1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vincennes (France)

VINCENNES, a town of northern France, in the department of Seine, on a wooded plateau 1¼ m. E. of the fortifications of Paris, with which it is connected by rail and tram. Pop. (1906) town, 29,791; commune, 34,185. Its celebrated castle, situated to the south of the town and on the northern border of the Bois de Vincennes, was formerly a royal residence, begun by Louis VII. in 1164, and more than once rebuilt. It was frequently visited by Louis IX., who held informal tribunals in the neighbouring wood, a pyramid marking the spot where the oak under which he administered justice is said to have stood. The chapel, an imitation of the Sainte Chapelle at Paris, was begun by Charles V. in 1379, continued by Charles VI. and Francis I., consecrated in 1552 and restored in modern times. In the sacristy is the monument erected in 1816 to the memory of the duke of Enghien, who was shot in the castle moat in 1804. Louis XI. made the castle a state prison in which Henry of Navarre, the great Condé, Mirabeau and other distinguished persons were afterwards confined. Under Napoleon I. the castle became a magazine of war-material. Louis XVIII. added an armoury, and under Louis Philippe numerous casemates and a new fort to the east of the donjon were constructed. The place now serves as a fort, arsenal and barracks. It forms a rectangle 417 yds. long by 245 yds. wide. The enclosing wall was originally flanked by nine towers, which were cut down to its level between 1808 and 1811, and now serve as bastions. The donjon is a square tower, 170 ft. high, with turrets at the corners. The Bois de Vincennes, which covers about 2300 acres and stretches to the right bank of the Marne, contains a race-course, a military training-ground, a school of military explosives (pyrotechnic), several artificial lakes, an artillery polygon and other military establishments, an experimental farm, the redoubts of Gravelle and La Faisanderie and the normal school of military gymnastics. The wood, which now belongs to Paris, was laid out during the second empire on the same lines as the Bois de Boulogne. On its south border is the asylum of Vincennes, founded in 1855 for the benefit of convalescents from the hospitals. In the town there is a statue of General Daumesnil, celebrated for his defense of the castle against the allies in 1814 and 1815. Vincennes has a school of military administration and carries on horticulture and the manufacture of ironware of various kinds, rubber goods, chemicals, perfumery, mineral waters, &c.