La Rochelle

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La Rochelle
Coat of arms of La Rochelle
La Rochelle (France)
La Rochelle
region Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Department Charente-Maritime ( prefecture )
Arrondissement La Rochelle
Canton La Rochelle-1
La Rochelle-2
La Rochelle-3
Community association La Rochelle
Coordinates 46 ° 10 ′  N , 1 ° 9 ′  W Coordinates: 46 ° 10 ′  N , 1 ° 9 ′  W
height 0-28 m
surface 28.43 km 2
Residents 75,735 (January 1, 2017)
Population density 2,664 inhabitants / km 2
Post Code 17000
INSEE code

La Rochelle, Vieux Port, port portal with Tour St.-Nicolas and Tour de la Chaine

Template: Infobox municipality in France / maintenance / different coat of arms in Wikidata

La Rochelle [ la ʁɔ.ʃɛl ] is a southwestern French port city and capital of the Charente-Maritime department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region with 75,735 inhabitants (as of January 1, 2017). Among other things, it is the twin town of Lübeck and a member of the Hanseatic League of Modern Times . In 2010, almost 210,000 people lived in the greater La Rochelle area.

In 2015, La Rochelle was awarded the honorary title of “ Reformation City of Europe ” by the Community of Evangelical Churches in Europe .


La Rochelle is located on the Atlantic Ocean , on the Bay of Biscay opposite the Île de Ré , and is an important shipping , trade and tourist center . The distance to Nantes in the north is around 150 km, to Bordeaux in the south 190 km and to Paris in the northeast 460 km.

Climate table

La Rochelle
Climate diagram
J F. M. A. M. J J A. S. O N D.
Temperature in ° Cprecipitation in mm
Average monthly temperatures and rainfall for La Rochelle
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature ( ° C ) 8.5 9.9 12.1 14.7 17.9 21.3 23.8 23.5 21.8 18.0 12.6 9.2 O 16.1
Min. Temperature (° C) 3.4 4.0 5.4 7.4 10.7 13.7 15.8 15.7 13.7 10.5 6.3 3.9 O 9.2
Precipitation ( mm ) 82.5 66.1 57.0 52.7 61.1 42.9 35.1 46.4 56.5 81.6 91.8 81.8 Σ 755.5
Hours of sunshine ( h / d ) 2.7 3.9 5.6 7.1 7.7 9.1 9.8 9.0 7.3 5.4 3.6 2.7 O 6.2
Rainy days ( d ) 13 11 11 9 10 7th 6th 7th 8th 10 12 12 Σ 116
Humidity ( % ) 89 85 81 77 78 78 77 79 82 85 88 90 O 82.4
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

coat of arms

Coat of arms of La Rochelle
Blazon : "The coat of arms in red shows a three-masted golden Sailboat with silver billowing sails on golden yards and golden mast pennants on green sign foot propelled. In the blue shield main three golden lilies . "

Population development

year 1962 1968 1975 1982 1990 1999 2006 2016
Residents 66,590 73,347 79,757 75,840 71.094 76,584 77,196 75,736
Sources: Cassini and INSEE


Port portal from the sea side, with Tour de la Chaine and Tour St. Nicolas


In ancient times, the Santons , a Gauls tribe , settled in the area around La Rochelle , from whom the area around Saintes , the Saintonge , got its name. The occupying power of the Romans developed the previously unknown cultivation of wine and the extraction of salt along the Atlantic coast and thus supplied their entire empire. Archaeological excavations of Roman villas in Saint-Eloi and Les Minimes, as well as those of salt marshes with salt pans, are evidence of this era .

The name La Rochelle translates as "The Little Rock", referring to an elevated limestone plateau in the area of ​​today's city, on which Alans from the Danube settled and permanently settled during the migration of peoples (end of the 4th to the middle of the 6th century) . The name of the Aunis countryside in the hinterland of La Rochelle still reminds us of them .

Development into the largest port on the Atlantic

The foundation of the city must be assumed for the 10th century.

