Fougères (French pronunciation: [fuʒɛʁ] ; Breton: Felger; Gallo: Foujerr) is a commune and a sub-prefecture of the Ille-et-Vilaine department, located in Brittany, northwestern France. As of 2017, Fougères had 20,418 inhabitants. The Fougères area comprises approximately 88,000 inhabitants and is currently growing, unlike the town centre.


Fougères is a town on the edge of Brittany, Maine and Normandy and is named after a fern (see also fougère), or from fous which means fossé ("gap").[1]

The town of Fougères is mentioned in the chorus of the song La Blanche Hermine by Gilles Servat. The author uses it as a symbol of the Breton resistance where it is adjacent to the town of Clisson in the Loire-Atlantique.

Fougères is historically, since the arrival of Latin in Armorica, a region where Gallo is spoken. In Gallo, Fougères translates to Foujerr while its Breton name is Felger.[2] Entry signs to the agglomeration have carried the Breton name for several years. One of the two bagad of the city takes this name: Bagad Bro Felger [fr] and the Diwan school, opened in 2013, is also called Skol Diwan bro Felger.


The presence of many megalithic monuments, particularly in the Forest of Fougères [fr], suggests that the area was already inhabited in the Neolithic era (5000 to 2000 years BC).[citation needed]

Middle Ages  Fougères: The walls of the city (lithography by Albert Robida, 1900)

The creation of Fougères dates back to the Middle Ages. The Château de Fougères was first mentioned around the end of the 10th century. At the time, it was a simple wooden fortification located on a rocky ridge, whose position favourably dominated the Nançon [fr] Valley and the surrounding marshes. Fougères was at the crossing of two Roman roads, one from Chartres to Carhaix and the other from Avranches to Nantes. From the 12th century, the population moved away from the shore of the Nançon and the city grew in size, divided into two parishes: Saint-Sulpice for the lower town and Saint-Léonard for the upper town. Since the Middle Ages, crafts developed around tannery, weavers and drapers in the lower town.

Built in the 11th century by the lords of Fougères, the first fortification, defended by Raoul II (1130–1194), was taken by Henry II of England in 1166 and destroyed. Raoul II stubbornly rebuilt a more imposing structure and it became a stronghold defending the borders of Brittany from Mont Saint-Michel to Nantes. However, the geographical position and the interests of the lords of Fougères often tipped in favour of the Kingdom of France. When Raoul III offered its possession to Louis IX of France, the Breton prince Pierre Mauclerc captured the city in 1231, which was re-captured by the king. The daughter of Raoul III, Jeanne de Fougères, who married Hugh XII of Lusignan, undertook new fortification work and beautified the city. The end of the 13th century was a period of peace and prosperity for Fougères.

In 1307, Philip IV of France bought the domain but the Kingdom of France was not interested and did not maintain it. After various fights and reversals of alliances, Bertrand du Guesclin entered in 1373, but the situation did not improve. Abandoned and ravaged by pillaging, the population of Fougères requested assistance from the Duchy of Brittany and the town joined the duchy in 1428, sold by John II of Alençon. However, in 1449, a man named François de Surienne, an Aragonese mercenary at the service of the English, captured and sacked the town in an attempt to force Brittany to ally with England. There were many massacres, which caused a reaction from Francis I, Duke of Brittany, determined to get rid of the English. The Duke of Brittany allied with Charles VII of France and attacked the south of Normandy, laying siege to Fougères. Surienne and his men were, however, able to resist and surrendered on the condition of being able to walk free. This episode announced the Battle of Formigny. Finally, the French general La Trémoille seized Fougères in 1488, during the Mad War.

Early modern

In the 16th century, the town lost its defensive role. Crafts continued to develop, including the craft of tin (in Rue de la Pinterie). During the Wars of Religion, the town remained Catholic while Vitré was affected by clashes with the Huguenots.

Until 1775, Fougères was barely mentioned. The Marquis de La Rouërie, a young man of high standing, then moved to the United States to fight with American insurgents. Back in France, after having been imprisoned for a month for leading the Breton conspiracy [fr], he was greeted as a hero in his homeland.

French Revolution  The battalion square - Affair of Fougères, 1793, oil on canvas by Julien Le Blant, 1880. Brigham Young University, University of Provo, Utah

During the French Revolution, the province of Brittany disappeared along with its privileges. The first changes were originally welcomed by the population. However, over time the Civil Constitution of the Clergy of the priests and the Levée en masse triggered a rebellion, the Chouannerie. In 1793, during the Virée de Galerne, the Vendéens and Chouans seized the town which was taken a few weeks later by the Republicans. For eight years, the town and its region passed from hand to hand, with many massacres and looting occurring. The leader of the Chouans of the Fougères area was the young general Aimé du Boisguy.

