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Raon-l'Étape

Raon-l'Étape

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Raon-l'Étape is a commune
Communes of France
The commune is the lowest level of administrative division in the French Republic. French communes are roughly equivalent to incorporated municipalities or villages in the United States or Gemeinden in Germany...

 in the Vosges
Vosges
Vosges is a French department, named after the local mountain range. It contains the hometown of Joan of Arc, Domrémy.-History:The Vosges department is one of the original 83 departments of France, created on February 9, 1790 during the French Revolution. It was made of territories that had been...

 department in Lorraine
Lorraine (région)
Lorraine is one of the 27 régions of France. The administrative region has two cities of equal importance, Metz and Nancy. Metz is considered to be the official capital since that is where the regional parliament is situated...

 in northeastern France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

.

Inhabitants are called Raonnais.

Geography


Raon-l'Étape is positioned at the mouth of the Plaine River at the point where it converges into the Meurthe
Meurthe River
The Meurthe is a river in north-eastern France, right tributary to the river Moselle. Its source is in the Vosges mountains, near the Col de la Schlucht in the Vosges département...

, itself a tributary of the Moselle
Moselle River
The Moselle is a river flowing through France, Luxembourg, and Germany. It is a left tributary of the Rhine, joining the Rhine at Koblenz. A small part of Belgium is also drained by the Mosel through the Our....

. Because it is on departmental frontier with the adjacent Meurthe-et-Moselle
Meurthe-et-Moselle
Meurthe-et-Moselle is a department in the Lorraine region of France, named after the Meurthe and Moselle rivers.- History :Meurthe-et-Moselle was created in 1871 at the end of the Franco-Prussian War from the parts of the former departments of Moselle and Meurthe which remained French...

 département, Raon-l'Étape is sometimes known as the 'Gateway to the Vosges' (porte des Vosges). The town is positioned at a point where relatively flat lands transform into a much more mountainous topography: the mountains have for centuries restricted the options for travellers between francophone France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and Alsace
Alsace
Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...

 (formerly the western reaches of the Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 on the other side of the Vosges Mountains
Vosges mountains
For the department of France of the same name, see Vosges.The Vosges are a range of low mountains in eastern France, near its border with Germany. They extend along the west side of the Rhine valley in a northnortheast direction, mainly from Belfort to Saverne...

). The position of Raon has therefore been critical to influencing the movements of merchandise in peace time and of armies in war time for many centuries.

Saint-Dié-des-Vosges
Saint-Dié-des-Vosges
Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, commonly referred to as Saint-Dié, is a commune in the Vosges department in Lorraine in northeastern France.It is a sub-prefecture of the department.-Geography:...

 is 17 kilometres (10.6 mi) to the south-east while Nancy is 69 kilometres (42.9 mi) to the north-west, in both cases tracking the national road RN59, much of which has in recent years been upgraded to quasi-autoroute quality. Taking a cross country route, Épinal
Épinal
Épinal is a commune in northeastern France and the capital of the Vosges department. Inhabitants are known as Spinaliens.-Geography:The commune has a land area of 59.24 km²...

 is approximately 44 kilometres (27.3 mi) to the south-west.

The little town is closely surrounded by woodland, which covers almost 60% of the communal territory.

The town has a long tradition of manufacturing in a wide range of sectors such as paper milling, quarrying, engineering, plastics, textiles, clothing and telecommunications. It is also a major commercial centre for surrounding communes, notably on Saturday mornings, Saturday being market day.

The name


An earlier name for the commune was 'Ravon', a word which in the local dialect denotes the confluence of rivers. 'Étape' has mutated from the word 'Tape' which was the name given to the right to transit the territory, obtained in return for a toll which was imposed on merchants, whether moving their goods along the river or along the adjacent road.

Two settlements on either side of the Meurthe


The old village was founded in the thirteenth century on the 'champ de Rua', near the confluence of the Plaine and Meurthe rivers, and dominated by Beauregard Castle which had been rebuilt and extended by Frederick III, Duke of Lorraine
Frederick III, Duke of Lorraine
Frederick III was the Duke of Lorraine from 1251 to his death. He was the only son and successor of Matthias II and Catherine of Limburg....

. The land was included within the territory of Moyenmoutier Abbey. The Dukes of Lorraine controlled the transit of salt
Salt
In chemistry, salts are ionic compounds that result from the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. They are composed of cations and anions so that the product is electrically neutral...

 and wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 towards the mountains
Vosges mountains
For the department of France of the same name, see Vosges.The Vosges are a range of low mountains in eastern France, near its border with Germany. They extend along the west side of the Rhine valley in a northnortheast direction, mainly from Belfort to Saverne...

, and imposed a 'protection levy' on the 'Saulniers Way', a well frequented trade route across the mountains towards Sélestat
Sélestat
Sélestat is a commune in the Bas-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France.In 2006, Sélestat had a total population of 19,459. The Communauté de communes de Sélestat et environs had a total population of 35,397.-Geography:...

 and Saales
Saales
Saales is a commune in the Bas-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France.-References:*...

.

