This remarkable early example of a town plan shows the French port of La Rochelle under siege in 1573.
During the French Wars of Religion La Rochelle had become a centre of Huguenot support, and was besieged by troops loyal to the Catholic Duke of Anjou. The siege was lifted in the year the map was made and La Rochelle became one of the few cities in France where Protestants were allowed to worship.
In the box in the top left, ‘Aux lecteurs salut’ (To the readers hello) the cartographer first claims he has made this map to meet the desire of the most curious, and then sets out what his map shows; the defences and how the rebels holding the city were besieged both from the land and the sea, the damage caused within the walls and the names of locations. The text ends by stating that the Royalist forces did not spare any lives or goods in order to deliver to the King victory, though the siege was lifted in June 1573 without outcome. The brief publishing information at the bottom of the map is intriguing. The text tells us it was made by F. Desprez in the Rue Montorgueil, Paris, there is then the words ‘au Bon Pasteur’ (the Good Shepherd or Pastor) which may relate to the fact that Desprez worked close to the Church of Saint-Eustache.
The map clearly shows the formidable fortifications La Rochelle had, full of thick and angled walls designed to deflect cannon fire and force attacking troops into narrow spaces easy to attack from the walls. More on this type of fortification and the beautiful maps that show them can be found here
The map publication date of 1573 means it is a very early example of a town plan held in the Bodleian. The earliest for Oxford is from 1578 (Ralph Agas, see an image here,). For London 1572, a map that comes from an atlas of town plans called Civitates Orbis Terrarum, an earlier blog post gives more information about this celebrated atlas here
Portraict de la Rochelle, & des Forteresses q les Rebelles y ont faict, depuis les p’miers troubles jusque á pňt. 1573. (E) C21:50 La Rochelle (1)