City of Agen

Twinned since January 1996

Number of inhabitants: 34128

Agglomération of Agen : 118800


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Agen is a commune in the south-west of France, prefecture of Lot-et-Garonne, in the region of New Aquitaine. Its inhabitants are called Agenais.

Distance to major French cities

115 km
140 km
139 km
360 km
593 km
529 km
518 km
673 km
622 km

The country that surrounds it, on both banks of the Garonne, is the Agenais. Twenty-year-old city established at the foot of the hillside of the Hermitage which was the seat of the Gallic oppidum of Nitiobroges, its history is intimately linked to that of "Garonne", as the Agenais name their river by personifying it. If it was nurturing and allowed the development of trade, its many formidable floods have given the city the reputation of being the most flooded in France.
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Today protected by dikes, the city and its agglomeration have largely spread in the valley. Agen has preserved from its medieval past an important civil and religious architectural heritage, enriched in the late nineteenth century by the construction of Haussmann-style buildings and houses Art Nouveau and Art Deco during the piercing of broad boulevards. The name of Agen is commonly associated with the prune, whose production area is mainly located in Lot-et-Garonne and which was formerly shipped from the port of the city on the Garonne, as well as in his club's rugby union. emblematic, the SU Agen, which holds in particular 8 titles of champion of France.


Agen's business is today essentially tertiary, administrative and commercial. The city trip to play, the main role of the average Garonne, ideally located between the metropolises of Bordeaux and Toulouse, developing and promoting trade (O'Green Shopping Park, renovation of the heart of the city), family tourism (Walibi South-West, navigation on the side canal to the Garonne), or the construction of a congress center and areas of industrial and commercial activity (Agropole, Technopole Agen Garonne).
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History, origins

The site of Agen was probably populated at least since the Neolithic, but it is difficult at the beginning of the hour. The remains that we currently have at our disposal testify to a settlement of Iberian origin to viiie and vii centuries BC. However, the site occupied at that time was different from the one we know today: it is the plateau of the Hermitage. It is also this situation (on a rocky outcrop) that would have been the key to the toponymy of the city
The site, although located at the confluence of the valley of the Mass and the Garonne, is not one of the most strategic places of the valley. It is therefore difficult to explain by geography alone why the Nitiobroges (Celtic people who arrived around 400 BC) chose this place as the capital of their kingdom. They had built on this site a stronghold of about 50 hectares, located 100 meters above the bed of the Garonne. We found traces of this occupation of the soil in the nineteenth century and more recently, thanks to the work of the team of archaeologists of the Agenais.
The displacement of the city towards the terraces of the Garonne is undoubtedly anterior to the Roman occupation. This transfer must be related to the wealth of trade that took place along the river and to the Pyrenees and the Massif Central. The discovery of the very rich grave at Boé Char is evidence of the opulence of local elites at the end of the 1st century before Jesus Christ

Aginum, Gallo-Roman city

The Gallo-Roman city has left important and quite numerous traces. But most of them have been destroyed and in particular the most interesting ones. First of all, the theater, something quite rare for a city of medium importance, especially since Aginnum also had an amphitheater (dated 215 AD) that can accommodate 10,000 to 15,000 people. considerable. There are also clues about the existence of at least one necropolis. The city stretched over 80 hectares and was therefore quite rich and mostly populated. But prosperity was more related to a transit activity than to a true commercial pole. This intense passage is to be put in relation with the early implantation of the Christian religion. From the end of the third century, the chronicles relate the martyrs of Saint Caprais and Saint Foy, who would be buried on the site of the present church of Martrou. In the following century, the Christian Church organized itself with its first known bishop, Phébade, whose theological work earned him a prestige in all of Christendom.

