The medieval walls, 3.6km of solid stone construction, rise like a symmetrical extension of the hill itself, and dominate the approach from every direction. For centuries the walls provided security for the inhabitants, and in more recent times, have saved the city from the worst ravages of modern architecture, edge of town retail expansion, and other unsightly flimflam construction, that all too often creates an unpalatable eyesore, particularly when juxtaposed with architectural treasures of years gone by. And by protecting itself from this creeping horde of 20c undesirables, the city has become a sort of living museum of its past glory.
ALL ROADS LEAD TO LANGRES
The City was originally the prosperous capital of a Celtic tribe called the Lingones, whose territory extended south, to include the fort that was later to became the city of Dijon. By the 1C the Lingones, together with the other Celtic tribes, had succumbed to the Roman conquest of Western Europe. The Roman military strategist Frontinus, had this to say about Langres and its inhabitants:
“the very wealthy city of the Lingones, which had revolted to Civilis, feared that it would be plundered by the approaching army of Caesar. But when, contrary to expectation, the inhabitants remained unharmed and lost none of their property, they returned to their loyalty, and handed over to me seventy thousand armed men.”
Roman pragmatism exemplified!
By the end of the era of Roman occupation, no less than 12 roads had been built converging on Langres. And as Christianity took hold in Europe, pilgrims from as far away as Canterbury in Britain, and Germany to the east, were among those to take advantage of this newly installed communications network, as they made their way across Europe to Rome, and Compostelle in Northern Spain.
LANGRES AND DIJON
By the 4c the city had become a primary destination for the practice of the Christian religion, and this importance continued, even as Dijon’s star rose to eclipse that of Langres, its former capital city. The cathedral dedicated to St Mammes, and built at the end of the 12c, is a fitting testament to the city’s religious credentials, and the new colourful Burgundian roof tiles, an encouraging sign of a desire to preserve this magnificent structure, for the benefit and appreciation of generations to come.