L'Histoire, mes bons Amis

a few musings on franco-gallic history

How the Franks, a German Tribe, became and named la France
and some family history, too

auf Deutsch

Ainsi parle l'Éternel: Placez-vous sur les chemins, regardez, Et demandez quels sont les anciens sentiers, Quelle est la bonne voie; marchez-y, Et vous trouverez le repos de vos âmes !

Use Web.Archive.Org to find old links that no longer work. It is very, very useful.

Celtic Germany-a brief history -- Bede-another perspective with an anglo-saxon heritage
Gallia (grayscale) -- Celtic Gaul -- a large map (color)

Placez-vous sur les chemins, regardez, Et demandez quels sont les anciens sentiers, Quelle est la bonne voie; marchez-y, Et vous trouverez le repos de vos âmes !

The Rhône River has remained a premier center for trade and agriculture for thousands of years. The river flows south from Lac Léman at Geneva, Switzerland through a region once occupied by the Keltoi, the name given to people in southern France with whom the ancient Greeks traded, in particular by the writer Herodotus. The earliest archaeological evidence places Celtic tribes in France and western Germany in the late Bronze Age, around 1200 BC. In the early Iron Age, they are associated with the Hallstatt culture (8th century to 6th century BC), named for an archaeological site in Austria. In the 5th century BC (late Iron Age) the La Tène culture, characterized by finely crafted jewelry, weapons, and pottery, spread from eastern Gaul (the English word for the Latin name Gallia) throughout the rest of the Celtic world. Between the 5th and 1st centuries BC, this influence extended from Hispania to the shores of the Black Sea.

The Gaulois subjugated northern Italy, for a time occupied Rome, and seized land even as distant as Turkey (Galatia or Gallogræcia). The Gaulois included Celtic tribes like the Helvetii, the Sequani, and the Aedui, along the Rhône and Saône rivers; the Arverni among the mountains (Cévennes) to the west of the Rhône; and, the Allobroges along the Isère River. Rome "conquered" all of Gallia. Munatius Plancus, under Julius Caesar established the colonial city of Lugdunum (meaning raven on a hill), what is today Lyon, at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers, overlooking small existing Gaulois settlements. While the western Roman Empire flourished, the Gaulois enjoyed close relations with the Romans. Their fortunes, both in war and peace, became indivisible from those of Rome. Most ancient travelers to northern and western Europe first had to pass, by foot, by animal, or by boat, through Lugdunum. More about Lyon

The Celtic language slipped into disuse as Roman influence grew over the next few centuries. Only a few hundred words survive of the Gaulois. A Romance version of Latin remained, best reflected in Provençal (as well as the Occitan or Langue d'oc tongue and dialects), spoken in the southern third of France, and used by about one-fourth of today's French population.

Grenoble, tucked away among the mountains where the Drac and Isère rivers merge, has a somewhat similar beginning as Lyon, being first a tribal center called Cularo. Later it became a Roman city, eventually called Gratianopolis, Grenoble being a corruption of the Latin. At age 23 the Emperor Gratian (for whom the city was named) was murdered at Lyon by the mutinying commander of the Roman armies of Britain (August 25, 383), before the Emperor could reach the safety of the Alps.

In some ways the history of the British Isles, which mirrors that of France, helps to explain the event. The various local tribes, known collectively to the Romans only as Britanni, probably began to adopt Celtic culture during the early Iron Age phase (8th-6th century BC). Rome built colonial fortifications at places like Londinium and Eboracum (York), after its successful invasion in 43 AD; however, Rome's hold on these places remained always more tenuous than on the Continent. From the resulting many rebellions came a few emperors, such as Flavius Valerius Constantinus, whose nom de guerre is Constantine I, the Great. Ultimately, however, in the 5th century AD, during the twilight of the Western Roman Empire, even Gallia was overrun by successive incursions by Goths, Franks, and Huns. Grenoble and areas south in Provence did not experience the full brunt of these invasions, which allowed a distinct Provençal culture to arise, then to flourish.

The old Roman civitas, a town and its surrounding territory, served as the basis of Merovingian and (later) Carolingian civil administrations. Comites, later called counts, the royal officials of Gallo-Roman descent who presided over the civitas, collected taxes, minted money, heard lawsuits, enforced justice, raised militia for protection and armies for war. Clovis, the first true King of France (see below), and his descendants issued capitulares, legislative acts and administrative orders, in order to reduce violence; these laws showing the overwhelming influence of Roman civil jurisprudence.

