Laon (French: [lɑ̃]) is a city in the Aisne department in Hauts-de-France in northern France.

Laon and its cathedral from the southwest
Laon and its cathedral from the southwest
Coat of arms of Laon
Location of Laon
Laon is located in France
Laon is located in Hauts-de-France
Coordinates: 49°33′50″N 3°37′28″E / 49.5639°N 3.6244°E / 49.5639; 3.6244
CantonLaon-1, Laon-2
IntercommunalityCA Pays de Laon
 • Mayor (2020–2026) Éric Delhaye[1]
42 km2 (16 sq mi)
 • Density570/km2 (1,500/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
02408 /02000
Elevation63–183 m (207–600 ft)
(avg. 83 m or 272 ft)
WebsiteOfficial website
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

History edit

Early history edit

The Ancient Diocese of Laon, which rises a hundred metres above the otherwise flat Picardy plain,[3] has always held strategic importance. In the time of Julius Caesar there was a Gallic village named Bibrax where the Remis (inhabitants of the country round Reims) had to meet the onset of the confederated Belgae.[4] Whatever may have been the precise locality of that battlefield, Laon was fortified by the Romans, and successively checked the invasions of the Franks, Burgundians, Vandals, Alans and Huns. At that time it was known as Alaudanum or Lugdunum Clavatum.

Archbishop Remigius of Reims, who baptised Clovis, was born in the Laonnais, and it was he who, at the end of the fifth century, instituted the bishopric of Laon. Thenceforward Laon was one of the principal towns of the kingdom of the Franks, and the possession of it was often disputed. Charles the Bald had enriched its church with the gift of very numerous domains. In about 847 the Irish philosopher John Scotus Eriugena appeared at the court of Charles the Bald, and was appointed head of the palace school. Eriugena spent the rest of his days in France, probably at Paris and Laon.[5]

Laon was the principal city of the late Carolingian kings of France, beginning with Louis IV. After the fall of the Carolingians, Laon took the part of Charles of Lorraine, their heir, and Hugh Capet only succeeded in making himself master of the town by the connivance of the bishop, who, in return for this service, was made second ecclesiastical peer of the kingdom.

Early in the twelfth century the communes of France set about emancipating themselves, and the history of the commune of Laon is one of the richest and most varied. Anselm of Laon's school for theology and exegesis rapidly became the most famous in Europe. The citizens had profited by a temporary absence of Bishop Gaudry to secure from his representatives a communal charter, but he, on his return, purchased from the king of France the revocation of this document, and recommenced his oppressions. The consequence was a revolt, in which the episcopal palace was burnt and the bishop and several of his partisans were put to death on 25 April 1112. The fire spread to Laon Cathedral, and reduced it to ashes. Uneasy at the result of their victory, the rioters went into hiding outside the town, which was anew pillaged by the people of the neighbourhood, eager to avenge the death of their bishop.

Thereafter, French monarchs intervened as needed to settle disputes between the bishop and the townspeople until 1331, when the commune was abolished. In the latter stages of the 1337–1453 Hundred Years' War, Laon was captured by Philip, Duke of Burgundy; he relinquished control to his English allies, who held it until 1429 when it fell to Charles VII of France.[6] The Catholic League used the town as a base during the French Wars of Religion; it was retaken by the former Huguenot Henry IV in August 1594.[7]

Modern history edit

At the Revolution (1789) Laon permanently lost its rank as a bishopric. During the campaign of 1814, Napoleon tried in vain to dislodge Blücher and Bülow from it in the Battle of Laon.[8]

In 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, an engineer blew up the powder magazine of the citadel at the moment when the German troops were entering the town. Many people died; and the cathedral and the old episcopal palace were damaged. It surrendered to a German force on 9 September 1870.[8]

In the fall of 1914, during World War I, German forces captured the town and held it until the Allied offensive in the summer of 1918.[8]

Geography edit

Located in the middle of Aisne, Laon borders (from the north, clockwise) with the municipalities of Aulnois-sous-Laon, Barenton-Bugny, Chambry, Athies-sous-Laon, Bruyères-et-Montbérault, Vorges, Presles-et-Thierny, Chivy-lès-Étouvelles, Clacy-et-Thierret, Molinchart, Cerny-lès-Bucy, and Besny-et-Loizy.[9] It is 55 km (34 mi) from Reims, 131 km (81 mi) from Amiens, and 138 km (86 mi) from Paris.

