Ville de Blois
|Region||Centre-Val de Loire|
|Canton||Blois-1, 2 and 3 and Vineuil|
|Intercommunality||CA Blois Agglopolys|
|• Mayor (2020–2026)||Marc Gricourt (PS)|
|37.46 km2 (14.46 sq mi)|
|• Density||1,200/km2 (3,200/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+01:00 (CET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+02:00 (CEST)|
|Elevation||63–135 m (207–443 ft) |
(avg. 73 m or 240 ft)
|1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.|
Blois (// BLWAH; French: [blwa] (listen)) is a commune and the capital city of Loir-et-Cher department, in Centre-Val de Loire, France, on the banks of the lower Loire river between Orléans and Tours.
With 45,898 inhabitants by 2019, Blois is the most populated city of the department, and the 4th of the region.
Historically, the city was the capital of the County of Blois, created on 832 until its integration into the Royal domain in 1498, when Count Louis II of Orléans became King Louis XII of France. During the Renaissance, Blois was the official residence of the King of France.
Since 2013, excavations have been conducted by French National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP in French) in Vienne where they found evidence of "one or several camps of late Prehistory hunter-gatherers, who were also fishermen since fishing traps were found there.. [...] They were ancestors of the famous Neolithic farmer-herders, who were present in current France around 6,000 BCE [i.e.: 8,000 years ago]."
A major urban development begun in 1959 uncovered the remains of a late Gallic settlement and an urban centre from the Gallo-Roman period. At that time, the town was located on the road linking Chartres to Bourges. In the network of cities of the Carnutes people, Blois was a secondary settlement. Excavations carried out on the right bank between 2001 and 2016 and on the left bank in 2013-2014 revealed the presence of a largely developed town on the right bank and an occupation on the left bank during the Gallic and Gallo-Roman periods. The Loire river has undoubtedly always been a major axis route, although no traces of a port have been uncovered. However, there are remains of former bridges linking the two banks.
Though of ancient origin, Blois is first distinctly mentioned by Gregory of Tours in the 6th century, and the city gained some notability in the 9th century, when it became the seat of a powerful countship known as Blesum castrum by the counts of Blois.
Blois was first organised around a county, which was recreated in 956 by Count Theobald I of Blois, also known as The Trickster. His descendants, known as "Thibaldians", remained as Counts up until the county was incorporated into the royal domain in 1397. The House of Blois also succeeded in raising some of its members or descendants to the highest levels of the European nobility, notably by acceding to the thrones of France, England, Navarre, Spain and Portugal.
In 1171, Blois was the site of a blood libel against its Jewish community that led to 31 Jews (by some accounts 40) being burned to death. Their martyrdom also contributed to a prominent and durable school of poetry inspired by Christian persecution. In 1196, Count Louis I of Blois granted privileges to the townsmen; a commune, which survived throughout the Middle Ages, probably dated from this time. The counts of the Châtillon dynastic line resided at Blois more often than their predecessors, and the oldest parts of the Château of Blois (from the 13th century) were built by them.
In the Middle Ages, Blois was the seat of the County of Champagne when the latter passed to the French crown in 1314, forming the province of Champagne within the Kingdom of France. By 1397, Count Guy II of Blois-Châtillon offered the county to his cousin, Duke Louis I of Orléans, son of King Charles VI. In 1429, Joan of Arc made Blois her base of operations for the relief of Orléans. She rode the 35 miles on 29 April from Blois to relieve Orléans. In 1440, after his captivity in England, Duke Charles of Orléans (son of Duke Louis I) took up residence in the Château of Blois, where in 1462 his son was born, Duke Louis II of Orléans who would afterwards be known as Louis XII.