The Franks -- a map; Another map
The legend of Clovis in French History {Clovis dans l'Histoire de France}

The name of France derives from a Germanic tribe (and of earlier Nordic origin?), the Salian Franks. Their leader Clovis or {Ch}lodwig (ruled from 481 to 511) was the first notable ruler of the Merovingian dynasty. France in 1996 celebrated the 1500th anniversary of his baptism, several years after his marriage to Burgundian Princess and Saint, Clotilda on June 3rd. She introduced her husband to Bishop Remigius {Saint Remi [Rémy]}, Evêque de Reims {Rheims}, Apostle of the Franks -- who persuaded the King to convert. see http://justus.anglican.org/ resources/bio/257.html.

St. Remi, who died on January 13, 533 was buried two days at his Cathedral of Reims (not the same structure that exists today). Rémy had baptised Clovis as the first Christian French King in 496 (Christmas Day) at the Cathedral, along with over 3000 other warriers. Clovis became the Constantine of the Franks, the rallying point of the conversion of the Gaulois. The King's name, latinized, is Louis {the {Ch} being silent), while in English he is known as Clovis I. He was the first of 18 individuals named Louis, who over the course of French history held or were pretenders to the French Crown. This premier Louis first made Paris the French capital.

The Merovingian dynasty and kingdom declined in size and power, after Clovis' death, until the Carolingians became the succeeding ruling family, when they again united the Franks, in order to push the Moors back from an invasion of Europe, a time celebrated by the Chanson (AD 732). Bishop Bonifatius, known as the Apostle to the German People, was born in anglo-saxon England. He wrote favorably of the Northumbrian Priest and historian, Venerable Bede, who wrote the history of the English people. Bishop Bonifatius established his Bishop's seat in 745AD in the City of Mainz {Johannes Gutenberg ist unbestritten der größte Sohn der Stadt Mainz}. The city is about 30 miles west of Frankfurt at the mouth of the Main River. Five years later Pipin (of the Carolingian line) was named King of the Franks, under the sanction of the Pope Zacharias. In the city of Soissons, Bonifatius anointed Pepin with the holy oil.

The Carolingians, under Pepin's son, Charlemagne, annexed all of southern Germany and the lands in the north and northeast, held by the Saxons. Charlemagne, crowned emporer of the Roman Empire in 800AD by Pope Leo III, patterned his court after the late Roman Empire. He ruled from Aachen, which is today in Germany, close by the Dutch Border. The official work of his court was done in Latin; however, the day - to - day language (in the east) congealed into what has evolved into Hoch Deutsch today. Why not French? Because, upon his death the empire split into three kingdoms. The west eventually became France and the romantic (n'est pas) language base of Latin prevailed. Indeed, even in 800AD the language between the west and the east part of the empire showed marked differences. So much so, that the treaty named after Virodunensis (Verdun -- see below-843AD) had to be written in two languages.

A Merovingian Map -- Map 750AD

The middle kingdom included the land generally between the Rhône/Saône/Meuse and the Rhine Rivers. This is the area over which and in which most of the European Wars for 1200 years would be fought. For example look at what happened to Alsace. It all set up with the Treaty of Verdun in 843 AD. Frankfurt and Hessen were in the kingdom of East Francia, but Mainz was in a disputed area.

Otto I, an old-Saxon chief, emerged as the King of East Francia by 962AD. He became the leader of the [Holy] Roman Empire {Römischen Reich}, an official designation {Rede} which remained in use, and in German hands, for another nine centuries. Toward the end of that time period, the words Reich, Reiches or Reichs were used without any other direct attributes, still signifying however, a continuation of the empire from the previous Millennium. Frankfurt became the site where the emperors of the German Reich, traditionally, were elected and crowned.

As indicated above, competing interests between heirs gradually tore apart the Carolingian kingdom. Disunity led, eventually, to a three part division by the Treaty of Verdun (843), creating a west Frankish kingdom in the western portion of modern France. Within 100 years the Capetian family (also Frankish nobles) took control of this portion. Lands east of the north-south line made by the Rhône/Saône/ Meuse Rivers lay in another (the middle) kingdom. Accordingly, the area around Grenoble, which was part of Provence during much of this interim time, survived as nominally independent for another 600 years.