Tour de la Lanterne, defensive wall and Tour de la Chaine

Relatively late first written records about the time around 1140 speak of an immigration of Colberts, a group of escaped slaves who joined the settlement of the Alans and promoted its development.

They were joined by the cosmopolitan Templars , whose routes also led to La Rochelle in the 12th and 13th centuries. With their help, the port was expanded to become the largest on the Atlantic coast. Even today there is a street named after the Templars, the Rue des Templiers . (The Rue du Temple and the Cour du Temple , on the other hand, indicate Reformed churches, which are called temples in French .)

Tour de la Lanterne from NE, defensive wall

In 1137 Wilhelm X. , Duke of Aquitaine , made the city's port a free port. Eleanor of Aquitaine was responsible for the later, flourishing history of the city . It gave La Rochelle free city ​​rights in 1199 , combined with civil self-government and its own jurisdiction . At that time, for the first time in French history, a mayor was named for La Rochelle, Guillaume de Montmirail . As a result, a new mayor was elected every year from among the city's most powerful families.

In 1224 the city was besieged by King Louis VIII during the Franco-English War until it finally submitted.

During the Hundred Years War , a naval battle between a Castilian-French and an English fleet took place near La Rochelle on June 22, 1372. While the English led 40 ships into battle, the Spanish and French offered 60 ships and significantly more personnel. The latter defeated the English, putting control of the Canal into the hands of France for the first time since the Battle of Sluis in 1340.

Until the 15th century, La Rochelle kept France's largest port on the Atlantic coast. The main trade was in wine and salt.

Henri-Paul Motte : The Siege of La Rochelle . History painting from 1881. Cardinal Richelieu is shown in the foreground .

In times of religious wars

Amos Barbot († 1625) is of great importance for La Rochelle in the 16th and early 17th centuries. His Histoire de La Rochelle is the oldest available narrative source on the history of the city since the Middle Ages. Following him, Louis-Étienne Arcère (1698–1782) wrote a story of La Rochelle.

During the Renaissance , the city opened up to the ideas of the Reformation , which already had numerous followers before 1540. The mutual tolerance allowed the common use of the Catholic church buildings at the beginning.

From 1562 to 1598 the country was overwhelmed by the devastation of the Wars of Religion . In 1565, 30 Catholic priests were strangled in La Rochelle and pushed into the sea by the Tour de la Lanterne , which sparked an open battle. Soon after, it became the capital of Protestantism in France.

The great counter-attack of the Catholic League began with the "Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Night " on August 24, 1572, with the execution of Huguenot leaders in Paris and the subsequent terrible slaughter that spread across France.

La Rochelle, beacon and pine tree

In 1573 the Huguenot center was besieged by the royal Catholic army under the orders of the Duke of Anjou , later Henry III. Despite six months of intense siege using the most modern war techniques on both sides, the Protestants held out, so the attackers gave up. After all, 20,000 men on the Catholic side lost their lives. In 1573 the crown had to allow the Huguenots of La Rochelle to practice their religion unhindered.

With the Edict of Nantes , Henry IV ended the religious wars in 1598.

Another siege of La Rochelle 1627–1628

About 29 years later the city came into conflict with Louis XIII again. whose royal army besieged La Rochelle again on September 10, 1627. The city had allied itself with the English, who had already occupied the island of Ré. Two irreconcilable opponents faced each other in the fighting: on the one hand Cardinal Richelieu , first minister of the French king, on the other hand Jean Guiton (1585–1654), admiral and new mayor of La Rochelle.

Old port, maze of masts

The blockade by the royal took place not only from the land, but also from the sea side, where a 12 km long dam was built into which long pointed wooden beams were driven towards the city. Artillery soldiers occupied the dam. The supply and reinforcement from the sea, for example from the English, was thus cut off. Nevertheless, the mayor managed to persuade the city's starving population to persevere for more than a year.