The foundation of Raon achieved its economic objectives, attracting members of the mercantile class which was growing across Europe at this time. The application of the Beaumont Law in the little town enfranchised the merchants, providing an enhanced contractual basis for commerce. Geography also favoured commerce with the presence of two navigable rivers, and economic success was assured through civic privileges conferred by the dukes and through the security afforded by the growth of fortifications and the maintenance of a military garrison.

On the left bank of the river
Meurthe River
The Meurthe is a river in north-eastern France, right tributary to the river Moselle. Its source is in the Vosges mountains, near the Col de la Schlucht in the Vosges département...

, the hamlet of La Neuveville dates back further, having been established during the twelfth century with protection and support from Duke of Lorraine by the cannons of Étival Abbey who provided both the necessary land and the expertise. The port at La Neuveville made it possible for loads of both processed and rough-cut timber to be exported along the river. The little town grew rapidly in size and wealth, and the white monks themselves reverted to a more contemplative existence, while the civilian administration of the dukes seized the initiative in founding Raon-l'Étape on the other side of the river which made it easier to protect transshipment across the river the important Saulniers Way trade route towards the mountains and The Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 beyond.

During the fourteenth century the civil influence of the monks declined at La Neuveville as the little town and its important port facilities came increasingly under the sole control of the Dukes, while the citizens continued vigorously to reject the pressing influence of Raon-l'Étape.

Neither town grew beyond a population of a few thousand, still separated into two settlements by their river, until the nineteenth century, but by the end of the seventeenth century they nevertheless had grown larger than Saint-Dié
Saint-Dié-des-Vosges
Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, commonly referred to as Saint-Dié, is a commune in the Vosges department in Lorraine in northeastern France.It is a sub-prefecture of the department.-Geography:...

 up in the mountains to the south-east.

In 1864 it was the left bank, and therefore La Neuveville, that was privileged to receive a rail connection on the line from Nancy. The railway brought industrialisation and also put an end to the transportation of timber by floating it down the river, which had contributed to the development of the little port for so long. Paradoxically, it was the prestige of Raon-l'Étape which in some ways benefitted more than that of La Neuveville: tourism
Tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

 began to evolve in France for the first time in the late nineteenth century, and the old right bank town with its picturesque medieval streets offered a quaint charm that replaced the industrial and commercial action that grew apace in its left bank rival.

The commune of today results from the merger in 1947 of La Neuveville and Raon-l'Étape into a single commune. Their strategic position meant that both towns suffered badly in the Second World War, and the remaining residents were strongly supported by humanitarian aid from, in particular, the Swiss Red Cross
Swiss Red Cross
The Swiss Red Cross is the national Red Cross society for Switzerland.It was founded in 1866 in Bern, Switzerland...

 in the years immediately following the conflagration. The acting mayor of La Neuveville, who was a man named Capel, wondered if rebuilding a separate mairie was worth while at a time of severe economic hardship, given that the mairie of Raon-l'Étape now looked unnecessarily large for the diminished population level on the right bank.

The proposal to merge the communes was therefore essentially driven by the economics of the situation in which the communities found themselves: the responsible councils and the prefect were persuaded and the fusion of the former rival communes went ahead. Although the two communes had been intended by their founders as complementary settlements, long centuries of rivalry were not so easily set aside, and the different banks of the river continue to value their separate histories.

The Thirty Years' War 1618-1648


The closing decades of the sixteenth century and the first half of the seventeenth century were a particularly grim period for Lorraine
Lorraine (province)
The Duchy of Upper Lorraine was an historical duchy roughly corresponding with the present-day northeastern Lorraine region of France, including parts of modern Luxembourg and Germany. The main cities were Metz, Verdun, and the historic capital Nancy....

 and for much of Europe. The weather seems to have contributed an above average quota of poor or failed harvests, while the Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history....

 unleashed a catalogue of horrors, especially on the territories such as Lorraine that found themselves buffered between two great continental powers of that time, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and The Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

. Massacres, looting and executions were inflicted both by the locally recruited armies and by the hoards of the dispossessed that often followed in their wake. The Swedish armies
Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden
Gustav II Adolf has been widely known in English by his Latinized name Gustavus Adolphus Magnus and variously in historical writings also as Gustavus, or Gustavus the Great, or Gustav Adolph the Great,...

, allied with the French, have a reputation for particular savagery in Lorraine during the time of Duke Charles IV
Charles IV, Duke of Lorraine
Charles IV was Duke of Lorraine from 1624 to 1634, when he abdicated under French pressure in favor of his younger brother, and again from 1661 until 1675.- Biography :...

. Two battles unfolded before the walls of Raon during the period. The first of them in 1635 found the troops of the recently defeated Duke of Lorraine confronting the French cavalry: on this occasion Lorraine prevailed. But in 1636 there was another battle in which the armies of Lorraine and their imperial
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 allies were defeated. That same year Richelieu, the French king's first minister, keen to minimise opportunities for Austrian resistance, arranged for the flattening of all the castles in Lorraine, including Beauregard Castle which for centuries has overlooked Raon. All the passing armies and successive battles left behind them only ruin and desolation. The local economy collapsed: famine and plague
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

 ensued. Lorraine was slow to recover. The statistical records show large numbers of people simply disappeared. Even in 1710, a census undertaken for Raon counted only 194 inhabitants.

