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Coordinates: 49°33′50″N 3°37′28″E / 49.5638888889°N 3.62444444444°E / 49.5638888889; 3.62444444444

Laon (French pronunciation: [lɑ̃]) is the capital city of the Aisne department in Picardy in northern France.



The hilly district of Laon, which rises a hundred metres above the otherwise flat Picardy plain[1], has always held strategic importance. In the time of Julius Caesar there was a Gallic village where the Remis (inhabitants of the country round Reims) had to meet the onset of the confederated Belgae. Whatever may have been the precise locality of that battlefield, Laon was fortified by the Romans, and successively checked the invasions of the Franks, Burgundians, Vandals, Alans and Huns. At that time it was known as Alaudanum or Lugdunum Clavatum.

Remigius, archbishop of Reims, who baptised Clovis, was born in the Laonnais, and it was he who, at the end of the fifth century, instituted the bishopric of Laon. Thenceforward Laon was one of the principal towns of the kingdom of the Franks, and the possession of it was often disputed. Charles the Bald had enriched its church with the gift of very numerous domains. After the fall of the Carolingians Laon took the part of Charles of Lorraine, their heir, and Hugh Capet only succeeded in making himself master of the town by the connivance of the bishop, who, in return for this service, was made second ecclesiastical peer of the kingdom.

Early in the twelfth century the communes of France set about emancipating themselves, and the history of the commune of Laon is one of the richest and most varied. The citizens had profited by a temporary absence of Bishop Gaudry to secure from his representatives a communal charter, but he, on his return, purchased from the king of France the revocation of this document, and recommenced his oppressions. The consequence was a revolt, in which the episcopal palace was burnt and the bishop and several of his partisans were put to death on 25 April 1112 . The fire spread to the cathedral, and reduced it to ashes. Uneasy at the result of their victory, the rioters went into hiding outside the town, which was anew pillaged by the people of the neighbourhood, eager to avenge the death of their bishop.

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