After starvation among the defenders, Guiton had to surrender. On October 30, 1628, Richelieu entered the city with his army; two days later he was followed by King Ludwig XIII. They found innumerable bodies in the houses. Of the 28,000 originally trapped, only 5,000 survived, including Jean Guiton, who later entered the royal service.

Lighthouse, green

Exodus of the Huguenots and the colonial era

After the defeat of the Huguenots of La Rochelle in 1628, their persecution continued relentlessly across the country; it reached its climax with the withdrawal of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV . Many Huguenots fled, emigrated and founded the city of New Rochelle in North America in 1689 .

Vieux Port, from SW

During the colonial period , La Rochelle played an important role in the " Atlantic triangular trade " between Africa, New France (Canada and the Antilles) and the heartland of France.

La Rochelle remained one of the largest ports in France. The slave trade and the development of overseas relations were primarily responsible for this. The damaged fortifications were restored and modernized by the important fortress architect Vauban .

19th century

Lighthouse, red

In 1864, the port of La Rochelle in the area of ​​the "Fleet Basin" behind the locks was the location for diving experiments with the world's first mechanically operated submarine, called Plongeur , under the command of Marie-Joseph Camille Doré , who was born in La Rochelle .

colorful harbor district

Second World War

La Pallice submarine bunker

In April 1941 , the Todt Organization built a submarine bunker in La Rochelle-La Pallice , five kilometers away , which is no longer accessible. From 1943 the Navy maintained a naval hospital in the city.

The city of La Rochelle and the port facilities in La Pallice remained in German hands until the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht on May 8, 1945 . As part of a standstill agreement between the German fortress commander, Vice Admiral Ernst Schirlitz, and the French negotiator, the frigate captain Jules Hubert Meyer, it was agreed that the town and port facilities would not be destroyed if the Allied troops did not attack the Germans encircled in La Rochelle. This “Convention of La Rochelle” ultimately led to city and port facilities being handed over intact after the German surrender, while other Atlantic cities such as B. Royan were completely destroyed just before the end of the war in April.


La Rochelle, anchor, lying

Even if international shipping barely plays a role in La Rochelle, the port is still a major fishing port in the country with the fourth largest capacity in France. When it comes to handling commercial goods, it ranks eighth among the French ports with a gross volume of around six million tons per year. The La Rochelle Business School was founded in 1998.


See also: List of Monuments historiques in La Rochelle

The old port

Town hall wall with belfry

The harbor basin of the Vieux Port , the center of the old town, is bordered by the quayside, to the north by the Quai Duperre and to the west by the Cours des Dames . In the corner of two streets, the statue of rises Admiral Duperre , born in 1775 in La Rochelle and commander of the French fleet in the capture of Algiers in 1830. In the year Esplanade Cour des Dames previously sardines sold and mended their nets by fishermen.

Tour St. Nicolas

The slightly inclined tower, built between 1317 and 1345, has the characteristics of a fortress and, together with the Tour de la Chaine opposite, forms the landmark of La Rochelle. It has a pentagonal floor plan and is 42 m high. Instead of the five corners there are three towers with a semicircular floor plan and one rectangular and one square higher tower annex, a kind of donjon . All sides are equipped with loopholes and small windows. The tower served as a prison for a long time. An expansive access staircase with side walls, designed as buttresses, reaching from the floor to the height of the staircase parapet, opens up the main hall, which is covered by an elegant octagonal ribbed vault. The stairs built into the thick masonry of the tower walls lead to the second hall above and from there to other rooms. One of them is equipped as a chapel. Above is the first roof terrace, enclosed with battlements, and a little upwards the second and highest terrace on the tower extension, which is enclosed by breastworks with loopholes and pitch core.

Tour de la Chaine

Coat of arms over the town hall wall

The name of the tower comes from the large chain ( French Chaine ), which was connected to the Tour St. Nicolas to block the port access overnight . At the foot of the tower there is still a remnant. The tower, built in the 14th century, was mainly a powder magazine. It was partially removed in the 17th century. An original extension that protruded into the port entrance was demolished in order to expand it.