Disunity in the western kingdom also led to successful raids from wandering Norseman from Scandinavia (Viking pirates). One group, the Normans, settled in the lower Seine river valley, along the English Channel (Normandy), at the invitation of a local noble. The chiefs of the Norman tribes, soon adopted what by now was a distinct French language, accepted Christianity, swore allegiance (fealty) to the local Frankish ruling family (now the House of Capet), and became magnates (or French nobility) themselves.

An example of this history played out today can be found during Le Tour de France, where stage eight of the race a few years ago (on Bastille Day) ended in the region of Brittany at the village of Plouay. The Celts (Gauls) once occupied this country, but one finds today almost no trace of their stay. Next, the Romans used the area, but again little from them remains, except a few coins. The Bretons (refuges from the Britanni) arrived from England, occupied this territory and flourished as the current names of the region's villages prove. Also, the native language of the country remains Breton inspite of official attempts to erase it in the past.

The name of this village was written Plozoe in 1308, and Plouzay in 1387. The word Plo or Plou means "people" or "parish"; but, the final zoe, zay or ay is more difficult to explain. It may stand for the name of Saint-Ouen, Archbishop of Rouen, as overseer of the church and the parish territory. So then Plouay would mean the people or the Parish of Saint-Ouen (died: August 24, 684). The current church structure dates from the 16th Century, although one may suppose it replaced one or more older buildings. In this parish two localities bear the names Moustoir and Mouster-vat, which seems to reflect their monastic origins. These establishments would have been destroyed by the Norman pirate raids at the end of the 9th century or at the beginning of 10th, before this Viking tribe became Christianized. At that time, Plouay was a very small village near Bécherel (Bekrel or Bequerel), « Berkr » meaning "brook" and similar to the English term "beck", which is undoubtedly of Norman origin and whose layout is in complete conformity with the habitats of the Vikings . . . from http://perso.wanadoo.fr/plouay/docs/doc10.htm (en français).

The Viking Connection -- Cousins under the skin:Returning to the time of the change of the first 1000 years AD -- for the early rulers of the House of Capet, the king was only primus inter pares or the first among equals, being of no more illustrious origins or having no larger territorial holdings than his peers. The other noble peers were his counts (comtes), his companions. Thus the Dukes of Normandy, Brittany, Burgundy, and Acquitaine, as well as, the Counts of Flanders, Champagne and Vermandois thought themselves equal. In not too many years, the Peers of France were a recognized twelve in number - six spiritual and six temporal. "Traditional peerage" dates from the 14th century growing out of and arising out of the need to reward "loyalty" during the wars of that period.

England (Angle-land) underwent a 5th century (AD) Germanic conquest by the Angles, Saxons and other northern European cousins of the Franks. Over time, the rule of many tribal leaders was consolidated under one English King and his loyal Barons (the witenagemot). But, England and France remained intertwined through intermarriage. In 1066 French Barons, née Viking pirates, had established the new English royal family and noble retinue for England. William of Normandie was crowned Roi of all England in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day. A far more detailed explanation, with links can be found at our Venerable Bede page. see http://LaRocheUSA.org/Northumbria.htm. Our Celtic Germany page shows how a somewhat similar story played out in Germany. The germanic tribes prevailed in the conguest of Europe, be they called saxons, franks or vikings. Indeed, it was a band of Vikings, or Russ, that established the Russian kingdom.

In England, Norman feudalism became the basis for redistributing the land among the conquerors, giving England a Norman-French aristocracy. England turned away from Scandinavian political structure toward France. After the Norman invasion the "English" court spoke French; but still conducted business in the local language -- eventually a friendly and amicable compromise was reached. Rabid extremists of the Anglo-Saxon persuasion can point out that the English language overcame the Celtic and Roman influences, while Norman-French never fully subdued it.

