Nevers - Encyclopedia




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NEVERS, a town of central France, capital of the department of Nievre, 159 m. S.S.E. of Paris by the Paris-Lyons-Mediterranee railway to Nimes. Pop. (1906) 23,561. Nevers is situated on the slope of a hill on the right bank of the Loire at its confluence with the Nievre. Narrow winding streets lead from the quay through the town where there are numerous old houses of the 14th to the 17th centuries. Among the ecclesiastical buildings the most important is the cathedral of St Cyr, which is a combination of two buildings, and possesses two apses. The apse and transept at the west end are the remains of a Romanesque church, while the nave and eastern apse are in the Gothic style and belong to the 14th century. There is no transept at the eastern end. The lateral portal on the south side belongs to the late 15th century; the massive and elaborately decorated tower which rises beside it to the early 16th century. The church of St Etienne is a specimen of the Romanesque style of Auvergne of which the disposition of the apse with its three radiating chapels is characteristic. It was consecrated at the close of the 11th century, and belonged to a priory affiliated to Cluny. The ducal palace at Nevers (now occupied by the courts of justice and an important ceramic museum) was built in the 15th and 16th centuries and is one of the principal feudal edifices in central France. The facade is flanked at each end by a turret and a round tower. A middle tower containing the great staircase has its windows adorned by sculptures relating to the history of the house of Cleves by the members of which the greater part of the palace was built. In front of the palace lies a wide open space with a fine view over the valley of the Loire. The Porte du Croux, a square tower, with corner turrets, dating from the end of the 14th century, is among the remnants of the old fortifications; it now contains a collection of sculptures and Roman antiquities. A triumphal arch of the 18th century, commemorating the victory of Fontenoy and the hotel de ville, a modern building which contains the library, are of some interest. The Loire is crossed by a modern stone bridge, and by an iron railway bridge. Nevers is the seat of a bishopric, of tribunals of first instance and of commerce and of a court of assizes and has a chamber of commerce and a branch of the Bank of France. Its educational institutions include a lycee, a training college for female teachers, ecclesiastical seminaries and a school of art. The town manufactures porcelain, agricultural implements, chemical manures, glue, boilers and iron goods, boots and shoes and fur garments, and has distilleries, tanneries and dye-works. Its trade is in iron and steel, wood, wine, grain, live-stock, &c. Hydraulic lime, kaolin and clay for the manufacture of faience are worked in the vicinity.

Noviodunum, the early name of Nevers was in later times altered to Nebirnum. The quantities of medals and other Roman antiquities found on the site indicate the importance of the place at the time when Caesar chose it as a military depot for corn, money and hostages. In 52 B.C. it was the first place seized by the revolting Aedui. It became the seat of a bishopric at the end of the 5th century. The countship (see below) dates at least from the beginning of the loth century. The citizens of Nevers obtained charters in 1194 and in 1231. For a short time in the 14th century the town was the seat of a university, transferred from Orleans, to which it was restored.

Counts And Dukes Of Nevers. Having formed part of the duchy of Burgundy, the county of Nevers (Nivernais) was given by Duke Henry I. in 987 to his stepson, Otto William, afterwards count of Macon, who five years later handed it over to his son-in-law Landri. The first house of the hereditary counts of Nevers originated in this Landri, and was brought to an end in 1192 by the death of Agnes, countess of Nevers, wife of Pierre de Courtenay (d. 1217). The county subsequently passed by successive marriages into the houses of Donzy, Chatillon and Bourbon. Mahaut de Bourbon brought the county of Nevers, together with those of Auxerre and Tonnerre, to her husband Odo (Eudes), son of Hugh IV., duke of Burgundy, in 1248. Her eldest daughter, Yoland, received the county of Nevers as her dowry when in 1265 she married Jean Tristan, son of King Louis IX. She became a widow in 1270, and in 1272 married Robert de Dampierre, who became count of Flanders. Her descendant by her second marriage, Marguerite, daughter and heiress of Louis II. de Male, count of Flanders, married successively two dukes of Burgundy, Philip I. de Rouvre and Philip II. the Bold. Philip (d. 1415), the third son of Philip the Bold, received the counties of Nevers and of Rethel and the barony of Donzy; his last male descendant, John, died in 1491. The house of Cleves then inherited the Nivernais, which was erected into a duchy by King Francis I. for Francis of Cleves in 1 539. In 1565 Louis de Gonzaga (d. 1595), son of Frederick II., duke of Mantua, married Henrietta of Cleves, duchess of Nevers, and one of his descendants, Charles (d. 1665), sold the Nivernais to Cardinal Mazarin in 1659. The cardinal devised it to his nephew Philippe Jules Mancini, whose descendants possessed it until the French Revolution. The last duke of Nivernais, Louis Jules Barbon Mancini Mazarini, died in 1798.

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