The fortification wall running from the Tour de la Chaine towards the Tour de la Lanterne , which rose straight out of the sea in the Middle Ages , is the only one that was not destroyed by Richelieu. He left it to protect against attacks by the British.

Tour de la Lanterne

The name suggests its use as a lighthouse . It was only built in the 15th century. The six-meter-thick fortress walls adjoining its base contrast with the elegance of the octagonal spire , the ribs of which are decorated with “crabs”. There's a lantern up there that served as a beacon . In the upper spire of the tower four rooms are arranged one above the other, on the walls of which numerous graffiti by those imprisoned there are preserved (17th and 18th centuries). In the lower part of the tower was the guard room. From a protruding balcony you can see the foundations of the dam built by Richelieu at low tide, at Fort Louis, behind the promenade.

Old town

Town hall facade

The old town has a regular floor plan with streets running at right angles to each other and has preserved the characteristics of an old trading and business town. The defensive walls and external works (or ravelins ) that still partially enclose it today reveal Vauban's handwriting. The business district essentially encloses the town hall. Many arcades and covered passages offer strolling passers-by protection in all weathers. The oldest houses are half-timbered houses , the wooden posts and bars of which are often protected with slate panels.

Porte de la Grosse Horloge

The clock tower with gate opening forms the entrance to the old town from the harbor side. The round towers flanking the tower, which is rectangular in plan, are decorated with sea trophies. In the 18th century, the Gothic gate tower was subsequently given a structure consisting of a belfry with large clock faces on both sides, crowned by a dome and a lantern.

Hotel de Ville

Town hall stairs

As is so often the case in places with a Protestant history, La Rochelle is not a sacred building , but a secular building , here the town hall , the special highlight of the city center and its most important building. In front of the town hall building, which was built around the turn of the 15th to the 16th century, there is a rather simple Gothic fortress wall with battlements and a cantilevered pitch core , which is additionally reinforced with a belfry on the left, right-angled wall corner . It encloses a spacious, rectangular inner courtyard that can be entered through two gothic gates, the smaller one for pedestrians and the larger one for wagons. The slender, cylindrical Eckturm commence until the amount of the wall crown and projects beyond the Hall far, with an upwardly tapering to the tip spire with open bell chamber .

The main facade of the magnificent Renaissance palace rises in the courtyard . The construction work extended from the laying of the foundation stone in 1544 to the beginning of the 17th century. The influence of the Italian Renaissance is unmistakable. The ground floor is bordered on the courtyard side by an arcade gallery with fluted columns. On the first floor you can visit the former office of Mayor Jean Guiton (see history). At the end of June 2013, the town hall burned down largely due to an electrical short circuit . The repair work started in July 2016.

Clock at the belfry

Other sights of the old town

Market hall
  • Hôtel de la Bourse: 18th century, seat of the Chamber of Commerce , with an arcaded courtyard
  • Rue du Palais: main street with arcades and public buildings
  • Rue Chaudrier: one of the defenders of La Rochelle; beautiful old half-timbered house. At number 54 is the Café de la Paix, one of the oldest brasseries in France (Monument historique) .
  • Maison Henri II .: 1,555 for de Huges Pontard built
  • Grande Rue des Merciers: arcades and houses from the 16th and 17th centuries, medieval in character, many half-timbered houses,
La Rochelle, half-timbered house
  • Palais de Justice: completed in 1789, Renaissance
  • Cathedrale St. Louis : partly on the foundations of the church St. Barthelemy built
  • Rue de Minage: arcaded on both sides , very old houses
  • Place du Marché: two houses from the 15th and 16th centuries
  • Temple protestant : former Franciscan monastery church with cloister, 17th century
  • Parish Church of Notre-Dame-de-Cougnes