Thus today, we swear (Germanic) and affirm (French); we raise swine (Germanic), have pigs (Old English, perhaps Celtic, but the original etymology remains obscure), and eat pork (French); a canine (Latin) pet can be dog (again more Celtic), hound (Germanic), or dawg (Georgian). There is of course a dispute about whether lawyers/attorneys use two words for everything, because of the differences between Old English and Norman- French, or because counselors, of the legal kind, once got paid by the word. Finally, consider the word "cat" of Germanic origin. Probably, the Germanic tribes borrowed the word from the Romans, who brought really big cats into the Circus at Lugdunum and elsewhere. The Latin language has another word for cat, which we know today as feline. Just maybe this helps explain why, depending on your perspective, English spelling is a "mess" (a French derivative) or a "jumble" (a word whose origin is unknown).

William, Duke of [French] Normandy, although himself a Capetian vassal, as an English ruler exercised far more real power, over a far larger realm, than did his King, Philip I (who reigned from 1060 to 1108). The interests and goals of the ruling families soon began to collide. The common elements of the religious and political history of England and France were not strong enough to overcome these difficulties. The Capetian and Norman clans and their successors disputed claims and allegiances for the next eight hundred and fifty years. Wars would be fought primarily because each royal house had an arguably valid claim against the other's land. Often religion was blamed for the dispute; but, the underlying cause remained political. It is only at the end of this second thousand years of the Christian era that these two countries have established a record of relatively consistent cooperation.

New World-Aspect 1: During the interim, their political (economic) conflicts, and those of other European powers, were played out on the battlefields of the Old World, as well as in the Americas. Before the Europeans and their troubles officially arrived in the New World, however, the river system running through the center of the United States, much like the Rhône and its tributaries, had affected tribal trade and agriculture of the indigenous people for thousands of years. The Algonquin people called this the father of waters; the Ojibwe called the water source mezzi {misi} sippi -- the "big river."

After entering from the Northeast (i.e. what we now know as Canada and what was known as the North west Territory), the Mississippi and its watershed became a key factor in the direct French influence in the New World. LaSalle visited the lower Mississippi region in 1682. He claimed it for the French King, Louis XIV, hence the name Louisiana. The first Europeans of the lower Mississippi, mostly French and some Spanish settlers who had arrived much earlier, were known as Creoles. When Marquette, Jolliet and others explored this Nation's heartland, it was a part of New France (France's North American colonial empire). The French founded trading settlements in the northern Mississippi River Valley with names such as St. Louis and Ste. Genevieve. They tried, unsuccessfully, to change the name of the big river.

A name that survives today, "Illinois", reflects the French pronunciation for the native nation in that part of the region. Cahokia was founded in 1699 by French missionaries and named for a tribe of the Illinois people. The village, the oldest permanent European settlement in Illinois, was also the site of the largest prehistoric Native American city north of Mexico. Today it lies between East St. Louis and Granite City and is known for racing and horseradish. Much later, towns like Dubuque, the first settlement in Iowa (1788) founded by a French-Canadian looking for lead, were established.

An epic Brew-pub, located in the heart of the National Registered Historic District area of Moline, Illinois, and ranked #8 of 19 Attractions in Moline by Trip Advisor. Moline sits next to Rock Island on the Mississippi River, across from Davenport Iowa. The French founded trading settlements in the northern Mississippi River Valley with names such as St. Louis and Ste. Genevieve. They tried, unsuccessfully, to name the big river after Roi Louis. Today's name for the Rock River (in Illinois) naturally flows from the anglicized French name, Rive à la Roche (shore rock).

Moline was never a French town or trading post. Instead, a factory town was platted in 1843 on the Illinois shore under the working name of "Rock Island Mills". The name did not stick. When Charles Atkinson (a New Englander, perhaps with a sense for history), one of the major landowners in the area (and city founder), was offered the choice of naming the town Moline ("City of Mills" from the French word moulin, as suggested by a local surveyor ) or Hesperia (meaning "Star of the West"), he chose Moline. The town of Moline was incorporated on April 21, 1848. The same year, John Deere, the inventor of the self-scouring steel plow, relocated his steel plow company from Grand Detour, Illinois, to Moline. At the time, Moline had a population of only a few hundred, mostly involved in work at the mill. Charles Atkinson and others successfully lobbied the federal government to get the first transcontinental railroad to pass through Moline and to cross the Mississippi over Arsenal Island. The railroad, which arrived in 1854, would carry thousands of immigrés to America's heartland – at the time mostly Swedish, Belgian, and German, all in need of good beer.

