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Angoulême Cathedral

Coat of arms

Coordinates: 45°38′56″N 0°09′39″E / 45.6489°N 0.1608°E / 45.6489; 0.1608Coordinates: 45°38′56″N 0°09′39″E / 45.6489°N 0.1608°E / 45.6489; 0.1608

Country France
Region Poitou-Charentes
Department Charente
Arrondissement Angoulême
Intercommunality Angoulême
 • Mayor (2008–2014) Philippe Lavaud
 • Land1 21.85 km2 (8.44 sq mi)
Population (2008)
 • Population2 43,112
 • Population2 density 2,000/km2 (5,100/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 16015 / 16000
Elevation 27–130 m (89–427 ft)
(avg. 100 m or 330 ft)

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Angoulême [ɑ̃ɡulɛm] (Engoleime in Occitan, Engoulaeme in the regional Occitan dialect) is a commune in southwestern France. It is the capital of the Charente department, in Poitou-Charentes. Based on a plateau overlooking a meander of the Charente River, the city is nicknamed the "balcony of the southwest". The city proper's population is a little less than 50,000 but is the center of an urban area of 110,000 people, stretched over fifteen kilometers from north to south.

When it was the old capital of the Angoumois in the Ancien Régime, Angoulême was a fortified town which was highly coveted due to its position at the center of many roads important to communication, and therefore suffered many sieges. From its tumultuous past, the city, perched on a rocky spur, inherited a large historical, religious and urban patrimony, which attracts a lot of tourists.

Nowadays, Angoulême is the center of an agglomeration which is one of the most industrialised between Loire and Garonne (paper industry in 15th century, foundry and electromechanical engineering until a recent period). It is also a commercial and administrative city, with its own university and a vibrant cultural life.

Angoulême is well known for the Angoulême International Comics Festival (Festival International de la Bande-dessinée), which receives nearly 200,000 visitors each year.


Early history

Angoulême (Iculisma or Ecolisna, later Angoulesme) was taken by Clovis from the Visigoths in 507. In the 9th century, it was invaded and plundered by the Normans.

Angoulême was ruled by counts starting in the 9th century. The most important of the early counts was William Taillefer, whose descendants held the title until the end of the 12th century. Withdrawn from the descendants on more than one occasion by Richard Coeur-de-Lion, the title passed to King John of England at the time of his marriage to Isabella of Angoulême, daughter of Count Aymer of Angoulême. After becoming a widow, Isabella subsequently married Hugh X of Lusignan in 1220, and the title was passed to the Lusignan family, counts of Marche. On the death of Hugh XIII in 1302 without issue, his possessions passed to the crown.

In 1360 Angoulême was surrendered by the Treaty of Brétigny to the Plantagenets; they were, however, expelled in 1373 by the troops of Charles V, who granted the town numerous privileges.

In 1394 the county came to the house of Orléans. One of its members, Francis I became king of France in 1515 and raised Angoulême to the rank of duchy in favour of his mother Louise of Savoy. Angoulême suffered much during the French Wars of Religion, especially in 1568 after its capture by the Protestants under Coligny.

The duchy, now crown land, thereafter was passed on within the ruling house of France. One of its holders was Charles of Valois, "natural" (or illegitimate) son of Charles IX. The last duke of Angoulême was Louis-Antoine (died 1844), eldest son of Charles X of France.

20th century history

Angoulême was marginally to the west of the demarcation line during World War II, and thus occupied by the Germans. Being on a main railway line with extensive marshalling yards, it was of strategic importance and a target of the French Resistance. Late in the war, Allied aircraft bombed the railway station to disrupt German supply lines to the north, where the battle for Normandy was under way after the invasion by the Allies on D-Day.

A museum in the commune is devoted to the Resistance and the deportations of Jewish and political prisoners. A statue near the station commemorates the deportations to the concentration camps. The survivors of Operation Frankton, notable for their daring raid by canoe on the German U-boat base at Bordeaux, made their escape across country to a safe house at Ruffec just north of Angoulême. This is now the site of a shop featuring British goods. The Monument to the Resistance is in Chasseneuil to the east.