By 1498, King Charles VIII died with no heirs in the Château of Amboise. As a result, Duke Louis II ran 22 miles between the Château and Blois, and was crowned as King Louis XII of France. He then married Charles VIII's widow, Queen Anne of Brittany, in 1499. The birth of their daughter, Claude of France, started the union of Brittany with France. Louis XII, as the last hereditary Count of Blois, naturally established his royal Court in the city. The Treaty of Blois, which temporarily halted the Italian Wars, was signed there in 1504–1505. During his reign, the city experienced a massive redevelopment, with some architectural elements inspired from the Italian Renaissance, as seen in the medieval castle immediately turned into a château, and the construction of many hôtels particuliers for the nobility throughout the entire kingdom. One of which, Hôtel d'Alluye, was built as a copy of an Italian palace for Florimond Robertet, who was an important French minister under King Charles VIII, King Louis XII and King Francis I.
On 1 January 1515, Louis XII died. His throne would be passed to Francis I, the husband to his daughter, Claude of France. In 1519, King Francis I ordered the construction of the Château of Chambord (10 miles away from Blois), but its construction lasted for one year before he died in 1547. In the meantime, he gradually expressed his will to move to Fontainebleau, near Paris, and started to abandon Blois. Much of the royal furniture was moved from Blois to Fontainebleau by 1539.
The French Wars of Religion was a significantly destructive conflict among the French people. The city's inhabitants included many Calvinists, and in 1562 and 1567 it was the scene of struggles between them and the supporters of the Catholic Church. On 4 July 1562, Blois and Beaugency, conquered by Protestants just before, were looted by Catholics led by Maréchal de St. André. On 7 February 1568, Protestants under Captain Boucard's command, looted and invaded the town, eventually killing many Catholics. Grey friars were also killed and thrown in the well of their own convent. In addition, all the churches were ransacked. In 1576 and 1588, King Henry III convoked the Estates General to Blois where he attained refuge after an uprising called the Day of the Barricades. In response, Duke Henry I of Guise was assassinated on 23 December 1588 for his involvement in the uprising. The following day, his brother, Cardinal Louis II of Guise, who was also Archbishop of Reims, suffered the same fate. Their deaths were shortly followed by that of the Queen-Mother, Catherine de' Medici.
In the 16th century, the French Royal court often made Blois their leisure resort.
After the departure of the Royal Court towards Paris, Blois lost the status of Royal residence, along with the luxury and economic activity that came with it. King Henry IV displaced the Royal library to Fontainebleau, which would later be the National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France).
In 1606, Philippe de Béthune gave his ownership of Vienne-lez-Blois village, on the left bank of the Loire river, to Blois, making it a part of the city afterwards known as Blois-Vienne. From 1617 to 1619 Marie de' Medici, wife of King Henri IV, exiled from the court by his son, King Louis XIII, lived in the château. By 1622, the Counter-Reformation got establishment in Blois, founded a Society of Jesus and financed the construction of the St. Louis Chapel, which is today St. Vincent Church.
Then in 1634, Louis XIII exiled his brother, Gaston, Duke of Orléans and Count of Blois, who became attached to the city. The Duke in 1657, found a hospital in Blois-Vienne, now named Résidence Gaston d'Orléans, and financed the reconstruction of the Hôtel-Dieu. He remained in Blois until his death, in 1660.
Under Louis XIV's reign, Blois became un independent bishopric. David Nicolas de Bertier, first bishop of Blois from 1697, chose as seated cathedral St. Solenne Church, that had been destroyed by a storm and was under reconstruction, before being completed 3 years later in 1700, thanks to the intervention of Colbert's wife, who herself came from Blois. The new edifice became Blois Cathedral and got dedicated to St. Louis.
A wide episcopal palace is built by King Louis XIV's official architect, Jacques Gabriel, right next to the newly built cathedral, on a site overlooking the Loire Valley. Landscaping of terraced gardens began in 1703 and lasted nearly 50 years. The so-called Bishopric Gardens were first open to the public in 1791 by Henri Grégoire (known as the Abbot Grégoire), the first constitutional bishop after the French Revolution.
During the night between 6 and 7 February 1716, the medieval bridge collapsed. Construction of a new one is ordered during the following year. Jacques-Gabriel Bridge was inaugurated in 1724. All the levies were consolidated, and the river channel of La Bouillie in the prolongation of La Creusille Harbor was closed and dried out.
