Fougères, city of writers : discover the literary route


Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

With his lover Juliette Drouet, Victor Hugo discover Fougères in June 1836 during his trip in Brittany. From his expeditions, the writer took some drawings back : the castle viewed from la Place aux Arbres, la Porte Notre-Dame, la Tourgue, and from  gargoyle present on the church Saint-Léonard. He draws inspiration for his novel  "Quatre-vingt-treize" which will be published in 1874. One of the character is named Juliette : Gauvain.

Juliette Drouet (1806-1883)

Juliette Gauvain, her real surname, is born in Fougères. Orphan really early, Juliette is sent in Paris in a religious house where dhe didn't find her vocation. Then, she studied comedy in Bruxelles, and Par la suite, elle fait ses débuts en tant que comédienne à Bruxelles, and became very successful on her way back to Paris. She changed her family name for Drouet Elle prend alors le nom de Drouet in honor of her uncle who raised her. In 1831, she performed as princess Négroni in " Lucrèce Borgia ", Juliette and Victor Hugo met. It's the thunderbolt, she became his lover, his muse, his inspirational. In 1836, their travels drove them to Fougères, where Victor Hugo wrote « Je suis à cette heure dans le pays des fougères, dans une ville qui devrait être pieusement visitée par les peintres… ». She helped Victor Hugo to write his story "Les Misérables", because many moments of her past life in the momastery are in the novel. In 1851-522, she followed him during his exile to Bruxelles and Guernesey. She will write him many lettersElle lui écrira des milliers de lettres dont la bibliothèque de Fougères en conserve plusieurs.

Jean Guéhenno (1890-1978)

Jean Guéhenno was born in Fougères in 1890 in this « small city et blue of Brittany », in a new area of Bonabry. Son of shoemaker, he has to find a job and leave school when his dad get sick. He became factory employee but studies on his bachelor's degree late at night after the factory. In 1911, he is received at the Normale Supérieure school. During the First World War he got injuries to one eye, he became teacher and writer. During the occupation period, he is an active member of the French Intellectual Resistance. At the liberation, he is in charge of the youth movement and popular culture. In 1962, he is elected at the French Academy. He will be managing editor of the Review Europe and then the newspaper Vendredi, columnist at Figaro, and for the Monde. In "Le Journal d’un Homme de 40 ans" and in "Changer la Vie", Jean Guéhenno speak about his youth in Fougères and in his native country.

Fougères, thousand years of history


Fougères has been visited many times by writers. The city allows an incomparable site for the poets, painters, photographers and of course tourists.


The central place of Fougères : the castle

The origins of Fougères come from its impressive castle. The place is installed since 2 000 years on a rock spur surrounded by the river Nançon which acted as natural ditches. Fougères is composed by two city : the lower city surrounds the castle and the church Saint-Sulpice and the higher town include the church saint Leonard, the city hall and the belfry.


The medieval life

The medieval town expand itself  at the foot of the castle, at the edge of the Nançon river. Here the first artisanal activities started : cloth trade, tannery, dyeworks.

The fortress is surrounded by remparts and towers (11 towers) in order to insure the inhabitants safety in the higher town. In this part they also built a tribunal, and a town hall in order to get the administrative and judiciary power. This independance will also be noticed by the construction of the Belfry (1397).


Fougères,  crossroad city

At the crossroad of Normandie, Brittany, Maine and Anjou, Fougères is viewed as defendeur of the "Marches de Bretagne". Those represent the old border area between Brittany and France where big and small fortresses were built as protection fron North to South.


Fougères, covet city

Until its attachment to France in 1448, Fougères was faling prey to Wars of Succession. One by one, English and French grabbed it.

Henri II of England besieged Fougères and ruined the castle in 1166. Raoul II rebuilt the castle in 1173 with stones, the place is attended by the French garrison and regained by the Duke Pierre de Dreux.

François of Surienne, Spanish working for England seized the city and the castle with a group of 600 men during the night of 23th - 24th of March 1449. After 2 months occupation by the Breton army directed by Prince Pierre (the Duke brother) English gave up and left Fougères.

Many fires burnt the center in the XVIII century. It will be rebuilt in granit.


Fougères, industrial town

The industrial revolution  (shoes industry) gave rise to Bonabry parish : Fougères has become capital of the shoes.
At the end of the 19 century a new kind of shoes is producted : leather shoes. The railway arrival in 1863 and the setting up of 60 shoes factories will allow the increase of the population from 11 000 to 25 000.

Fougères has a very wide economic activity.  In the Shoes and in glass industry, workers from Fougères developped a meticulous know-how which led to cutting-edge technology : exemple of Carl Zeiss Vision, former Ouest Optique created by  Emile Martin. He became a specialist of high quality glasses and created a laboratory in Fougères dedicated to the glass digital machining.

Sagem Communication set up in 1969 in Fougères with the desire to use its recognized competences. 700 employees work in in factory today. A new company is added : Otima which produce envelopes and metal chassis. The factory receive electronic component and make finished goods.  ; Bretagne Fizeau optic school, Bertin Hearing aid school ; and the watchmaking school which train more than 200 students to the microtechnique and to the professional electronic drafting.


Some celebrities who have marked Fougères and its history


Général de La Riboisière (1759 - 1813)

Jean-Ambroise Baston, Earl of La Riboisière born in Fougères, achieve brilliant studies at the high school of Rennes. Then he became officer in the Field Regiment where he made friend with Napoléon Bonapart. La Riboisière was part of every war during the Revolution and the Empire, It played a major part to the success of  Austerlitz, Iéna, Moskowa and Wagran battles. Named Earl of the Empire in 1808, he was appointed  general inspector of the assault artillery in 1811. At the battle of Moskowa, he lost his second son,  young officer with a bright future. « Voilà, he said, hiting with a ball which will kill him and his father ». He died in Koenigsberg on his way back to the Russian Campaign, and he was buried in the Invalides. His heart lies in the Castle of Monthorin in Louvigné du Désert !


Marquis de la Rouërie (1751-1793)

Born in Fougères, Armand Tuffin de la Rouërie covered itself with glory en America during the War of independence where he become Washington friend. Back in Paris, he became  strong advocate of the Breton privileges.  In Saint-Ouen-la-Rouërie, a bit before 1789, he established the 'Association bretonne' which prepare an insurrection in 1791-1792, counterrevolutionary movement. Betrayed by one of his friend, he is hunted and died of exhaustion. in the Castle of la Guyomarais (Côte d'Armor) the 30 of January 1793. He will be decapitated post-mortem.


Georges Franju (1912- 1987)

Georges Franju was born in 1912 in Fougères. He left the city as a teenager for Paris. Passionate about the cinema, he turns to posters creation and met Henri Langlois with whom he foundedavec qui il fonde la cinématheque. From 1958 he realized movies such as : "La Tête contre les murs", "Thérèse Desqueyroux", "Les yeux sans visage" and "Judex". He died in 1987


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