The Organization of the Revolutionary Celebrations [fr] reflected a favourable feeling from the population to the new regime:

The victories of the Republican armies were celebrated, including the Siege of Toulon against the Anglo-royalists[3] The feast of 26 messidor (14 July), established in 1794, was celebrated in Fougères[3] The anniversary of the execution of Louis XVI, accompanied by an oath of hatred to royalty [fr] and anarchy, was celebrated (from 1795)[4] Other Republican festivals followed, such as the anniversary of the Republic up to the year VIII (22 September, 1 Vendémiaire),[5] the celebration of youth (10 Germinal, on 30 March),[6] and the Festival of Recognition (the 10 prairial)[7] or the Festival of Agriculture (the 10 messidor).[7]20th century Early 20th century industry  Fougères: The Saint-Sulpice Gate (lithography by Albert Robida, 1900)

Little by little, industry replaced crafts and Fougères saw the establishment of shoe manufacturers. In the winter of 1906–07, workers went on strike in the shoe factories and in response, managers organised a lockout. Solidarity was very strong in the city ("Communist" soups to feed the strikers without family income) but also beyond: Children were welcomed by Rennes and Parisian families during conflicts. Jean Jaurès came to Fougères to support the movement.

 Statue of the general Jean Ambroise Baston de Lariboisière

Glassware production had also existed in the Fougères area since the arrival of Italian glass masters in the 16th and 17th centuries. The installation of this industry is explained by the presence of a sandy soil (since sand is the main component of glass), a forest (since sand needs to be melted) and ferns (soda-rich plants). A glass factory existed on the outskirts of the town (Laignelet), which flourished in the 19th century. However, following social demands in 1921, religious unionism was mobilized and a new Fougères glass factory: La Cristallerie Fougeraise, was founded by Abbot Bridel [fr], as well as a working town later in 1922, designed by the architect Hyacinthe Perrin [fr], to accommodate staff.

The 20th century was marked by the British and American bombings on 8 June 1944, during Operation Overlord, which killed 300 people, injured twice as many, and destroyed most of the public and industrial facilities. This bombing was in preparation to liberate France after surrendering to Nazi Germany on June 22 1940. [8] Since then, the town has largely been open to tourism, thanks to its medieval castle and its historic districts. From the 1970s, industry has been diverse: food processing, furniture, mechanical, glass, electronics, computing, and robotics.

Fougères also organizes an important cattle market.

World War I

640 names are engraved in a monument to commemorate the death of soldiers from Fougères that fought for France during World War I. Fougères also welcomed many war wounded soldiers in its hospital and the monument mention 148 additional names of soldiers that died in Fougères but were not originating from the city.

Recent sports events

On 11 July 2013, Fougères hosted the Tour de France as a departure town. When the Tour de France returned on 10 July 2015, Fougères was the finish town for stage 7 (Livarot-Fougères). It was a stage victory for the British cyclist Mark Cavendish. Cyclism came back to the town on 4 July 2016, where Fougères was a race-through town in the stage Granville-Angers.[9]

Fougères is also one of the control points for the Paris–Brest–Paris (PBP) bicycle event. PBP is an ultra-marathon event where cyclists are expected to complete the 1,200 km (746 miles) course in under 90 hours, and occurs the year before a Summer Olympic year. Fougères is a control point both out bound to Brest as well as back to Paris.

^ In Brittany and Normandy, a gap is a terrace of land formed by the excavations made on each side of the terrace, and serving as a separation between two properties. ^ "Results concerning Fougères". Retrieved 19 April 2015. ^ a b Dubreuil, Louis (1905). "Fêtes révolutionnaires en Ille-et-Vilaine". Annales de Bretagne [Annals of Brittany] (in French). Vol. 21. p. 397. 4. ^ Dubreuil, Fêtes…, p. 398-399 ^ Dubreuil, Fêtes…, p. 401 ^ Dubreuil, Fêtes…, p. 402 ^ a b Dubreuil, Fêtes…, p. 406 ^ "La vie quotidienne sous les bombardements" [Daily life under bombardment]. La Croix (in French). 30 May 2014. Retrieved 20 April 2015. ^ "Stage 7 - Livarot > Fougères - Tour de France 2015". Archived from the original on 2014-10-28. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
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