When Duke Gaston of Orléans died, the château ended up stripped by King Louis XIV, completely abandoned, to the point that King Louis XVI once considered to demolish it by 1788. The edifice was saved when the Royal-Comtois Regiment established their base within it.
In 1790, Orléanais province was dismantled, and the First Republic created the Loir-et-Cher department, with Blois as the local capital.
By 1814, Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma and wife of Napoleon I, found refuge in Blois.
Another wind blew in Blois in the 19th century. First, the railroad came in 1846 with the inauguration of the Paris–Tours railway, whose Blois Station is a stop. The competition against river transportation gradually forced La Creusille Harbor to reinvent its activity. In parallel, the city got more industrialised from 1848 thanks to a successful chocolate brand created by Bloisian, Victor-Auguste Poulain.
Like Paris, Blois urban organisation was redesigned during 1850 and 1870 by Mayor Eugène Riffault, who was friends with Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann. Thus, he had bound through a boulevard holding his name the modern upper town (where the cathedral, Hôtel of Préfecture, and Halle aux Grains are located), and the medieval lower town. He also paved the way to the construction of the boulevard Daniel Depuis, in the West of Blois. Between 1862 and 1865, the Denis-Papin staircase are built under La Morandière's supervision, in the axis of Jacques-Gabriel Bridge and Blois-Vienne's Wilson Avenue.
In the meantime, the lower town faced three of the most significant flooding of the Loire river: in 1846, 1856 (the worst), and 1866. The downtown districts of St. Jean and Blois-Vienne were under water, as well as La Bouillie spillway.
On 13 December 1871, the Prussian army took control of Blois during the Franco-Prussian War. The city was taken back by Lieutenant Georges de Villebois-Mareuil, General Joseph Pourcet, and General Bertrand de Chabron. Since then, a memorial stands on Wilson Avenue in Vienne.
In 1939, Blois Basilica construction was completed. That same year, between 29 January and 8 February, more than 3,100 Spanish refugees came to the Loir-et-Cher department, fleeing the Spanish Civil War and Dictator Francisco Franco. In June 1940, the German bombings destroyed a large part of the downtown, and the French destroyed the 10th arch of Jacques-Gabriel Bridge to prevent further advance for their enemies. The German army bombed the former Town Hall on 16 June, thus killing Mayor Émile Laurens in the process, and took over the city 2 days later, on 18 June, the exact same day of Charles de Gaulle's Appeal for Internal Resistance.
Between June and August 1944, US-English-allied bombings destroyed other infrastructures, like the railroad bridge between Blois and Romorantin. In total during WWII, 230 people were killed, and 1,522 buildings were entirely or partially destroyed. On 16 August 1944, the German troops ran to Blois-Vienne to get refuge there and destroyed the three central arches of the bridge. On 1 September, they surrendered. The bridge was rebuilt and reopened in December 1948.
In 1959, Mayor Marcel Bühler received President Charles de Gaulle and launched the construction of the ZUP, at the North of the city, on the same scheme of so-called banlieues of Paris or any other French city.
Graphs are temporarily unavailable due to technical issues.
|Source: EHESS and INSEE (1968–2017)|
Since 1986, Blois is part of the French Towns of Art and History program, which promotes the cultural and historical estate.
Lodges Façade of the Château of Blois, on Francis I wing, seen from Victor-Hugo Square.
Rosarium in the Bishopric Gardens.
Street cross between rue des Papegaults and rue des Petis Degrés St. Louis.
The Château of Blois, a Renaissance multi-style château once occupied by King Louis XII, is located in the centre of the city, and an 18th-century stone bridge spans the Loire. It was also the residence of many Counts of Blois, who were amongst the most closest vassals to the King of France between the 9th and the 14th century. Many gardens are located around the château, like:
Right in front of the château, La Maison de la Magie Robert-Houdin (i.e.: Robert-Houdin House of Magic) is a museum dedicated to illusionism. This is the only public museum in Europe which incorporates in one place collections of magic and a site for permanent performing arts, and directly reflects the personality of Robert-Houdin.
