Bourges — History

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Bourges (French pronunciation: ​[buʁʒ]) is a city in central France on the Yèvre river. It is the capital of the department of Cher and also was the capital of the former province of Berry.

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The name of the city is either derived from the Bituriges, the name of the original inhabitants, or from the Germanic Burg (French: Bourg. Spanish: Burgos. English, others: Burgh, Berg, or Borough), for «hill/village». Its Celtic name was Avaricon and its Latin name was Avaricum. In the Gallic Wars, the Gauls practised a scorched-earth policy, but the inhabitants of Avaricum begged not to have their city burned, and it was spared due to its good defences provided by the surrounding marshes and a strong southern wall. Following the siege of Avaricum in the winter of 52 BC, Julius Caesar’s forces destroyed the city and killed all but 800 of its inhabitants.

The city was reconstructed as a Roman city, with a monumental gate, aqueducts, thermae and an amphitheatre, reaching a greater size than it would attain during the Middle Ages. The massive walls surrounding the late Roman city, enclosing 40 hectares, were built in part re-using stone from earlier public buildings.

The third century Saint Ursinus, also known as Saint Ursin, is considered the first bishop of the city. Bourges is the seat of an archbishopric. During the 8th century Bourges lay on the northern fringes of the Duchy of Aquitaine and was therefore the first town to come under Frankish attacks when they crossed the Loire. It was captured by the Frankish Charles Martel in 731 but immediately reconquered by the duke Odo the Great. It remained under the rule of counts who pledged allegiance to the Aquitanian dukes up to the destructive assault of Pepin the Short on independent Aquitaine starting in 760, when Basque troops are found defending the town along with its count.

The Gothic Cathedral of Saint Etienne, begun at the end of the twelfth century, is listed as a World Heritage Site. It is considered the earliest example of the high gothic style of the thirteenth century.

During the Middle Ages, Bourges was the capital of a Viscounty until the fourteenth century. The future king, Charles VII, sought refuge there. His son, Louis XI, was born there in 1423. In 1438, Charles decreed the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges. During this period, Bourges was also a major capital of alchemy.

The city has a long tradition of art and history, other sites of importance include the Palace of Jacques Cœur and a sixty-five-hectare district of half-timbered houses and fine town houses.

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