Monastère Royal de Brou

Bourg-en-Bresse

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Bourg-en-Bresse : from the Gaul village to the Ain prefecture

© Ville de Bourg

Bourg-en-Bresse is a city with a vibrant history which has managed to uphold its unique heritage and reflect its growth. The ancient Roman town became part of the Savoy region during the Middle Ages before becoming French in the 16th century. The city is teeming with ancient buildings bearing testament to its glorious past: Medieval wood houses, the Renaissance façades on old mansions such as the Hôtel Marron de Meillonnas and Notre-Dame church. Its most famous asset is a masterpiece of Gothic flamboyancy: the Monastère Royal de Brou founded by Margaret of Austria.

Other monuments reflect more recent but equally illustrious times: the General Hospital and its Apothecary , the theatre, the Grenette complex, the Albert Camus centre, the old Jesuit college chapel (now Lalande secondary school) and many more.

The Gallo-Roman period

The first traces of man occupying the site where Bourg-en-Bresse now stands date back to the Gaul period. Some partial data leads us to believe that man settled in Brou to get across the Reyssouze easily.
People lived in two areas which co-existed during the Gallo-Roman period: a village built around a “fanum” (land or building dedicated to the gods) and a small fort in place of a former prison (Place des Lices) which then became a feudal castle.

The 12th century : the feudal "bourg"

Photo de la rue de style féodal Bourgmayer. Rue Bourgmayer - © S. Buathier

The ancient Roman tower became a feudal castle around which homes and the first “Bourg-Mayer” road were built. The town gradually expanded and reached the slopes of the plateau. Little by little, Bourg-en-Bresse grew by making the most of the trade road to Italy.

The 12th – 14th centuries: the Savoy city

In 1272, Bresse joined the House of Savoy and the first surrounding wall was built.
Being a border city, a larger and stronger fortress surrounded the city in the second half of the 14th century and the beginning of the 15th century. New surrounding areas became part of the city. Located on the Mâcon-Turin route, Bourg-en-Bresse prospered in business, trade, markets and artisan leather and cloth.
The middle classes built themselves timber-framed houses, examples of which can still be seen on Rue Basch and Rue du Palais. The population of Bourg-en-Bresse was 3,700 in the Middle Ages.

The 16th century: the first French occupation of the Citadel

Photo du cloître du Monastère royal de Brou. Monastère royal de Brou - © S. Buathier

The Duke of Savoy’s wife, Margaret of Austria, had the Monastère Royal de Brou built at the beginning of the 16th century.
Between 1536 and 1559, the city once again became French and King François I gave Bourg-en-Bresse a modern surrounding wall with strongholds and moats to protect its population of 6,000.
In the face of threats from the French kingdom, Duke Philibert Emmanuel of Savoy had the citadel known as Fort Saint-Maurice built as one of the best wartime strongholds of the time. The citadel was destroyed in 1611 following Bresse’s defeat to France in 1601.

The 18th century: the transformation of the city’s structure

The city significantly transformed during Louis XV’s reign: the marshes were dried out, the streets were paved and lit and new buildings were built by the middle classes and aristocrats (the Town Hall, Hôtel Marron de Meillonnas, Hôtel de Bohan etc.). The population reached 7,000.
The French Revolution promoted the city to the rank of county town for the department and gave it new administrative roles.

The 19th century: the city’s growth

Bourg-en-Bresse Train Station (1910) Gare de Bourg-en-Bresse (1910) - © Archives municipales

The railway’s arrival in 1857 changed the agricultural suburbs. The size of the former city doubled following the urbanisation of the Bel Air and Gare areas. In 1850, the population reached 10,000.

The 20th century: periods of rapid growth

Photo du quartier de la Reyssouze en pleine extension. Quartier de la Reyssouze (1963) - © Archives municipales

The turn of the century (1900-1920) was marked by the mass settlement of labourers moving from the countryside into the city. Bourg-en-Bresse’s population thus grew and the first factories were built, the beginnings of future industrial success.
Between the World Wars, labourers settled in Dîmes, Chambière and Vennes. The areas of Reyssouze and Croix-Blanche developed during the 30s.
At the end of the 20th century, Bourg-en-Bresse had become a magnet for businesses, services and facilities given its administrative role, its food produce and industrial sectors.

The 21st century: a sustainable vision for growth

The local population is growing due to numerous residential projects. The most recent census (INSEE 2007) showed that Bourg-en-Bresse has 43,000 residents and covers 2,400 hectares. The city is now committed to sustainable development. The environment, natural resources and quality of life are key to how the city develops.

Photo de Bourg-en-Bresse vue du ciel. © Stéphane Nys – Air Tech Photo

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Mairie de Bourg-en-Bresse
Place de l'Hôtel de Ville
01012 Bourg-en-Bresse - France
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Phone: (+33) 4 74 45 71 99

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