The Rock Island Brewery, Tasting Room and Distribution Center opened its doors in spring of 2012 to meet demand for Bent River's produit. With this new fermentation system and bottling line, Bent River continues to expand beyond the Mississippi River Valley shores and can be found all across Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.

The French also had a more northern (and earlier) colonial presence. The first settlement of New France was established in what is today known as the Canadian Maritime Provinces. The French founded Acadia before Jamestown and Plymouth in 1604, although a heavy influx did not begin until the 1620's. The British and French both had claimed these northern lands. The English obtained permanent possession of mainland Acadia by the Peace of Utrecht (1713), which ended the War of the Spanish Succession; also known as Queen Anne's War in the Americas, the same war in which England obtained Gibraltar.

The Acadians, who had attempted to remain neutral in the Anglo-French conflicts, suffered. In 1755, because of renewed war with France (the Seven Years' War) and doubts about the loyalty of the Acadians, the British colonial authorities removed the Acadians from their lands, dispossessed them of their property, and dispersed them among the other British holdings in the Americas. Some of the Cajuns, as they are today known, fled to less populated areas of southeastern Louisiana, away from the higher riverbanks, to places not already occupied by the Creoles. Acadian descendants retain today, in large measure, the language spoken upon exile. A list of names from this area in Louisiana would show the French (Acadian or Creole) influence: Bourgeois, Broussard, Guidry, Jeansonne, Lambert, Ordeneaux, Robichaux among many.

For economic, as well as political reasons, the French Crown ceded colonial Louisiana to the Spanish, who had competing claims. By 1778 the French Crown officially had intervened against Britain in the American Revolution, thereby hoping to weaken its colonial rival and to recover its lost colonies. Participation in the war increased a politically dangerous and burdensome French national debt and France did not achieve her goals, sliding slowly into revolution. Louisiana was returned secretly to France on the eve of its sale by Napoléon Bonaparte to the United States -- November 30, 1803, exactly 21 years after the preliminary agreement ending the War between the USA and Britain. On December 30, 1803, the Stars and Stripes was raised over the Cabildo building in New Orleans as the United States took formal possession of the territory of Louisiana. The sale (commonly called the Louisiana Purchase) also put to rest claims that had kept Georgia's border from extending westward to the sea.

Yet, without the Alliance of 1778, there would have been no United States, able to claim its Manifest Destiny, a destiny which included and was made real by the Louisiana Purchase. We should also not fail to remember Napolean's help during the War of 1812. Without the French alliance and its internal political consequences, the long European War(s) it precipitated; the "success" of the Americans, which then inspired the French Revolution; and the First Republic's bloody excesses, which led to the Emperor Napoleon; France would have had no occasion to part with her New World claims.

New World-Aspect 2: France also influenced events along the American East Coast, well before the US Revolution. This was due in significant part because of Huguenot migration. The Huguenots were a strong political force, as well as, a group of Protestant worshippers. They were skilled artisans, intellectuals, army officers. Protestantism had arrived in France in about 1520 and experienced alternating periods of persecution and tolerance. During the years from 1562 until nearly the end of the century, eight civil wars were waged, nominally for religious reasons. The underlying cause however, was rivalry between competing political interests for the French crown.

The Protestants were eventually led by Henry of Navarre, who became Henry IV, King, the first Bourbon ruler of France, after the assassination of the last Valois King in 1589. Although the new King converted to Catholicism to ease the transition, he granted full Protestant tolerance by the Edict of Nantes in 1598. Never-the-less, the Huguenots' political influence threatened the security of the absolutist monarchs who followed after Henry's death. On-off periods of persecutions followed until the Huguenots lost full power, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by King Louis XIV in 1685, a few years after LaSalle visited Louisiana. Protestant worship was forbidden; preachers were expelled from the country; and houses of worship were destroyed. Under the threat of heavy punishment, between 200,000 and 300,000 Huguenots fled France, joining others who had left much earlier. Many more were killed.

