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Poitiers (Municipality, Vienne, France)

Last modified: 2024-01-06 by olivier touzeau
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Flag of Poitiers - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 5 February 2022

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Presentation of Poitiers

Poitiers (90,033 inhabitants in 2020; 4,211 ha) is a commune and the capital of the Vienne department, and the historical centre of Poitou.

Poitiers was founded by the Celtic tribe of the Pictones. There is a rich history of archeological finds from the Roman era in Poitiers. The first bishop of Poitiers from 350 to 367, Saint Hilarius, evangelized the town. Exiled by Constantius II, he risked death to return to Poitiers as Bishop. He was named "Doctor of The Church" by Pope Pius IX.
In the 4th century, a thick wall, 6m wide and 10m high, was built around the town. Fifty years later Poitiers fell into the hands of the Arian Visigoths, and became one of the main residences of their kings. Visigoth King Alaric II was defeated by Clovis at Vouillé, not far from Poitiers, in 507, and the town thus came under Frankish dominion. During most of the Early Middle Ages, the town of Poitiers took advantage of its defensive tactical site and of its location, which was far from the centre of Frankish power .
The first decisive victory of a Western European Christian army over a Muslim power, the Battle of Tours, was fought by Charles Martel's men in the vicinity of Poitiers on 10 October 732.

Eleanor of Aquitaine frequently resided in the town, which she embellished and fortified, and in 1199 entrusted with communal rights. In 1152 she married the future King Henry II of England in Poitiers Cathedral.
During the Hundred Years' War, the Battle of Poitiers, an English victory, was fought near Poitiers on 19 September 1356. Later in the war in 1418, royal parliament moved from Paris to Poitiers, where it remained in exile until the Plantagenets finally withdrew from the capital in 1436. During this interval, in 1429 Poitiers was the site of Joan of Arc's formal inquest.

The University of Poitiers was founded in 1431. During and after the Reformation, John Calvin had numerous converts in Poitiers and the violent proceedings of the Wars of Religion in France happened in the town too.
In 1569 Poitiers was defended by Gui de Daillon, comte du Lude, against Gaspard de Coligny, who after an unsuccessful bombardment and seven weeks, retired from a siege he had laid to the town. 16th-century Poitiers is closely associated with the life of François Rabelais and with the community of Bitards. During the Renaissance, poets Joachim du Bellay and Pierre Ronsard met at the University of Poitiers, before leaving for Paris.

During the 17th century, many people emigrated from Poitiers and the Poitou to the French settlements in the new world and thus many Acadians or Cajuns living in North America today can trace ancestry back to this region.
During the 18th century, the town's activity mainly depended on its administrative functions as a regional centre: Poitiers served as the seat for the regional administration of royal justice, the bipshopric, the monasteries and the intendance of the Généralité du Poitou.
The viscount of Blossac, intendant of Poitou from 1750 to 1784, had a French garden landscaped in Poitiers. He also had Aliénor d'Aquitaine's ancient wall razed and modern boulevards were built in its place.
During the 19th century, Poitiers became a garrison town. The Poitiers train station was built in the 1850s.
Poitiers was bombed during World War II, particularly the area around the railway station which was heavily hit on 13 June 1944.

From the late 1950s until the late 1960s when Charles de Gaulle ended the American military presence in France, the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force had military installations in France, including a major Army logistics and communications hub in Poitiers, part of what was called the Communication Zone (ComZ).
The city of Poitiers has been expanding considerably since the 1960s, with the creation of the urban district of Couronneries and the Trois-Cités district, and the creation of a ring road.
The town benefited from pol industrial decentralization in the 1970s, for instance with the installation during that decade of the Michelin and Schlumberger factories. The Futuroscope theme-park and research park project, built in 1986–1987 in nearby Chasseneuil-du-Poitou, after an idea by René Monory, the president of the regional council, consolidated Poitiers' place as a touristic destination and as a modern university centre, and opened the townto the era of information technology.

Olivier Touzeau, 5 February 2022

Flag of Poitiers

I could not locate any recent photograph of the flag of Poitier in use.
French vexillologist Pascal Vagnat reported having observed in 2010 in the Couronneries district a horizontally divided N-W-B flag with the coat of arms in the center (source).

The coat of arms of Poitiers is blazoned: Argent a lion Gules, a border Sable charged with 9 bezants and debruised by a chief Azure, with three fleurs-de-lis Or.

The lion for Aquitaine comes from Eleanor of Aquitaine. The border Sable first was charged with twelve gold coins symbolizing the twelve aldermen. Aliénor's great-grandson, Saint Louis officially took possession of the city of Poitiers and gave it as an appanage to his brother Alphonse in 1241. The coat of arms was adorned with a chief of France, and this removed three bezants to leave nine.

Olivier Touzeau, 5 February 2022

First flag of Poitiers


First flag of Poitiers - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 5 February 2022

According to Thierry Gilabert (Société vexillologique de l'Ouest), the real flag of Poitiers is made up of three horizontal bands in this order: blue, white and black.
"The flag has been flying in Poitiers since the 1970s." (source: website of the Société vexillologique de l'Ouest)

Olivier Touzeau, 5 February 2022