Opened after bombings in 1944, the place stands right below the château, closest to the Loire river, and is actually located at the center of Blois downtown. There are local shops and restaurants, and a 16th-century fountain stands below the Sycamores planted in the place. Known as Louis XII Fountain (Fontaine Louis XII), this is one of the greatest and oldest water inlets throughout the city, but far from being the only one. Among the other founts, there are:
Blois is also the location of so-called Maison de la BD, a museum devoted to the art of comic books. Since the 1980s, this museum hosts an annual comic festival in late November called BD Boum, described as "the leading free comic book festival in France".
Already by 924, monks from the St. Lomer community were given some acres below the medieval castle, but outside the city walls, on the bank of the Loire river. In the 13th century, a proper church was built, then fortified because of the Hundred Years' War. St. Lomer Abbey was completely destroyed during the French Wars of Religion. The edifice was rebuilt until the early 18th century. When the French Revolution broke out by 1789, the church was turnt into a Hôtel-Dieu, namely a charity hospital for the have-nots, because Revolutionners destroyed many clergy- and royal-related monuments. After that, new buildings were added to the original St. Lomer Abbey, which became St. Nicholas Church, and the additional edifices remained dedicated to the Hôtel-Dieu of the city. Nonetheless, this part was gradually abandoned and taken back by some public services. A reconversion project is currently under study.
In the late 19th century, Bloisian industrialist and chocolatier Victor-Auguste Poulain established his brand's factory next to Blois station. The premises moved in the 1980s. Nowadays, those are housings and host the National Institute and School of Applied Sciences (INSA).
As Blois is built on a pair of steep hills, winding and steep pathways run through the city, culminating in long staircases at various points. The most iconic of them is the monumental Denis-Papin staircase which overlooks the town, provides a panoramic view by overlooking the downtown and the Loire Valley, and regularly enlivens urban space with original decorations. The fountain next to the staircase is a reminder of the location of the first Town Hall, destroyed after bombings on 16 June 1940.
Blois achieved independence from the Diocese of Chartres in 1697, and the cathedral was completed by 1700. As a result, the first bishops engineered wide gardens on several levels, next to the premises. Since the destruction of the former Blois town hall during World War II, local authorities requisitioned the bishop's apartments to establish there the new town hall. Now organised as an urban park, the gardens offer a panoramic view on the downtown, the Loire river, and Blois-Vienne. A statue of Joan of Arc, given to the city by American patron J. Sanford Saltus, stands in the middle of the park. Bishopric gardens are open to public all the year, and a remarkable rose garden can be visited from 15 May and 30 September, each year.
Since Count Louis II of Orléans became King Louis XII of France in 1498, the city started to host many noblepersons from all the Kingdom. All would build their own mansion as close from the château as they could. King Louis XII also imported Renaissance style from Italy due to his successful military campaigns there. Among these so-called hôtels particuliers, there are:
In addition, many citizens from the peoples engineered timber-framing buildings all across the city, including:
Please note all the above edifices have been listed as historical monuments.
Blois-Vienne (or merely Vienne) is the name given to the southern part of the city, on the left bank of the Loire river. Independent from the city until 1606, there are many traces of the river's past. The main link between both banks is the Jacques-Gabriel Bridge, built in the early 18th century. From the levees circling the surroundings to other abandoned bridges, Vienne has also conserved a harbour, named La Creusille, which is now an urban park right on La Loire à Vélo bike route. Beyond the levees, La Bouillie Park is getting rehabilitated, and actually is a spillway in the event of floodings. Further to the south of the city, the Forêt de Russy is a reminder of the thick woods that once covered the area.
The city also is provided with many religious edifices, including:
The A10 motorway connects Blois with Paris, Orléans and Tours. Blois Railway Station offers direct connections from Paris, Orléans, Tours, Nantes, and to several regional destinations.
Regular commuting connections exist between Blois and most cities in the surroundings, including:
Blois is twinned with:
Athos, the count of La Fère (from Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers) has a castle in Blois, in Twenty Years After, and The Vicomte de Bragelonne (from the same author).
Louis Hutin, became count of Champagne. He was the last independent count of the province, which became attached to the French crown on his accession to the throne of France in 1314
Bloisian artisans' artworks (A list):