The Huguenots after escaping France reached the New World by various routes, through England, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Some Huguenots with names such as Echols, Durrett, Ward, Paschall, Pouder landed in Virginia and North Carolina. In South Carolina names like Cordes, Balluet, Fleury, Foisson, Tauvron, LaRoche, Horry, Trapier show their French origin. They and their descendants became farmers, merchants, Anglican priests, politicians and soldiers. Some fought the French Nation in the French-Indian wars. Many fought the British Crown during the American Revolution. The Huguenots' story mirrors that of countless German, Scottish and Irish immigrants of the same time period who came to the Southern English Colonies, in order to escape the politically instigated hardships. The conflicts that affected the Acadians and Huguenots, left deep marks on the English, too. The British rulers' excesses gave us the concept of the Bill of Rights and furnished the impetus for English immigration. The Mayflower Compact, a basic docment in establishing America's form of government, clearly reflects the signers' determination to avoid the destabilizing turmoil of the age -- you may also wish to look at our page on Thanksgiving, which has more information on these early seekers of the new world.
The Reformation also made quite a personal impression on England's monarchy. Unlike France, by the end of the 17th century England had become generally a Protestant nation. In 1683 Princess Anne married Prince George of Denmark. Although her father, James II, converted to Roman Catholicism in 1672, Anne remained Protestant and acquiesced in James's overthrow by the anti-Roman Catholic Glorious Revolution of 1688, which brought her sister Mary and Mary's husband, William of Orange, to the throne. On William's death in 1702, Queen Anne restored to favor John Churchill, making him Duke of Marlborough. As captain-general of the British army, Marlborough (Winston Churchill's forebear), won a series of victories over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession.
Moving forward in time and space: Rhône-Poulenc (RP) celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1995, a century rich in French chemical industry history. It was founded by an emerging French merchant class who had great success as the terrors and economic disaster of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars subsided.

In June of 1895 chemists Prosper Monnet, Auguste Gilliard and Jean-Marie Cartier founded Société Chemique des Usines du Rhône, [Rhône Factories Chemical Company]. Monnet, Cartier, and Marc Gilliard (the father of Auguste) had previously worked together near Geneva to develop and produce dyes. The Saint-Fons site on the Rhône, south of Lyon, would be their first new factory to make dyes from coal-tar chemistry. Base chemicals such as phenol, salicylic acid and vanillin still are produced by RP today.

Part of the Company began in medicines and home remedies, a drugstore business which took on the sale chemical supplies for photography after 1837. The two partners, Pierre Whittmann and his son-in-law Étienne Poulenc, as well as Étienne's three sons, turned to research and manufacturing, creating a business that would be known as Établissements Poulenc Frères. The merger of these two companies in 1928, along with various additional acquisitions, have established RP as a premier chemical and drug company.

In the 1920's the Company began to work with the Gillet family of Lyon to make artificial silk. The Gillet family manufactured dyes and textiles. The processes for making new fabrics and leather dyes led to the manufacture of new compounds such as acetic acid, tin dichloride and sodium phosphate. The Pont-de-Claix factory (usine) was originally established near Grenoble by the Société du Chlore Liquide, which produced chemical weapons (phosgene-based) in response to the German chemical attacks in the Great War. These assets lie in the Rhône River watershed near Hauterives on a tributary called the Galaure and at le Pont-de-Claix on another tributary, the Drac. The original owner is Rhodia Chemie, a subsidery of Rhône-Poulenc.

The Gillet family acquired Usine du Pont-de-Claix in 1919 and changed its entire chemical holdings to the name Progil in 1920. After the war Progil expanded into petrochemical and agricultural fields. Phosgene (from the reaction of chlorine gas and carbon monoxide over an activated carbon catalyst) still is used at the site to produce chemicals like hexamethylene diisocyannate (HDI) and toluene diisocyannate (TDI).

Progil joined RP in stages between 1969 and 1975 (nominally 1972) when French President Pompidou made RP the centerpiece in the reorganization of the entire French chemical industry. Despite the reorganization, RP was nationalized in 1982 under François Mitterrand. It began the process of privatization again in 1986, which was completed in 1993. In recent years, RP has spun off Rhodia, a chemical company, and has merged with Hoechst A.G. to form Adventis -- a situation very much related to and discussed in our history of Celtic Germany.
Hauterives (Department (or province) of Drôme), a country village with about 1100 inhabitants rests at the foot of steep hills (high banks) in a peaceful river valley. The town is most famous for le Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval, a stone, concrete and shell structure (et classée monument historique), defying simple description, which took one man 33 years to build. In 1965 an affiliate of what was then Progil, "Sopachimie et Compagnie Les Salines du Sud Est", obtained salt from its first brine well. The salt strata lies about one mile beneath the valley floor. This salt is disolved in water and piped to a factory at Pont-de-Claix.

