NANTES, a city of western France, capital of the department of Loire-Inferieure, on the right bank of the Loire, 35 m. above its mouth, at the junction of the Orleans, Western and State railways, 55 m. W.S.W. of Angers by rail. In population (town, 118,244; commune, 133,247, in 1906) Nantes is the first city of Brittany. The Loire here divides into several branches forming islands over portions of which the city has spread. It receives on the left hand the Sevre Nantaise, and on the right the Erdre, which forms the outlet of the canal between Nantes and Brest. The maritime port of Nantes is reached by way of the Loire and the ship canal between the island of Carnet and La Martiniere (91 m.). Vessels drawing as much as 20 ft. 8 in., and at spring tides, 22 ft., can reach the port, which extends over a length of about 12 m. The outer port as far as the industrial suburb of Chantenay has a length of over half a mile. The principal quays extend along the right bank of the branch which flows past the town, and on the western shore of the island of Gloriette. Their total length used for trading purposes is 5 m., and warehouses cover an area of 17 acres. A slipway facilitates the repairing of ships. The river port occupies the St Felix and Madeleine branches, and has quays extending for half a mile. Finally, on the Erdre is a third port for inland navigation. The quays are bounded by railway lines along the right bank of the river, which the railway to St Nazaire follows. The older quarter of Nantes containing the more interesting buildings is situated to the east of the Erdre.
The cathedral, begun in 1434 in the Gothic style, was unfinished till the 19th century when the transept and choir were added. There are two interesting monuments in the transept - on the right Michel Colomb's tomb of Francis II., duke of Brittany, and his second wife Marguerite de Foix (1507), and on the left that of General Juchault de Lamoriciere, a native of Nantes, by Paul Dubois (1879). Of the other churches the most interesting is St Nicolas, a modern building in the style of the 13th century, on the right bank of the Erdre. Between the cathedral and the Loire, from which it is separated only by the breadth of the quay, stands the castle of Nantes, founded in the 9th or 10th century. Rebuilt by Francis II. and the duchess Anne, it is flanked by huge towers and by a bastion erected by Philip Emmanuel duke of Mercoeur in the time of the League. A fine façade in the Gothic style looks into the courtyard. From being the residence of the dukes of Brittany, the castle became a state prison in which Jean-Francois Paul de Gondi, Cardinal de Retz, Nicholas Fouquet, and Marie Louise of Naples, duchess of Berry, were at different times confined; it is now occupied as the artillery headquarters. The chapel in which the marriage of Louis XII. with Anne of Brittany was celebrated was destroyed by an explosion in 1800. The Exchange (containing the tribunal and chamber of commerce), the Grand Theatre, the Prefecture and the town hall are buildings of the last half of the 18th or early 19th century; the law courts date from the middle of the 19th century. Nantes has an archaeological collection in the Dobree Museum, and in the museum of fine arts a splendid collection of paintings, modern French masters being well represented; it also has a natural history museum, a large library rich in manuscripts and a botanical garden to the east. The Pommeraye Passage, which connects streets on different levels and is built in stages connected by staircases, dates from 1843. Between the Loire and the Erdre run the Cours St Pierre and the Cours St Andre, adorned at the two ends of the line by statues of Anne of Brittany and Arthur III., Bertrand du Guesclin and Olivier de Clisson, and separated by the Place Louis XVI., with a statue of that monarch on a lofty column. The Place Royale, to the west of the Erdre, the great meetingplace of the principal thoroughfares of the city, contains a monumental fountain with allegorical statues of Nantes and the Loire and its affluents. A flight of steps at the west end of the town leads up from the quay to the colossal cast-iron statue of St Anne, whence a splendid view may be obtained over the valley of the Loire. Several old houses of the 15th and 16th centuries, the fish market and the Salorges (a vast granite building now used as a bonded warehouse) are of interest. Nantes has two great hospitals--St Jacques on the left bank of the Loire, and the Hotel-Dieu in Gloriette Island. It is the seat of a bishopric and a court of assizes, and headquarters of the XI. army corps; it has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a board of trade-arbitrators, a chamber of commerce and a branch of the Bank of France. The educational institutions include lycees for both sexes, a training college for girls, schools of medicine and pharmacy and law, a preparatory school to higher instruction, science and letters, schools of music, art and navigation, technical and commercial schools, and a school for deaf-mutes and the blind.
