1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bordeaux

BORDEAUX, a city of south-western France, capital of the department of Gironde, 359 m. S.S.W. of Paris by a main line of the Orléans railway and 159 m. N.W. of Toulouse on the main line of the Southern railway. Pop. (1906) 237,707. Bordeaux, one of the finest and most extensive cities in France, is situated on the left or west bank of the Garonne about 60 m. from the sea, in a plain which comprises the wine-growing district of Médoc. The Garonne at this point describes a semicircle, separating the city proper on the left bank from the important suburb of La Bastide on the right bank. The river is crossed by the Pont de Bordeaux, a fine stone structure of the early 19th century, measuring 1534 ft. in length, and by a railway bridge connecting the station of the Orléans railway company in La Bastide with that of the Southern company on the left bank. Looking west from the Pont de Bordeaux, the view embraces a crescent of wide and busy quays with a background of lofty warehouses, factories and mansions, behind which rise towers and steeples. Almost at the centre of the line of quays is the Place des Quinconces, round which lie the narrow, winding streets in which the life of the city is concentrated. Outside this quarter, which contains most of the important buildings, the streets are narrow and quiet and bordered by the low white houses which at Bordeaux take the place of the high tenements characteristic of other large French towns. The whole city is surrounded by a semicircle of boulevards, beyond which lie the suburbs of Le Bouscat, Caudéran, Mérignac, Talence and Bégles. The principal promenades are situated close together near the centre of the city. They comprise the beautiful public garden, the allées de Tourny and the Place des Quinconces. The latter is planted with plane trees, among which stand two huge statues of Montaigne and Montesquieu, and terminates upon the quays with two rostral columns which serve as lighthouses. On its west side there is a monument to the Girondin deputies proscribed under the convention in 1793. At its south-west corner the Place des Quinconces opens into the Place de la Comédie, which contains the Grand Théâtre (18th century), the masterpiece of the architect Victor Louis. The Place de la Comédie, the centre of business in Bordeaux, is traversed by a street which, under the names of Cours du Chapeau-Rouge, rue de l’Intendance and rue Judaïque, runs from the Place de la Bourse and the quai de la Douane on the east to the outer boulevards on the west. Another important thoroughfare, the rue Sainte Cathérine, runs at right angles to the rue de l’Intendance and enters the Place de la Comédie on the south. The Pont de Bordeaux is continued by the Cours Victor Hugo, a curved street crossing the rue Sainte Cathérine and leading to the cathedral of St André. This church, dating from the 11th to the 14th centuries, is a building in the Gothic style with certain Romanesque features, chief among which are the arches in the nave. It consists of a large nave without aisles, a transept at the extremities of which are the main entrances, and a choir, flanked by double aisles and chapels and containing many works of art. Both the north and south façades are richly decorated with sculpture and statuary. Of the four towers flanking the principal portals, only those to the north are surmounted by spires. Near the choir stands an isolated tower. It contains the great bell of the cathedral and is known as the Clocher Pey-Berland, after the archbishop of Bordeaux who erected it in the 15th century. Of the numerous other churches of Bordeaux the most notable are St Seurin (11th to the 15th centuries), with a finely sculptured southern portal; Ste Croix (12th and 13th centuries), remarkable for its Romanesque façade; and St Michel, a fine Gothic building of the 15th and 16th centuries. The bell tower of St Michel, which has the highest spire (354 ft.) in the south of France, dates from the end of the 15th century, and, like that of the cathedral, stands apart from its church. The palace of the Faculties of Science and of Letters (1881–1886) contains the tomb of Michel de Montaigne. The prefecture, the hôtel de ville, the bourse and the custom-house belong to the 15th century. The law-courts and the hospital of St André (the foundation of which dates from 1390) belong to the first half of the 19th century. Of greater antiquarian interest is the Palais Gallien, situated near the public garden, consisting of remains of lofty arcades, vaulting and fragments of wall, which once formed part of a Roman amphitheatre. Bordeaux lost its fortifications in the 18th century, but four of the old gateways or triumphal arches belonging to that period still remain. Still older are the Porte de Cailhau, once the entrance to the Palais de l’Ombrière, which before its destruction was the residence of the duke of Aquitaine, and the Porte de l’Hôtel de Ville, the former of the 15th, the latter of the 13th and 16th centuries.

Bordeaux is the seat of an archbishop, the headquarters of the XVIII. army corps, the centre of an académie (educational division) and the seat of a court of appeal. A court of assizes is held there, and there are tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a council of trade-arbitrators, a chamber of commerce and a branch of the Bank of France. Its educational institutions include faculties of law, of science, of letters and of medicine and pharmacy, a faculty of Catholic theology, lycées, training colleges, a higher school of commerce, a chair of agriculture, a school of fine art and a naval school of medicine. There are several museums, including one with a large collection of pictures and sculptures, a library with over 200,000 volumes and numerous learned societies.