Grenoble: The ancient city of Grenoble sponsored the Winter Games of 1968, and is close to other French Olympic sites such as Albertville. The city of Grenoble is the capital of the Department (or province) of Isère, a region north of and separate from Provence. The term Franco-Provençal refers to a distinctive group of dialects still spoken northeast of Provence, extending slightly into Switzerland and Italy, an area which includes Isère. In a move to preserve regional heritage and culture, the French government in 1993 instructed state schools to start teaching Provençal. The bridge at Claix, le Pont-de-Claix, is upstream from Grenoble on the Drac river - Drac a local term for dragon, originating from a Latin word borrowed from the Greek term for a great serpent, drakõn; and, applied to the river because of the fierceness and unpredictability of the mountain runoff that feeds it. The site is just down river from (north of) le Pont Rouge. Steep mountains, the Alps, surround the Isère valley in which Grenoble rests. Grenoble and the Isère region share a reputation with Lyon as being centers of the Resistance during the last world war.

The larger Provençal region, which encompassed historically Grenoble, extended significantly north of its current speech area, and its standard written style bridged many local dialects. The Provençal literature of the 11th to 15th centuries is quite distinct and includes the noted poetry of the troubadours. The standard (literary) language began to wane as France established dominion over the south in the 14th century. It was not until the 19th century that the poet Frédéric Mistral led the movement to reestablish a standard for literary Provençal.
Le Dauphiné Libéré, with a circulation of about 400 thousand, is the region's chief newspaper. Its name reflects the period in history when the area around Grenoble, then independent of France, underwent forced political consolidation instigated by the Capetian monarchy -- that is when the southern portion of the middle Frankish kingdom was forcibly united with the kingdom of the west.

The first step in the political incorporation focused on these Cathari (or Albigenes) of this sect. The death of Saint Bruno von Köln (born ca. 1030) is recorded as October 6, 1101. Bruno was born in Cologne, Germany to the Hartenfaust family in about 1055AD. He became an instructor in theology at the Cathedral School in Reims and later the director of the school. After 1080 he lived as a hermit. He founded the Carthusian Order, embracing a life of poverty, manual work, prayer and the transcription of manuscripts. The order was founded while Bruno was living in isolation in the mountains north of Grenoble. His feast day is October 6th. He was never formally canonized due to the reluctance of the Carthusian order to accept public honors, but Pope Clement X designated his feast day as a "double feast" and he is regarded as a Saint. In later years, the Order fell out of favor and was subject to a crusade and the region subjected to a land grab.

Nowadays, the Grande Chartreuse is off limits to visitors, and visiting motor vehicles are prohibited on the surrounding roads. However, about two kilometers away stands a museum about the Carthusian order and the lives of its monks and nuns. The order is supported by the sales of Chartreuse liqueur. The principle monastery of the Carthusians, which is north of Grenoble (département Isère), La Grande Chartreuse (founded as noted above in the 11th century), today is known best for a type of liqueur, not radical political theology. It lies southwest of and across the valley from Chambéry on the massif that also bears its name.

The incentive for a 13th century crusade against these awful heretics was, as it always was, land. Southern (Provençal) culture underwent extensive change after this conquest, with northern French nobility being given new property for a victory against the devil in the south. The French Crown annexed the independent trading city of Lyon in 1307, while after being removed from Provence, Grenoble became the capital of an independent feudal province, Dauphiné, which later passed to Philip VI, the first Valois monarch, in 1349. Dauphiné, thereafter, was ruled exclusively by the Crown Prince (heir apparent) of the throne of France (he called the Dauphin), the eldest son of the King. Or as one would describe in French:

Le 30 mars 1349, par le traité de Romans, le comte du Dauphiné, une région alpine qui s'étend autour de Vienne et Grenoble, vend ses États au fils du roi de France. L'héritier du trône, Charles, va prendre le titre de dauphin, qui est celui des comtes du Dauphiné. Ce titre restera jusqu'au XIXe siècle celui des héritiers du royaume de France. http://www.herodote.net/jour0330.htm

So, after this long musing on franco-gallic history, you may ask what is the point of all this today. The last of the Valois kings were replaced during the Protestant revolution (better known as the Religious Wars). It was these Wars and the later breach of promise for religious tolerance by Louis XIV, which resulted in mass migrations from France of much of its skilled merchant class. It was the excesses of that monarchy that launched the French Révolution, which began (June 7, 1788) just a few miles south down the road from Pont-de-Claix near Vizille. The village of Vizille is home to the Musée de la Révolution Française, a rich depository of archival and rare materials devoted to the Revolution that changed European Histoire.

