Langres (pop. 8,000) is an old fortified town in the southeast confines of the Champagne region. Settled continously since the times of the ancient Gauls, Langres has an unusually rich history for its size. Its citadel was reputedly impregnable.
Langres was the birthplace of Denis Diderot (1713–1784), prominent philosopher of the Enlightenment, and editor-in-chief of the Encyclopédie (one of the earliest general encyclopedia).
Langres was the ancient capital of the Lingones, a Celtic tribe that originally lived in Gaul in the area of the headwaters of the Seine and Marne rivers. After the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar, the new Roman town became known as Andemantunnum.
The bishopric of Langres is one of the oldest in France. It was founded in the 2nd century, at the time when religious freedom had not yet been granted to Christians in the Roman Empire (this only happened with the Edict of Milan in 313). During the Frankish period, Langres was the seat of an immense diocese extending over most of modern Champagne, Burgundy and Franche-Comté.
In the 12th century, the Bishops of Langres received the title of Dukes and Peers of France.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Langres developed into an important trading post between Lyon and Lille. The town was then a famous knife making centre.
The city walls, towers, gates and other fortifcations are the main point of interest in Langres. They date mostly from the 15th to 17th centuries, with the notable exception of the Gallo-Roman Gate, built in 20 BCE, at the time of Emperor Augustus.
The oldest tower is the Tour de Saint-Ferjeux, erected by Louis XI in 1472. Other notable fortifications include the Tour Virot (1470), Tour de Navarre et d'Orval (1511-1519), Tour du Petit Sault (1517-1521), Tour Saint Jean (1540), Porte des Moulins (1647) and Porte de l'Hôtel de Ville (1592, rebuilt in 1750).
Langres Cathedral, dedicated to the 3rd century martyr Mammes of Caesarea, was the seat of the powerful Bishopric of Langres. The edifice dates from the 12th century, although the west facade was rebuilt in the neoclassical style from 1761 to 1786.