Among the more important industries of Nantes are sugarrefining, flour-milling, rice-husking, the manufacture of oil, soap, flour pastes and biscuits, and the preparation of tinned provisions (sardines, vegetables, &c.); the manufacture of tin boxes, tiles, chemical manures, acid from chestnut bark, tobacco, leather, wood-pulp for paper, rope, boots and shoes, brushes and glass; saw-milling, shipbuilding, metal founding and the construction of engineering material; and wool and cottonspinning and the manufacture of cotton and other fabrics, hosiery and knitted goods. Coal and patent fuel (chiefly from Great Britain) are the most important imports; next come phosphates and pyrites; other imports are timber and pulp-wood. The principal exports are bunker-coal (to French colonies), pyrites, slate, hoops and provisions. In the ten years 1898-1907 the average annual value of the imports was £2,657,000; of the exports £795,000. In 1907 there entered from foreign countries 738 vessels (209 British) with tonnage of 584,850, and cleared 778 with 154,720 tons of cargo, and 458,538 tons of ballast. Reckoning ships carrying cargo only the figures for the first and last years of the decade1898-1907were: 1898, ships entered, French 209 (tonnage 75,249), foreign 250 (tonnage 1 54,93 6); ships cleared, French 173 (tonnage 32,591), foreign 97 (tonnage 27,836): 1907, ships entered, French 186 (tonnage 127,635), foreign 419 (tonnage 361,002); ships cleared, French 126 (tonnage 81,299), foreign 128 (tonnage 45,181).
Before the Roman occupation Nantes was the chief town of the Namnetes and consisted of Condovicnum, lying on the hills away from the river, and of Portus Namnetum, on the river. Under the Romans it became a great commercial and administrative centre, though its two parts did not coalesce till the 3rd or 4th century. In the middle of the 3rd century Christianity was introduced by St Clair. Clotaire I. got possession of the city in 560, and placed it under the government of St Felix the bishop, who executed enormous works to cause the Loire to flow under the walls of the castle. After being several times subdued by Charlemagne, Brittany revolted under his successors, and Nominoe, proclaimed king in 842, ordered the fortifications of Nantes to be razed because it had sided with Charles the Bald. The Normans held the town from 843 to 936. About this time began the rivalry between Nantes and Rennes, whose counts disputed the sovereignty of Brittany. Pierre de Dreux, declared duke of Brittany by Philip Augustus, made Nantes his capital, surrounded it with fortifications and defended it valiantly against John of England. During the Breton wars of succession Nantes took part first with Jean de Montfort, but afterwards with Charles of Blois, and did not open its gates to Monfort till his success was assured and his English allies had retired. In 1560 Francis II. granted Nantes a communal constitution. In the course of the r 5th and 16th centuries the city suffered from several epidemics. Averse to Protestantism, it joined the League along with the duke of Merceeur, governor of Brittany, who helped to raise the country into an independent duchy; and it was not till 1598 that it opened its gates to Henry IV., who here signed on the 2nd of May of that year the famous Edict of Nantes which until its revocation by Louis XIV. in 1685 was the charter of Huguenot liberties in France. It was at Nantes that Henry de Talleyrand, count of Chalais, was punished in 1626 for plotting against Richelieu, that Fouquet was arrested in 1661, and that the Cellamare conspirators were executed under the regent Philip of Orleans. Having warmly embraced the cause of the Revolution in 1789, the city was in 1 793 treated with extreme rigour by J. B. Carrier, envoy of the Committee of Public Safety, whose noyades or wholesale drownings of prisoners became notorious. Nantes on more than one occasion vigorously resisted the Vendeans. It was here that the duchess of Berry was arrested in 5832 while trying to stir up La Vendee against Louis Philippe.
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