46:09.275N 001:09.040W La Rochelle Part 3
16th and 17th June, 2009.
La Rochelle is full of history and you can feel it everywhere you walk around the town.
For 1000 years the city has had a unique history. The first Mayor was elected in 1199 who was protestant while the rest of France was catholic. It was protected by Kings while the rest of France was submitted to considerable taxes.
There were considerable threats to La Rochelle and during the Great siege of 1627-28 when the Royal troops besieged the town and it was driven to starvation. After 13 months it was forced to admit defeat and it lost all its privileges, fortifications and political organization.
Thanks to maritime trade La Rochelle regained prosperity. In 1630 regular links developed with Canada and the West Indies and trade flourished.
In 1890 the town built the La Pallice harbour which the Germans used as a submarine base during the Second World War. In 1945 La Rochelle was the last French town to be freed.
We spent our two days seeing the sights and one afternoon we spent climbing the two towers, Saint-Nicholas and La Chaine and the Lanterne Lighthouse before wandering to the beach area. The Saint-Nicholas tower was started in 1345 but the foundations were not steady and it was not completed until 1372. It was used as a royal residence with soldiers all housed in the same tower until 16th century when it was used as a prison until the 18th century. It is still leaning today.
The La Chaine tower was built during 1382 to 1390 but it lost its roof during the Fronde wars and it had an open roof for 400 years. The tower was used as an artillery fortress and it housed the chain used to prevent ships from gaining access to the port.
The Lanterne Tower was built to ensure boats entering the port were disarmed. From 1372 it was used to send visual signals for military surveillance along the coast until 1445 when it was turned into a lighthouse and its massive spire of 55 metres was made into a land mark.
It was made into a military prison in 1820 and any sailors caught from British boats were
put in the prison. The walls were covered with drawings carved into the brick work with names and home towns. Unfortunately, one poor chap got caught twice the writing on the wall said.
The town hall, St. Louis’s Cathedral, St. Sauveur’s church, Law courts, Clock tower are all very interesting and popular places to visit which while visiting La Rochelle we could not miss.
A marvelous place to holiday with Ile de Re and all it beaches not far away.