Population edit

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1793 7,500—    
1800 6,691−1.62%
1806 6,976+0.70%
1821 6,837−0.13%
1831 8,400+2.08%
1836 8,230−0.41%
1841 9,406+2.71%
1846 9,809+0.84%
1851 10,098+0.58%
1856 8,199−4.08%
1861 10,090+4.24%
1866 10,268+0.35%
1872 10,365+0.16%
1876 12,139+4.03%
1881 12,623+0.79%
1886 13,677+1.62%
1891 14,129+0.65%
1896 14,625+0.69%
1901 15,434+1.08%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1906 15,288−0.19%
1911 16,262+1.24%
1921 18,904+1.52%
1926 19,402+0.52%
1931 19,125−0.29%
1936 20,254+1.15%
1946 17,401−1.51%
1954 21,931+2.93%
1962 25,078+1.69%
1968 26,316+0.81%
1975 27,914+0.85%
1982 26,682−0.64%
1990 26,490−0.09%
1999 26,265−0.09%
2007 26,463+0.09%
2012 25,317−0.88%
2014 24,710−1.21%
2017 24,876+0.22%
Source: EHESS[10] and INSEE (1968-2017)[11]

Sights edit

Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Laon
Gate of Bouvelle Court, Rue Serurier, Laon (France)
Rue Châtelaine
The former funicular, view from the upper town.

The city contains numerous medieval buildings, including the cathedral Notre-Dame of Laon, dating mostly from the 12th and 13th centuries. The chapter-house and the cloister contain specimens of early 13th-century architecture. The old episcopal palace, contiguous to the cathedral, is now used as a court-house. The front, flanked by turrets, is pierced by large pointed windows. There is also a Gothic cloister and an old chapel of two storeys, of a date anterior to the cathedral.

The church of St Martin dates from the middle of the 12th century. The old abbey buildings of the same foundation are now used as the hospital. The museum of Laon had collections of sculpture and painting. In its garden there is a chapel of the Templars belonging to the 12th century.

One of the oldest churches in the city is St John the Baptist, in the nearby neighbourhood of Vaux-sous-Laon, which dates from the 11th through 13th centuries and is built in a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic styles.

Transportation edit

Laon station from the upper town

Laon railway station offers connections to Reims, Soissons and Paris.

Until August 2016, the town had the only fully automated municipal cable car system in the world, called the Poma 2000. It linked the upper town (the historical centre, located on a plateau) with the lower town, had three stations and ran on rubber tyres. In contrast, the San Francisco cable car system is manually operated, and most other automated cable car systems have restricted operations within airports and hospitals, though another automated cable car called the Minimetrò may be found in the city of Perugia in Italy.

The town's transport company TUL (Transports Urbains Laonnois)[12] operates the local bus routes.[13]

International relations edit

Laon is twinned with:

Personalities edit

Laon was the birthplace of:

Gallery edit

The cathedral, western front
The cathedral, interior
View from the lower city, with the cathedral in the background and St John the Baptist de Vaux in the foreground
Porte d’Ardon and city walls
St Martin's church
Templars chapel
St Martin's church
Town square, Laon, France
Porte De La Cour De La Bouvelle (Medieval Architecture, XV)
Centre Hospitalier de Laon, France
Maison des Arts et Loisirs, Laon, France

In the media edit

Laon is featured in the book Pursuit of Passy by David Moore Crook. Laon is also featured in the book "A Pilgrimage to Eternity" by Timothy Egan.

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ "Répertoire national des élus: les maires" (in French)., Plateforme ouverte des données publiques françaises. 13 September 2022.
  2. ^ "Populations légales 2021". The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. 28 December 2023.
  3. ^ "Picardy Town Information". Archived from the original on 3 January 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2009.
  4. ^ Goldsworthy, Adrian (2007), Caesar: The Life of a Colossus, p. 290.
  5. ^ "John Scotus Eriugena" in New Advent.
  6. ^ Barker, Juliet (2010). Conquest: The English Kingdom of France 1417–1450. Abacus. p. 127. ISBN 978-0349122021.
  7. ^ Sutherland, Nicola Mary (1982). Henry IV of France and the Politics of Religion: 1572–1596 Volume II (2002 ed.). Elm Bank. p. 535. ISBN 978-1841508467.
  8. ^ a b c Reynolds, Francis J., ed. (1921). "Laon" . Collier's New Encyclopedia. New York: P. F. Collier & Son Company.
  9. ^ 74127 (x a j h) Laon on OpenStreetMap
  10. ^ Des villages de Cassini aux communes d'aujourd'hui: Commune data sheet Laon, EHESS (in French).
  11. ^ Population en historique depuis 1968, INSEE
  12. ^ (in French) TUL official website
  13. ^ TUL transport map of Laon Archived 20 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "British towns twinned with French towns". Archant Community Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  15. ^ City council website

References edit

External links edit