Jul 9, 2008

A Brief History of Bordeaux

Perhaps you're tired with so much of Bordeaux by now, but you'd actually seen nothing if you do not know the history behind it - the stories, incidences, blood, tears, sweat and men and women who bore witness to everything you see today. "History is just one (censored) thing after another" some might say, but to know that every brick on the Great Wall is erected by hand and ferried across the country meter by meter - it just makes the entire experience different.

Bordeaux (or Burdigala) is founded by a small Gaulish tribe in 3rd century BC. The location of Bordeaux at the mouth of the Garonne and Gironde. Being on the path of the shortest way between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, trade and shipping blossomed rapidly.
The first vines, on the other hand, was planted in 50 AD. Christianity reached the city around 310 AD, and a pilgrim's road was created between Bordeaux and Jerusalem on 333 AD. 

Bordeaux's coat of arms - the crescent moon symbolizing the form of the river Garonne: otherwise called Porte de la Lune (moon harbor); an English leopard; and Grosse Cloche (town belfry)

Vikings sacked and burned the city in 848. It wasn't until 300 years later when the heiress of the city, Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis VII, King of France. 15 years later, she became the Queen of England (how confusing), being married to Henry Plantagenet, King of England. This marks the beginning of English influence in Bordeaux for the next 300 years.
Back to wines, producing over 95% of Bordeaux's income, the city was given exclusive rights to ship harvests to England. Reaching a tonne in exports during 1307, it brought cash into the city and strengthened the English maritime at the same time.
Through the 16th and 17th century, the city put up great resistance against the centralist monarchy in Paris; as well as to the many taxes imposed on trades. Bordeaux's parliament breeds a generation of writers, poets and thinkers, it also played a vital role in protecting the Roman Catholic against the Reformation and supporting it during Counter-Reformation.
Once the people settled down again, the Chamber of Commerce was constructed in 1705. On the eve of the French Revolution, Bordeaux was the greatest port in all France.
The many years of war and unrest soon after left Bordeaux largely untouched but unprogressive. After 1945, efforts were directed to developing housing programs and bring in industry and technology. Containers and large tankers docked while the city had managed to maintain its creamy façades in one of the most extensive urban conservation project in France (efforts were highly recognized by UNESCO leading to granting of the UNESCO World Heritage Site for an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble).
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