Yet another digression within the Conclusion: Even today we are constantly reminded of this history; for instance, during Le Tour de France 2002, where the starting place of stage 5 was Soissons, capital city for King Louis (Clovis) 1500 years ago (see above). The endpoint of stage five was Rouen, the historic capital of Normandie. The city of Rouen, which sits on the River Seine downstream of Paris near the Atlantic, has a rich past … a focal-point of art; Pascal, Corneille, Fontenelle, Flaubert, Maupassant, Maurois, Géricault, Monet, Boieldieu … the list of her former famous residents reads like a Who’s Who of the arts and literature. In contrast, William the Conqueror and René-Robert Cavelier de la Salle, Canadien-Français, (who named the territory La Louisiane-connaître l'histoire des Acadiens déportés en Louisiane; who explored the Coast of Texas) -- these Normandy natives carried the prowess of Normandy and Rouen far over land and sea. Joan of Arc, Rouen’s own, died at the city at the hands of the English after a brief but brilliant debut as great french heroine (May 30, 1431), when she … est condamnée à être brûlée vive
see also Maid of Orleans -- in her death she had more power

During the third stage the race moved from one ancient roman town to another steeped in history; from Metz, family home of the oldest Frankish rulers to Reims, where dynasties of French Rulers were crowned for well over 1000 years. In 1918, a coordinated American effort culminated in the breach of the German lines near Metz in the forest of the Argonne, leading to the end of the First World War on November 11th. Metz is close to Verdun, made infamous by that war; but, most people forget that the first treaty of Verdun was in the 9th century AD. It was that treaty which kept Metz independent. Indeed, it was only in 1658, through the treaty of Westphalia, which ended the 30-years War, that Metz finally became part of France.

Stage seven ended at Avranches, which takes its name from the Abrincates tribe of Gauls whose name means "people of the estuaries." Their territory would later become the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel. It has been said that Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (1904) remains one of the most profound evaluations of the medieval imagination by one of the richest minds the United States has ever produced, Henry Adams. It contains a wonderful chapter on La Chanson de Roland, which places the epic poem in the context of the Norman invasion of England, as well as its later focus on the 12th and 13th century glasswork of the Cathedral at Chartres. While the Education of Henry Adams (an autobiography) has been available on line to read for some time, this companion work is now Web available (see http://digital.library.upenn.edu/webbin/gutbook/lookup?num=4584).

"The Salle des Chevaliers of the Order of Saint Michael created by Louis XI in 1469 was, or shall be for tourist purposes, the great hall that every palace and castle contained, and in which the life of the chateau centred. Planned at about the same time with the Cathedral of Chartres (1195-1210), and before the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis, this hall and its neighbour the refectory, studied together with the cathedral and the abbey, are an exceedingly liberal education for anybody, tourist or engineer or architect, and would make the fortune of an intelligent historian, if such should happen to exist; but the last thing we ask from them is education or instruction. We want only their poetry . . . [mes amis]."

As I have said before, I find no evolutionary theme in the tangle of history's roots. You must, however, do more than scratch the surface to obtain an understanding. Good land, well-watered, brings forth a harvest useful to those for whose sake the soil was cultivated. It is not all by accident that we in France and America celebrate important events with similar holidays, remembering how freedom was won by our ancestors (but remember too, those events that had radically different outcomes). We are not really strangers to those who live and work in France; just cousins who are meeting again, perhaps for the first time.

Est-ce que c'est par leçon que nous devons continuellement apprendre?

Placez-vous sur les chemins, regardez, Et demandez quels sont les anciens sentiers, Quelle est la bonne voie; marchez-y, Et vous trouverez le repos de vos âmes !

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[New: 05/09/97 -- revised last: 02/21/15 @10:45am EST (to add info on Moline)]
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