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Châteaubriant (Municipality, Loire-Atlantique, France)

Last modified: 2022-03-11 by ivan sache
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Flag of Châteaubriant - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 15 May 2021

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Presentation of Châteaubriant

The municipality of Châteaubriant (12,011 inhabitants in 2018; 3,352 ha) is located 70 km north-east of Nantes.

Châteaubriant emerged in the 11th century when Brient, an envoy of the Count of Rennes, built a castle (château) on a motte bordering rivers Chére and Rollard. Later, he also founded the Saint-Sauveur-de-Béré and a fair in the Béré suburb. The fortress of Châteaubriant was then a part of eastern Brittany's defensive line against the kingdom of France, along with the other fortified towns of Vitré, Fougéres, Ancenis and Clisson. The town developed in the 12th century around the western flank of the castle. Due to the castle's strategic location, the town was subject to several battles and invasions during the Middle Ages. One of the largest sieges was commissioned by Louis IX of France in 1235. Insecurity led the lords to raise city walls during the 13th century. Improved and extended several times, the walls were finally completed in the 15th century. They had five gates, of which only one still exists today.

After the primitive house of Châteaubriant, founded by Brient, became extinct in the 14th century, the barony of Châteaubriant was inherited by the house of Dinan. In 1486, the baroness of Châteaubriant, Françoise de Dinan, opposed duke Francis II of Brittany and signed the "Châteaubriant treaty", by which barons of Brittany asked the king of France to settle the dispute. The treaty, which betrayed the authority of Francis II, was one of the reasons of the Mad War, emphasizing the political weakness of the duchy of Brittany. During the war, Breton castles were taken one after the other by the French. Besieged in 1488, Châteaubriant surrendered after one week.
After the war, the castle was upgraded to fit the new military techniques, and was redecorated in the First Renaissance style.

After the house ofDinan became extinct, the barony went to the House of Laval. During the 16th century, John of Laval, governor of Brittany from 1531 to 1542, built a new Renaissance palace inside the old castle for his wife, Françoise of Foix. At his death,John of Laval bequeathed his barony to Anne of Montmorency. During the Renaissance, Brittany was annexed to France; Francis I, Henry II and Charles IX visited Châteaubriant.
During the Wars of Religion, Châteaubriant was one of the headquarters of the Catholic League, because the Montmorency family was on the Catholic side. At the beginning of the 17th century, the last Montmorency was executed for betrayal and his possessions were given to the House of Condé.
During the French Revolution, Châteaubriant was the scene of violent fighting between Republicans and Royalists.

During the 19th century, the town was modernized. Most of the city walls were destroyed, new streets were built and the parish church was reconstructed. A new town hall and a covered market were also built; the castle became a courthouse and the seat of the sous-préfecture. Several factories were founded in the suburbs, while several iron mines were opened in the region.

The Choisel concentration camp opened in 1940. Some 45,000 war prisoners, mainly French but also British, were interned there. In 1941, the prisoners were sent to Germany, and replaced by Gypsies, black market traffickers, prostitutes, and, finally, political activists, mostly Communists, treated as hostages. Following the murder of Karl Hotz, Feldkommandant of the Feldgericht of Nantes by Resistance fighters, 27 hostages were shot in a stone-pit outside the town on 22 October 1941. Another 21 hostages were executed outside Nantes the same day. Among the Châteaubriant hostages, Guy Môquet, a 17-year-old man, became a symbol of the French Resistance.
The town was bombed in 1944 by the Allies, targeting the foundries. A part of the castle and the town center were also destroyed.

Olivier Touzeau, 15 May 2021

Flag of Châteaubriant

The flag of Châteaubriant (photo) is white with the municipal greater coat of arms, "Per pale, 1. Azure three fleurs-de-lis or a baton gules, 2. Ermine plain, inescutcheon gules semy of fleurs de lis or", and the name of the municipality below.

The first quarter of the arms represents the arms of the princes of Condé, lords of Châteaubriant from the 17th century until the French Revolution. The second quarter features the arms of the Duchy of Brittany.
The escutcheon represents the arms of the early lords of Châteaubriant, which was, originally, "Gules semy of pine cones or". During the battle of Mansurah, an episode of the Seventh Crusade, the lord of Châteaubriant saved Louis IX, who rewarded him by replacing on his arms the pine cones with fleurs de lis, the royal symbol.
[Encyclopédie Markavel en ligne]

Olivier Touzeau, 15 May 2021