Old town museums

  • Musée d'Histoire naturelle: Natural history museum , former residence of the governor, stuffed giraffe ( Zarafa )
  • Musée du Nouveau Monde: in the Hôtel Fleuriau, trade between La Rochelle and America since the Renaissance
  • Musée d'Orbigny Bernon: History of La Rochelle
  • Musée des Beaux-Arts: Art museum in the episcopal palace
  • Bunker de La Rochelle: Museum in the former bunker of the German city commandant (opened in spring 2013)
  • Musée Rochelais d'Histoire Protestante: Museum of the history of Protestantism in La Rochelle, Aunis and Saintonge

La Ville en Bois

The “city made of wood” is a quarter south of the outer port, opposite the Tour de Lanterne, with a few museums.

Renaissance facade
  • Neptunéa: Musée maritime: Maritime Museum
  • Musée à Flot: small fleet with ships of different sizes and the weather ship France I
  • Musée des Automates: electronic robots

Port des Minimes

The Port des Minimes is the largest marina on the Atlantic coast with over 3,200 berths for keelboats and three deep water basins.


La Rochelle also has a large aquarium , one of the most beautiful in Europe, with over 65 tanks.


Half-timbered houses

Shipbuilding, fish and chemical industries are the main industries in the city. Tourism is an important pillar of the economy .



La Rochelle is connected to the system of the French national railway SNCF . There are daily connections to Paris (Gare Montparnasse ) (approx. Three hours) and Bordeaux , but also regional connections to the closer cities.

La Rochelle can be reached by car or motorcycle from the north ( Fontenay ) and from the east ( Niort ) via the N11 route and from the south ( Rochefort , Saintes ) via the N137.

The RTCR operates bus services in La Rochelle with a very well developed network of bus routes. There is also a connection to the Ile de Ré .

There is a Park & ​​Ride car park on the outskirts of the city , from which you can get to the center for free in the summer months. There is also a service station for mobile homes (water supply and sewage disposal).

The Ile de Ré - La Rochelle Airport (Aéroport de La Rochelle - Ile de Re) , 2.5 km northwest of the city center.


The city's best- known sports club is Atlantique Stade Rochelais , a rugby club that has been back in the top French league ( Top 14 ) since the 2014/15 season .

Key child

Movie city of La Rochelle

Half-timbered corner house
Half-timbered street


Town twinning

La Rochelle is on friendly terms with the following six cities:


  • Le Patrimoine des Communes de la Charente-Maritime. Flohic Editions, Volume 2, Paris 2002, ISBN 2-84234-129-5 , pp. 679-748.
  • Manufacture française des pneumatiques Michelin: ATLANTIC COAST Poitou Vendée Charentes Pyrenees (= The Green Travel Guide / Michelin Travel Guide ). 3. Edition. Michelin Reise-Verlag / Manufacture française des pneumatiques Michelin, Karlsruhe / Clermont-Ferrand 2001, ISBN 2-06-000236-2 .
  • Thorsten Droste: POITOU, western France between Poitiers and Angoulême - the Atlantic coast from the Loire to the Gironde (= DUMONT art travel guide ). DuMont, Cologne 1999, ISBN 3-7701-4456-2 .

Web links

Commons : La Rochelle  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: La Rochelle  - Travel Guide

Individual evidence

  1. Data for 2010. In:
  2. Seven new “Reformation cities” in Europe. EKD press release. December 15, 2016, accessed on May 25, 2016. - On the importance of La Rochelle in the history of the Reformation, see the city portrait of La Rochelle, belle et rebelle from the project Reformation Cities of Europe. In:, accessed on May 25, 2016 (German).
  4. ^ Reconstruction Hotel de Ville. Le projet. In:, accessed on October 15, 2016 (French; some of the funding comes from donations from the citizens).
  5. ^ Homepage of the Rochelais Museum of the History of Protestantism (MRHP) (French, German, English, Spanish), accessed on May 25, 2016.
  6. Michelin Map 233: Poitou Charentes. Scale 1: 200,000.
  7. ^ Homepage of La Rochelle , section Jumelage, accessed on April 1, 2010.