Poitiers History, France
At the time that the Romans captured the village that is now Poitiers, France in 56 B.C., it had been the home of the Pictones which were a Gaulish tribe. The Romans renamed the town Limonum and built it up as is evidenced by the number of Roman ruins in the city.
In the 4th century A.D., Christianity was introduced into that area of Europe but history for Poitiers did not take a dramatic turn until 732 when a French cavalry force defeated a major Muslim force near Poitiers. The outcome of this battle was the beginning of a newfound freedom for that area of France since it chased off Muslim invaders for good.
Over the next four centuries, Poitiers rose in importance when it became the capital city of Poitou which was a region of France being ruled by the Counts of Poitiers. Upon the death of her father, Poitiers and much of the surrounding areas was willed to Eleanor of Aquitaine who then became the Countess of Poitiers. It may have been unusual to will an estate to a daughter at that time; however, her father did so in order to protect her from the dangers caused by unsavory, dowry-hungry suitors who would have sought her hand in marriage after his death. This made Eleanor one of the most powerful women in Europe and she eventually asked for the hand of the heir to the English throne, Henry II, in marriage. They were married, making her the Queen of England, and she eventually bore Richard the Lionheart.
Upon her marriage to Henry II of England in 1152, the ownership of her estates passed to England. This included Poitiers. She did not abandon the city, however. In fact, she spent much of her time there and even fortified and beautified it. This included the building of the Romanesque churches that are still in existence in the city today.
In 1337, the Hundred Years’ War between France and England began. Before its end in 1453, the war had affected the history of Poitiers several times. The war reached the city during the Battle of Poitiers on September 19, 1356. The battle was the second great victory for England during the war. After the English military forces invaded Paris in 1418, the French Parliament was forced to move to Poitiers until Paris could be re-entered in 1436. In 1429, Joan of Arc was under inquest in Poitiers.
Shortly before the war ended, a university was built in Poitiers in 1431. The University of Poitiers was founded by Pope Eugenius IV. In the following century, the university greatly influenced the cultural life of Poitiers so that it soon rivaled even Paris from a cultural standpoint. This same century, however, also brought more turmoil for France during the Catholic-Protestant conflicts. In 1569, Poitiers was under siege by Protestant military forces led by Lord Gaspard de Coligny, a French Admiral, for seven weeks. The city did not see major war again until World War II when it was bombed extensively. After reviving from the war, the city was modernized and progressed into a major commercial center.
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