La Roche-sur-Yon

La Roche Sur Yon

La Roche Sur Yon – built in the neoclassical style

In 1804 Napoleon made La Roche-sur-Yon a prefecture and developed the town in a neoclassical, imperial style. Prior to this, Fontenay-le-Comte had been the prefecture or capital of the Vendée but Napoleon decided that La Roche-sur-Yon would take its place in that capacity. So it was that out of the ashes of this small town which had been burnt down by the Republicans in the Wars of the Vendée, Napoleon created a new city which would be a symbol of reconciliation and economic prosperity. The Emperor called this new town Napoleon and incredibly over the next six decades through republic and monarchy, the town’s name was changed no fewer than seven times finally reverting to the name of the original village in 1870.

Napoleon’s new town was designed by one of the best engineers of the time and featured a central parade ground with avenues radiating out from it in such a way that it would give 20,000 soldiers easy access to any trouble spots in an instant. The faultless symmetry of the town has led one notable travel writer to describe it as just about the dullest town in France. Perhaps is little unkind but probably based on the fact that there are very few interesting ‘nooks and crannies’ in the town due to its meticulously planned grid layout. You can see this in Google Earth’s view of La Roche-sur-Yon.

Places of interest include:

The Musée de La Roche-sur-Yon: the towns small museum situated just around the corner from the tourist office.

Abbaye des Fontenelles: what’s left of a Romanesque abbey built in 1210 and in part destroyed by the English forces during the Hundred Years War situated 3 km west of la Roche but it is possible to walk up the drive to view the outside.

Circuit Philippe Alliot: an excellent go karting circuit with a very large twisting track accommodating more or less anyone from young to old.

Musée Ornithologique Charles Payrraudeau: thousands of stuffed birds on display which were left by local 19th-century naturalist located on the western side of the village.

Vendée Main Towns