1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Grenoble

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23790751911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 12 — GrenobleWilliam Augustus Brevoort Coolidge

GRENOBLE, the ancient capital of the Dauphiné in S.E. France, and now the chief town of the Isère department, 75 m. by rail from Lyons, 38½ m. from Chambéry and 85½ m. from Gap. Pop. (1906), town, 58,641; commune, 73,022. It is one of the most beautifully situated, and also one of the most strongly fortified, cities in Europe. Built at a height of 702 ft. on both banks of the river Isère just above its junction with the Drac, the town occupies a considerable plain at the south-western end of the fertile Graisivaudan valley. To the north rise the mountains of the Grande Chartreuse, to the east the range of Belledonne, and to the south those of Taillefer and the Moucherotte, the higher summits of these ranges being partly covered with snow. From the Jardin de Ville and the quays of the banks of the Isère the summit of Mont Blanc itself is visible. The greater part of the town rises on the left bank of the Isère, which is bordered by broad quays. The older portion has the tortuous and narrow streets usual in towns that have been confined within fortifications, but in modern times these hindrances have been demolished. The newer portion of the town has wide thoroughfares and buildings of the modern French type, solid but not picturesque. The original town (of but small extent) was built on the right bank of the Isère at the southern foot of the Mont Rachais, now covered by a succession of fortresses that rise picturesquely on the slope of that hill to a very considerable height (885 ft. above the town).

Grenoble is the seat of a bishopric which was founded in the 4th century, and now comprises the department of the Isère—formerly a suffragan of Vienne it now forms part of the ecclesiastical province of Lyons. The most remarkable building in the town is the Palais de Justice, erected (late 15th century to 16th century) on the site of the old palace of the Parlement of the Dauphiné. Opposite is the most noteworthy church of the city, that of St André (13th century), formerly the chapel of the dauphins of the Viennois: in it is the 17th century monument of Bayard (1476–1524), the chevalier sans peur et sans reproche, which was removed hither in 1822; but it is uncertain whose bones are therein. The cathedral church of Notre Dame is a heavy building, dating in part from the 11th century. The church of St Laurent, on the right bank of the Isère, is the oldest in the city (11th century) and has a remarkable crypt, dating from Merovingian times. The town hall is a mainly modern building, constructed on the site of the palace of the dauphins, while the prefecture is entirely modern. The town library contains a considerable collection of paintings, mainly of the modern French school, but is more remarkable for its very rich collection of MSS. (7000) and printed books (250,000 vols.) which in great part belonged till 1793 to the monastery of the Grande Chartreuse. The natural history museum houses rich collections of various kinds, which contain (inter alia) numerous geological specimens from the neighbouring districts of the Dauphiné and Savoy. The university, revived in modern times after a long abeyance, occupies a modern building, as does also the hospital, though founded as far back as the 15th century. There are numerous societies in the town, including the Académie Delphinale (founded in 1772), and many charitable institutions.

The staple industry of Grenoble is the manufacture of kid gloves, most of the so-called gants Jouvin being made here—they are named after the reviver of the art, X. Jouvin (1800–1844). There are about 80 glove factories, which employ 18,500 persons (of whom 15,000 are women), the annual output being about 800,000 dozen pairs of gloves. Among other articles produced at Grenoble are artificial cements, liqueurs, straw hats and carved furniture.

Grenoble occupies the site of Cularo, a village of the Allobroges, which only became of importance when fortified by Diocletian and Maximian at the end of the 3rd century. Its present name is a corruption of Gratianopolis, a title assumed probably in honour of Gratian (4th century), who raised it to the rank of a civitas. After passing under the power of the Burgundians (c. 440) and the Franks (532) it became part of the kingdom of Provence (879-1032). On the break-up of that kingdom a long struggle for supremacy ensued between the bishops of the city and the counts of Albon, the latter finally winning the day in the 12th century, and taking the title of Dauphins of the Viennois in the 13th century. In 1349 Grenoble was ceded with the rest of the Dauphiné to France, but retained various municipal privileges which had been granted by the dauphins to the town, originally by a charter of 1242. In 1562 it was sacked by the Protestants under the baron des Adrets, but in 1572 the firmness of its governor, Bertrand de Gordes, saved it from a repetition of the Massacre of St Bartholomew. In 1590 Lesdiguières (1543–1626) took the town in the name of Henry IV., then still a Protestant, and during his long governorship (which lasted to his death) did much for it by the construction of fortifications, quays, &c. In 1788 the attempt of the king to weaken the power of the parlement of Grenoble (which, though strictly a judicial authority, had preserved traditions of independence, since the suspension of the states-general of the Dauphiné in 1628) roused the people to arms, and the “day of the tiles” (7th of June 1788) is memorable for the defeat of the royal forces. In 1790, on the formation of the department of the Isère, Grenoble became its capital. Grenoble was the first important town to open its gates to Napoleon on his return from Elba (7th of March 1815), but a few months later (July) it was obliged to surrender to the Austrian army. Owing to its situation Grenoble was formerly much subject to floods, particularly in the case of the wild Drac. One of the worst took place in 1219, while that of 1778 was known as the déluge de la Saint Crépin. Among the celebrities who have been born at Grenoble are Vaucanson (1709–1782), Mably (1709–1785), Condillac (1715–1780), Beyle, best known as Stendhal, his nom de guerre (1783–1842), Barnave (1761–1793) and Casimir Perier (1777–1832).

See A. Prudhomme, Histoire de Grenoble (1888); X. Roux, La Corporation des gantiers de Grenoble (1887); H. Duhamel, Grenoble considéré comme centre d’excursions (1902); J. Marion, Cartulaires de l’église cathédrale de Grenoble (Paris, 1869).  (W. A. B. C.)