Angoulême is located 106 km (66 mi) north-east of Bordeaux on the railway between Bordeaux and Poitiers.

The town proper occupies an elevated promontory, washed on the north by the Charente River and on the south and west by the Anguienne, a small tributary. The more important of the suburbs lie towards the east, where the promontory joins the main plateau. The countryside to the north and west is rather flat agricultural land, whereas to the east and south it is more forested and hilly. It is the north-west extremity of the Périgord Vert.


Main sights

In place of its ancient fortifications, Angoulême is encircled by boulevards above the old city walls, known as the Remparts, from which fine views may be obtained in all directions. Within the town the streets are often narrow. Apart from the cathedral and the hôtel de ville, the architecture is of little interest to purists. However, the "old town" has been preserved, maintained and largely reserved for pedestrians. It has a cobbled restaurant quarter, with several galleries and boutiques.

Angoulême Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Peter, is a church in the Romanesque style. Dating from the 11th and 12th centuries, it has undergone frequent restoration. It was partly rebuilt in the latter half of the nineteenth century by architect Paul Abadie. The façade, flanked by two towers with cupolas, is decorated with arcades featuring statuary and sculpture, the whole representing the "Last Judgment". The crossing is surmounted by a dome. The north transept is topped by a fine square tower over 160 ft (49 m) high.

The hôtel de ville, also designed by Abadie, is a handsome 19th-century structure. It preserved and incorporated two towers of the château of the counts of Angoulême, on the site of which it was built. It contains museums of paintings and archaeology.[1]

Tours of the town include the murs peints, various walls painted in street-art cartoon style, a feature of Angoulême and related to its association with the bande dessinée, the comic strip. A statue has been erected to Hergé, creator of The Adventures of Tintin. The attractive covered market Les Halles, on the site of the old jail, was restored and refurbished in 2004 and is a central part of city life.

City panorama

Angoulême seen from the golf course
St-Ausone church, St-Peter cathedral and Hôtel de ville


Angoulême is a centre of the paper-making and printing industry, with which the town has been connected since the 14th century. Papermaking is favoured because of the uniform temperature and volume of the water year-round, partly due to the Touvre River, which joins the Charente at Angoulême. The Touvre is the second largest river with an underground source in France after the River Sorgue (La Fontaine de Vaucluse).

The Touvre emerges as a full-blown river from the head of the valley at Ruelle. A trout fishery is located at the source and a pumping station supplies the drinking water needs of Angoulême. Most of the paper mills are situated on the banks of watercourses in the neighbourhood of the town. Cardboard for packaging, as well as fine vellum for correspondence, have been produced in quantity.

The best known export is Rizla+ cigarette roll-up paper, a combination of riz (rice paper) and LaCroix, after Monsieur LaCroix the founder. Le Nil is another local brand of roll-up paper, named not after the Nile in Egypt but after a small tributary of the Charente. The Le Nil paper-mill is now the Paper Museum.[2] Paper-making in the town has been in decline.

The economy of the modern town also is supplemented by annual tourist events and festivals. For example, the printers and paper-makers, whose industry relied on intricate machinery, became skilled mechanics and among the first to become fascinated with the motor car in the late 19th century. Motor trials were held regularly, starting on the long straight road through Puymoyen, now a suburb. Monsieur LaCroix (of RIZLA+) was a celebrated motorcycle racer. The Paris-Madrid road race of 1903, notorious for its cancellation due to numerous deaths, passed through Angoulême. Marcel, one of the brothers Renault, was one of the victims. The place of his death is marked by a memorial on road RN10 to Poitiers.

The town has been closely associated with motor trials and racing. The Circuit des Remparts (see below) is held annually, one of the last such street-racing course in France, together with Pau (and Monaco). In addition to local heroes, internationally known racing drivers, such as Juan Manuel Fangio, José Froilán González, Jean-Pierre Wimille, Pierre Veyron and Maurice Trintignant, have been regular participants. The famous cars which they drove frequently are presented at the modern event. The hotel and restaurant trade receives a considerable boost from the races.