Agen in the "Moyen-Age"
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As with many cities, we have few records of the Great Invasion era. For four centuries, Agen saw the Vandals, the Visigoths and the Franks pass before suffering the onslaught of the Vikings in the ninth century. Historians have noted three invasions: in 843, 853 and the last in 922. The most destructive invasion is that of 853. It is after this attack that the relics of Saint Foy were taken to Conques, probably between 877 and 884.
During the early Middle Ages, Agen remained in Aquitaine near the Novempopulanie and the Duchy of Vasconie. After the year 660, Vasconie and Aquitaine became independent of the Franks and reached their peak with Eudes d'Aquitaine. In 732, the Saracens invaded the Vasconie and Bordeaux, but their progress was stopped by Charles Martel and Eudes between Poitiers and Tours. Pepin the Short pursues the conquest of all Aquitaine and, in 766, the Vascons, ancestors of the Basques (called Wascones) went to Pepin Agen. The city fell back on itself and fortified itself in its first enclosure (about ten hectares) around the cathedral Saint-Étienne (location of the current market-covered parking) and whose foundation is difficult to date. Having never been completely finished, the building deteriorated and threatening to collapse it was demolished in the early nineteenth century.
It is around this nucleus that the medieval city developed whose urban plot was organized from the rue des Cornières (of which it remains a part) which ended up Place du Marché (today Place des Dairy). that is to say at the foot of the old cathedral. The main vestiges of the medieval Agen are religious buildings. We have already seen that the Saint-Etienne cathedral has disappeared. But the most magnificent monument is undoubtedly the church of the Jacobins (today transformed into a cultural center). The church is the last vestige of the convent of the Jacobins (or Dominicans) and dates from the thirteenth century. The construction, with the exception of the three central pillars (stone) separating the vessel into two naves, is made of brick. Recent restoration work has revealed murals depicting Alphonse de Poitiers (lord of the city and protector of the convent at its construction). It was the site of great local or regional events: in 1354, the Black Prince received the tribute of 40 barons and in particular that of Gaston Phoebus.
The city had a large number of other religious buildings, convents or churches such as the current cathedral: the collegiate Saint-Caprais, largely Romanesque. Around the church was an architectural ensemble to accommodate the canons: monastery, cloister ... of which there remains only the chapter house. Exploiting the feudal rivalries between Plantagenet (succeeding the Counts of Poitiers) and Counts of Toulouse and between Kings of England and Capetian, bishops and inhabitants could escape the tutelage of their lords.
From the twelfth century, the city enjoys a certain autonomy, it has a custom, freedoms and franchises. This autonomy is confirmed in the thirteenth century (the charter dates from 1248) and the tutelage of the king (or the count) and the bishop is more and more cowardly. The city is administered by consuls who affix on the solemn acts the great seal of the city representing on the obverse a fortified city with inside a bell tower and on the reverse an eagle. But the consular administration is not democratic, it is an oligarchy that often abused its powers, resulting in several popular revolts in the following centuries.

The city was indeed significantly enlarged during the Middle Ages: it now reaches 60 hectares. Agen was a prosperous and populated city (perhaps 10,000 inhabitants whereas Toulouse had less than 40,000) living in particular activities related to the Garonne: trade, fishing, milling. However, although the city did not suffer too much directly from the terrible clashes of the Hundred Years War (it even gained a little more autonomy) it suffered the consequences of the ravages of the surrounding countries. In addition, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries experienced the terrible epidemic of black plague aggravated by many and devastating bad weather. The Garonne in particular struck by deadly floods.

The time of the "Renaissance"