The trade of Bordeaux, the fourth port in France, is chiefly carried on by sea. Its port, 51/2 m. long and on the average 550 yds. wide, is formed by the basin of the Garonne and is divided into two portions by the Pont de Bordeaux. That to the south is used only by small craft; that to the north is accessible to vessels drawing from 21 to 26 ft. according to the state of the tide. From 1000 to 1200 vessels can be accommodated in the harbour, which is lined on both sides by quays and sloping wharves served by railway lines. At the northen extremity of the harbour, on the left bank, there is a floating basin of 25 acres in extent, capable of receiving the largest vessels; it has over 1900 yds. of quays and is furnished with a repairing dock and with elaborate machinery for the loading and unloading of goods. In 1907 the construction of new docks behind this basin was begun. The city maintains commercial relations with nearly all countries, but chiefly with Great Britain, Spain, Argentina, Portugal and the United States. The most important line of steamers using the port is the South American service of the Messageries Maritimes. The total value of the exports and imports of Bordeaux averages between 25 and 26 millions sterling yearly. Of this amount exports make up 131/2 millions, of which the sales of wine bring in about one quarter. The city is the centre of the trade in “Bordeaux” wines, and the wine-cellars of the quays are one of its principal sights. Other principal exports are brandy, hides and skins, sugar, rice, woollen and cotton goods, salt-fish, chemicals, oil-cake, pitwood, fruit, potatoes and other vegetables. The chief imports are wool, fish, timber, rice, wine, rubber, coal, oil-grains, hardware, agricultural and other machinery and chemicals. A large fleet is annually despatched to the cod-fisheries of Newfoundland and Iceland. The most important industry is ship-building and refitting. Ironclads and torpedo-boats as well as merchant vessels are constructed. Railway carriages are also built. The industries subsidiary to the wine-trade, such as wine-mixing, cooperage and the making of bottles, corks, capsules, straw envelopes and wooden cases, occupy many hands. There are also flour-mills, sugar-refineries, breweries, distilleries, oil-works, cod-drying works, manufactories of canned and preserved fruits, vegetables and meat, and of chocolate. Chemicals, leather, iron-ware, machinery and pottery are manufactured, and a tobacco factory employs 1500 hands.

Bordeaux (Burdigala) was originally the chief town of the Bituriges Vivisci. Under the Roman empire it became a flourishing commercial city, and in the 4th century it was made the capital of Aquitania Secunda. Ausonius, a writer of the 4th century, who was a native of the place, describes it as four-square and surrounded with walls and lofty towers, and celebrates its importance as one of the greatest educational centres of Gaul. In the evils that resulted from the disintegration of the empire Bordeaux had its full share, and did not recover its prosperity till the beginning of the 10th century. Along with Guienne it belonged to the English kings for nearly three hundred years (1154–1453), and was for a time the seat of the brilliant court of Edward the Black Prince, whose son Richard was born in the city. An extensive commerce was gradually developed between the Bordeaux merchants and their fellow-subjects in England,—London, Hull, Exeter, Dartmouth, Bristol and Chester being the principal ports with which they traded. The English administration was favourable to the liberties as well as to the trade of the city. In 1235 it received the right of electing its mayors, who were assisted in the administration by a “jurade” or municipal council. The influence of Bordeaux was still further increased when several important towns of the region, among them St Emilion and Libourne, united in a federation under its leadership. The defeat of the English at the battle of Castillon in 1453 was followed, after a siege of three months, by the submission of Bordeaux to Charles VII. The privileges of the city were at once curtailed, and were only partially restored under Louis XI., who established there the parlement of Guienne. In 1548 the inhabitants resisted the imposition of the salt-tax by force of arms, a rebellion for which they were punished by the constable Anne de Montmorency with merciless severity.

The reformed religion found numerous adherents at Bordeaux, and after the massacre of St Bartholomew nearly three hundred of its inhabitants lost their lives. The 17th century was a period of disturbance. The city was for a time the chief support of the Fronde, and on two occasions, in 1653 and 1675, troops were sent to repress insurrections against royal measures. In the middle of the 18th century, a period of commercial and architectural activity for Bordeaux, the marquis de Tourny, intendant of Guienne, did much to improve the city by widening the streets and laying out public squares. It was the headquarters of the Girondists at the Revolution, and during the Reign of Terror suffered almost as severely as Lyons and Marseilles. Its commerce was greatly reduced under Napoleon I. In 1814 it declared for the house of Bourbon; and Louis XVIII. afterwards gave the title of duc de Bordeaux to his grand-nephew, better known as the comte de Chambord. In 1870 the French government was transferred to Bordeaux from Tours on the approach of the Germans to the latter city.

See Camille Jullian, Hist. de Bordeaux, depuis les origines jusqu’en 1895 (Bordeaux, 1895); T. Malvezin, Hist. du commerce de Bordeaux (Bordeaux, 1892); Bordeaux, aperçu historique, sol, population, industrie, commerce, administration (Bordeaux, 1892).