Subsidiary industries, such as the manufacture of machinery, electric motors and wire fabric, are of considerable importance. Angoulême is the most inland navigable port on the Charente River. The traditional river boat is the Gabare. Iron and copper founding, brewing and tanning also continue. The manufacture of gunpowder, confectionery, heavy iron goods, gloves, boots and shoes (including the traditional pantoufle carpet slippers) and cotton goods are also important. There is wholesale and retail trade in wine, cognac and building-stone.


The Gare d'Angoulême railway station offers connections to Paris, Bordeaux, Tours, Limoges and several regional destinations. The main line of the Paris Bordeaux railway passes through a tunnel beneath the town and is due for large-scale refurbishment to improve journey times. The new high-speed link between Tours and Bordeaux has been approved and will by-pass the town centre to the West, but with a link to Angoulême station from both north and south. It is due to open in 2017.

Angoulême - Brie - Champniers Airport, newly named Angoulême-Cognac airport, is situated 9.5 km (5.9 mi) NE of the city centre in Champniers, just off the N10. The runway can accommodate the Boeing 737, and a new restaurant and shops were added in 2008.[3] However Ryanair stopped its Angoulême-Stansted service in 2010. Air France used to operate a service to Lyon. There are currently no regular flights to/from Angoulême airport.

Local Buses – The city bus system is run by STGA.

City of Festivals

Angoulême, along with paper and printing, has long been associated with animation, illustration and the graphic arts. The Cité internationale de la Bande Dessinée et de l'Image[4] includes an exhibition space and cinema in a converted brewery down by the river. A new museum dedicated to the motion picture opened in 2007 at the newly restored chais on opposite side of the river at Saint Cybard. The architect was Jean-François Bodin. The Angoulême International Comics Festival takes place for a week every year in January and attracts nearly a quarter of a million international visitors.

Another festival, small yet influential, is FITA, held each December. FITA stands for Forum International des Technologies de l’Animation, International Forum for Animation Technologies. The event was started in 1998. Some 250 – 300 French professionals from animation, effects, post-production and game development studios: SFX supervisors, head of studios, animators, technical directors, meet to share information and hear internationally renowned speakers on the latest advances and new ideas in entertainment technology.

The Circuit des Remparts motor racing event, with its street circuit around the ramparts and past the Cathedral, is held the Sunday of the mid weekend in September. It is also the occasion of the world's largest gathering of pre-war Bugatti race cars, usually around 30 cars, many being examples of the legendary T35, the Ferraris of their day. British vintage and classic cars are also in attendance, most having been driven to the event. The Saturday of the "Remparts" weekend includes a tourist rally (as opposed to a speed event) for classic and sporting cars, around the Cognac area.

In another international sports event, Angoulême was the site of the finish of Stages 18 and 19 (ITT) in the 2007 Tour de France.

Angoulême also hosts the Gastronomades festival at Christmas, Music Metisse in May and Piano en Valois in October.

A new exhibition centre (Le Parc Des Expos) and a new shopping mall at the Champ de Mars in the town centre (opening Sept/Oct 2007) are the latest additions to the town.

Angoulême is the seat of a (LISA – High School of Image and Sound), training colleges, a school of artillery, a library and several learned societies.

Military presence

Two regiments of the French armed forces are currently garrisoned in the City:

Several other military formations have been previously garrisoned in the city, including:

  • 107th Infantry Regiment, from before 1906 for an unknown period of time and then from in 1939 to 1940
  • The 21st Artillery Regiment, 1906
  • The 34th Artillery Regiment, 1906
  • The 41st Divisional Artillery Regiment, 1939–1940
  • The 502nd Tank Regiment, 1939–1940.



Angoulême was the birthplace of:

International relations

Twin towns – sister cities

Angoulême is twinned with:

See also



External links

  • Official Web site (in French)
  • Visiting Angoulême
  • Picture of the Cathedral
  • Circuit des remparts
  • Cricket club
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