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Pontarlier (Municipality, Doubs, France)

Last modified: 2014-01-12 by ivan sache
Keywords: doubs | pontarlier | bridge (white) | tower (white) |
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[Flag of Pontarlier]

Flag of Pontarlier - Image by Pascal Vagnat, 26 August 2002


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Presentation of Pontarlier

The municipality of Pontarlier (18,456 inhabitants - Pontissaliens in 2010; 4,135 ha) is located on river Doubs, close to the border with Switzerland. Located at an elevation of 837 m a.s.l., Pontarlier is the second highest French town after Briançon.

Pontarlier was already an important town in the 12 century, located on the ancient road linking northern Italy to Champagne and Flanders. In the middle of the 13th century, Pontarlier and eighteen neighbouring villages constituted the Baroichage, an administrative and ecclesiastic community ruled by the burghers of Pontarlier. Due to its strategic location and its four yearly fairs, Pontarlier increased in size and wealth until the 17th century. During the Ten Years' War, Pontarlier, then a Spanish possession, was seized on 26 January 1639 after a four-day siege by the Swedish mercenaries of Bernard of Saxe-Weimar. The town was looted and burned down.
Pontarlier was definitively incorporated to France in 1678 by the Treaty of Nijmegen. The St. Peter's Arch was built at the entrance of the town to celebrate this incorporation. Its design is similar to the St. Martin's Arch built in Paris the same year to celebrate the incorporation of Franche-Comté. During the 18th century, the town, mostly built with wood, was often damaged by fire. On 31 August 1736, half of the town was destroyed. The town was rebuilt according to the plans of engineer Querret. In January 1871, the army commanded by General Bourbaki was defeated by the Prussian army and ran away to Switzerland to avoid capitulation. This was made possible by the heroic defense of the defile of Pontarlier, upstream from the town, by General Billot's Corps.

In 1797, Henri-Louis Pernod founded in Franche-Comté the first absinth manufacture. Two centuries later, Pontarlier was the world capital of absinth. The golden age of the "green fairy" ended in 1915 when absinth production was forbidden because of the neurological toxicity of this alcohol. Pernod went over into production of less dangerous aniseed beverages, including the famous Pernod 45.

The fort of Joux was built in the 11th century to watch the defile of Pontarlier. The defenses of the fort were improved by Vauban in 1678 and by Joffre between 1879 and 1881. The fort was mostly used as a State prison and had a few famous guests such as Mirabeau in 1776; Toussaint-Louverture, the hero of the Haitian independence, who died in the fort in 1803; and the German romantic writer Heinrich von Kleist, mistaken for a spy and briefly jailed in 1806.

Ivan Sache, 26 August 2002


Flag of Pontarlier

The flag of Pontarlier is horizontally divided red-white with the municipal coat of arms placed in the middle of the flag. The municipal arms, showing a bridge protected by a tower, reflect the strategic importance of the town.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 26 August 2002