The French revolution and its aftermath 1789-1800


For the most part. the violent and destructive manifestations of the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 and the battles of the ensuing Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

 occurred far from Lorraine, though the district suffered its share of economic disruption and the mobilisation of fighting age men. The administrative reforms that occurred across France put and end once and for all to the church-state partnership that had controlled the country for so long under the ancien regime, and left the civil state in control.

The Franco-Prussian war


After the French imperial army of Napolein III
Napoleon III of France
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was the President of the French Second Republic and as Napoleon III, the ruler of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I, christened as Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte...

 was defeated at Sedan
Battle of Sedan
The Battle of Sedan was fought during the Franco-Prussian War on 1 September 1870. It resulted in the capture of Emperor Napoleon III and large numbers of his troops and for all intents and purposes decided the war in favour of Prussia and its allies, though fighting continued under a new French...

 on 2 September 1870, and faced with the advance of enemy troops further south in the Vosges region, resistance mobilised rapidly, as disparate companies of Gardes Mobiles and of orregular guerilla fighters
Francs-tireurs
Francs-tireurs – literally "free shooters" – was used to describe irregular military formations deployed by France during the early stages of the Franco-Prussian War...

 sprang to arms.

Several fighters were killed at a battle occurring in the Plaine Valley at a small settlement called Lajus on 20 September 1870, and the region experienced various skirmishes, small scale battles and other incidents including the taking and shooting of civilian hostages during and beyond the closing months of 1870. The most important battle took place on 6 October 1870 in the La Salle
La Salle, Vosges
La Salle is a commune in the Vosges department in Lorraine in northeastern France.- References :*...

 - Nompatelize
Nompatelize
Nompatelize is a commune in the Vosges department in Lorraine in northeastern France.Inhabitants from well established local families are known as hauts-banais or hautes-banaises according to gender. This is a reference to the hilly territory in which the village is located and which at one time...

 sector (after which the battle would be named), at a gap in the mountains on the route towards Épinal
Épinal
Épinal is a commune in northeastern France and the capital of the Vosges department. Inhabitants are known as Spinaliens.-Geography:The commune has a land area of 59.24 km²...

. The battle was won by the Baden Brigade commanded by General Degenfeld.

After the Peace signed at Frankfurt
Treaty of Frankfurt (1871)
The Treaty of Frankfurt was a peace treaty signed in Frankfurt on 10 May 1871, at the end of the Franco-Prussian War.- Summary :The treaty did the following:...

 on 10 May 1871, Raon was garrisoned by a battalion of the 9th Pomeranian Regiment who were initially billeted on the citizens, and subsequently installed in a barracks that was completed by the end of December 1871. On 14 November 1872 the Pomeranians were replaced by the 2nd battalion of Prince Albrecht's 73rd regiment of Hanoverian Fusiliers. They administered Raon-l'Étape in collaboration with the civilian authorities without major incident. Nevertheless, the town was obliged to pay financial contributions / reparations totally 33,840 francs. On 30 July 1873 the occupation ended and the German troops withdrew towards Baccarat
Baccarat, Meurthe-et-Moselle
Baccarat is a commune in the Meurthe-et-Moselle department in north-eastern France.-Crystal:In 1764, King Louis XV granted permission to the Bishop of Metz to establish a glassworks at Baccarat...

 and the new Franco-German frontier to the north of Nancy. The departure of the soldiers unleashed much celebration in Raon.

Personalities

  • Alain Devaquet, a Gaullist politicians prominent in the Jacques Chirac
    Jacques Chirac
    Jacques René Chirac is a French politician who served as President of France from 1995 to 2007. He previously served as Prime Minister of France from 1974 to 1976 and from 1986 to 1988 , and as Mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.After completing his studies of the DEA's degree at the...

     period, was born in 1942 at Raon.
  • Alain Schneider, the singer, was born at Raon.
  • Joseph Julien Souhait 1759 - 1842, who achieved prominence as a politician in the wake of the French Revolution
    French Revolution
    The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

     and was accordingly exiled (to Switzerland
    Switzerland
    Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

    ) following the Bourbon restoration
    Bourbon Restoration
    The Bourbon Restoration is the name given to the period following the successive events of the French Revolution , the end of the First Republic , and then the forcible end of the First French Empire under Napoleon  – when a coalition of European powers restored by arms the monarchy to the...

     of 1814, was born at Raon. He was allowed back after the 1830 revolution
    July Revolution
    The French Revolution of 1830, also known as the July Revolution or in French, saw the overthrow of King Charles X of France, the French Bourbon monarch, and the ascent of his cousin Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, who himself, after 18 precarious years on the throne, would in turn be overthrown...

     installed the son of a fellow regicide
    Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans
    Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orléans commonly known as Philippe, was a member of a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon, the ruling dynasty of France. He actively supported the French Revolution and adopted the name Philippe Égalité, but was nonetheless guillotined during the Reign of Terror...

     as the 'bourgeois' king. Souhait died in Nancy.