From the end of the Hundred Years War to the first troubles of the wars of Religion, Agen experienced a renaissance both material and intellectual. A wave of immigration from the Massif Central, West and Pyrenees repopulated the region. In addition, the diocese was led by five successive Italian bishops, many of them from the La Rovere family, related to Pope Julius II. They were fine scholars, like Mateo Bandello, author of short stories. This is one of them, probably written at Bazens, residence of the bishops of Agen, which inspired to Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet. They came with a whole suite of obscure people but also very brilliant as the doctor and humanist Julius Caesar Scaliger, known throughout Europe, or his son, Joseph-Juste, acquired the Reformation (this is one "illustrious" Agenais). Agen, a Catholic city (and rival of Nérac, political and intellectual capital of the Reformed), was repeatedly occupied and looted by Protestant troops during this dramatic period. It will shelter for some time the Queen Marguerite de Valois, known as Queen Margot.
The peace returned, the city knew a revival of prosperity after a difficult Great Century, like the rest of the country, because of climatic conditions prejudicial to agriculture, activity of which the city was very dependent. Popular seditions, pestilences and famines mean that the real return to prosperity did not take place until the eighteenth century, which the numerous civil buildings attest to: mansions of wealthy noble or bourgeois families enriched in commercial and textile activity. Only at the end of the century was built the magnificent episcopal palace, which later became the headquarters of the prefecture. At that time, Agen was a manufacturing town specialized in sailcloth but also sheets, ropes and various fabrics. The city is leaving more and more of its ramparts. She no longer fears the political troubles but only the moods of the Garonne. However, we do not hesitate to embellish the banks of the river by developing the walk called "Gravel" planted with abalone (now amputated and disfigured by the path on the bank and the wall that now separates the city from its river). This place was home to major fairs, especially that of June where barges came from all over Europe. The city is in fact dependent more and more on its river which exports to the Americas the flour of the High Country that is exchanged there for sugar. Dried plums are also sold to sailors who, during the voyage, avoid scurvy. The wine trade was also very important but hampered by the privilege of Bordeaux wines prohibiting the sale of wines upstream until Christmas, part of the production was transformed into brandy.

Agen in the XIXth

The Revolution then the continental blockade and the beginnings of the industrial revolution will bring heavy blows to the activities of Agen. But this economic numbness that we see in the nineteenth century is also to be put to the account of the local bourgeoisie, which has lost its dynamism and retreats to a less lucrative land rent: the agricultural show of Agen 1855 seeks yet to demonstrate the superiority of the fake on the steering wheel! As Peter Weissberg wrote in the history of Agen published by Privat in 1991: "Agen has not missed its industrial revolution: it has not even attempted." Thus, the assets that constituted the railroad and the side channel of the Garonne, which was, after transformation into "canal of the two seas", according to the military "to take half of the traffic of Gibraltar and to avoid our fleet the humiliation to pass under the English canons ", were insufficiently used or did not see the light of day. The influx of people from the Massif Central, the Pyrenees and Spain compensated for the very large labor deficit in a region in serious demographic decline but mainly absorbed by construction and agriculture. The nineteenth century, however, was one of great achievements of the community. Since 1827, Agen finally has a bridge (several attempts have aborted, from the Middle Ages to the sixteenth century and for 300 years we crossed the Garonne by ferry), doubled by the bridge suspended in 1839 and finally the canal bridge, completed in 1843 , a masterpiece with 23 arches spanning the river and its bed. It was in 1875 that the Garonne experienced its most dramatic flood (it made 500 deaths in Toulouse and 8 in Agen) but the canal bridge had resisted.
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The true transformations of the urban fabric of Agen took place only under the mandate of Jean-Baptiste Durand, between 1880 and 1895 (the city counted at that time 20 000 inhabitants). The two main boulevards were pierced today: République and Carnot, the latter leading to the newly built station (the main building was completed in 1858 and two side wings were added in 1886 and destroyed in 1981). On the route of the old ramparts, dismantled at the Revolution, belt boulevards were made. These large sites, however, destroyed testimonies of the past like most of the Sainte-Foy church. In 1888 is inaugurated the new high school Bernard-Palissy d'Agen, built on a mound so that it is safe from floods. The second high school of the city (technical high school Jean-Baptiste-de-Baudre, the name of the engineer designer of the lateral canal) occupies the walls of the major seminary, imposing building of the late seventeenth century, built by Bishop Mascaron to complete the work of the Counter-Reformation.

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It is finally Jean-Baptiste Durand who has built on the site of the old cathedral the covered market, in the style of the halls of Baltard, unfortunately also disappeared. Fortunately, away from these great works still remain small arteries, streets and alleys with half-timbered houses and corbels or old hotels of stone or brick. These buildings, the oldest of which date back to the 14th century, give Agen a particular cachet that can be found in other cities of medium importance, sheltered from an overly bulimic expansion.