’ history opened about 4000 years before the present-era.

Le Mans’ History – The Roman Times

Although not much is known about this pre-historic colony, details about the region during the Roman times are available. The Roman city was known as Vindunium and was a part of the ancient Roman province, Gallia Lugdunensis. Since the inhabitants were Celts of the Aulerques tribe, Cénormans, the region was also named Civitas Cenomanorum or the City of the Cenomani. The Germans started showing up around 270 AD, and this prompted the construction of the town wall. It is within the safety of this massive wall that the city flourished as an economic hub and a seat of Christianity.

Le Mans’ History – The Norman Seige

In the following centuries, the city progressed further and had become the capital of Maine County, no wonder that the city saw enough action thereafter. In 1068, William, Duke of Normandy invaded the city (by then it had come to be known as Le Mans). The Norman siege lasted for only two years. By 1070, the Normans were sent packing by the people and Hugh V was proclaimed the ruler of the county.

Le Mans’ History – 12th Century to 16th Century

1154 saw Le Mans become a part of the Angevin Empire when Henry II (the son of the count of Anjou and count of Maine, Geoffrey Plantagenet) ascended the English throne. (Henry II had a long list of titles – he was not only the King of England, but also the Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Count of Nantes, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Duke of Normandy and Lord of Ireland). However, by the early 13th century Le Mans was once again a French possession.

Le Mans saw massive destruction during the 100 years war (which actually continued for 116 years, from 1137 to 1153). The religious wars of the 16th century also proved devastating. In between, the one good thing to have happened to Le Mans was the granting of its first charter by King Louis XI in 1481. The charter made provisions for a burgomaster assembly and a Town Hall.

Le Mans’ History – 17th Century to 19th Century

The 17th & 18th centuries saw Le Mans prospering once again. It became the center of commercial and manufacturing trade. But the French Revolution followed by the Vendean War stalled the city’s progress.

The first-half of the 19th century saw Le Mans being given a new, fresh look; a sort of division was created when architect Bruyère decided to build the commercial and urban centers in separate quarters, below the Old Town. The 1850s and 1860s saw the city expanding when new districts were incorporated. Starting in 1873, Le Mans entered an era of economic development when it became the birthplace of automobiles. This developmental phase continued till the beginning of the WWI. (In 1908 early American aviators, Orville and Wilbur Wright, undertook experimental flights from different city-sites).

Le Mans’ History – The World Wars

As in the case of Paris, Le Mans was miraculously spared the devastation and destruction of both the world wars. At the end of WWII, Le Mans was freed from German occupation by the 5th Armored Division of the US Army on August 8, 1944. Today, Le Mans stands among leading cities of France like Paris, Tours, Angers etc.

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