Nancy, capital city

The history of France and indeed Europe as a whole has involved Nancy time and again over the last thousand years. It has fashioned a capital whose architectural wonders and humanist spirit are a source of great pride to its residents and greatly admired by its visitors.

In the 11th century, the Duke of Lorraine, Gérard d’Alsace, decided to establish a stopover point between Metz and Saint-Nicolas-de-Port. Despite certain geographical difficulties (a basin at the mercy of floods and marshes), he built a fortified town where the St-Epvre district now stands. Nancy was born.

The second founding event took place several centuries later, when in the winter of 1477, a decisive act of European history was played out in Nancy; Citizens of Lorraine and Burgundy clashed, which led the town's inhabitants to burn the roofs of their own homes just to stay warm. Nancy was devastated by this tragic event, but the Duchy was saved and the newly independent town began to gain awareness of its own identity. Duke René II gave it new momentum. Suburbs began to develop around its outskirts. Through a series of alliances, the town found itself on the chessboard of European politics.

In the early 16th century, the urban landscape was turned upside down by Charles III who, in order to fulfil defensive needs and the requirements of a growing population, established an entire new town, the Ville Neuve (New Town), to the south of the old town. Nancy became a modern 77-hectare city. The Ducal Palace and Franciscan monastery (Eglise des Cordeliers) were built, followed by the New Town.

By the turn of the 18th century, growth in commercial activity was such that development of road infrastructure could barely keep up. A policy of further improvements was then initiated by Leopold.

It was then the turn of Stanislas Leszczynski, the Duke of Lorraine and father-in-law of the King of France, to oversee the capital's ongoing transformation. He was responsible for some of Nancy's most impressive 18th-century architecture, the university and the library. He also inspired a taste for the arts and scholarly societies that to this day continue to play an important part in the city's reputation. On his death in 1766, Nancy became French.

During the second half of the 19th century, the appearance of the city was transformed once again.  The defeat in 1870, followed by the annexation of Moselle and Alsace, was significant. After the loss of Optants" from Alsace and Lorraine who had chosen to refuse German nationality. Now a border city, Nancy was not merely strategic but had become France's showcase towards Germany. Industries, businesses, banks and universities started to develop. Town planning took off. The industrial district began to develop near the canal to the east, with new districts emerging near to the railway in the west. The population more than doubled, reaching 120,000 inhabitants by 1910, not seen since the city was founded. Nancy Thermal emerged. Art Nouveau exploded onto the scene. Nancy has become one of France's largest cities, for which patriotism, republicanism, proliferation and creativity are by-words.

Now Nancy sits at the heart of the Grand Nancy metropolitan area with a population of more than 250,000 inhabitants.