Besançon (bəzäNsôNˈ) [key], city (1990 pop. 119,134), capital of Doubs dept., E France, in Franche-Comté, on the Doubs. An industrial town with metallurgical, textile, and food-processing industries, it is especially famous for its clock and watch manufactures; its watch school is world renowned. Of Gallo-Roman origin, Besançon was an archiepiscopal see from the 5th cent. Although part of the kingdom of Burgundy, it was made (by Emperor Frederick I) a free city, with special privileges for its archbishops. It maintained its independence, with interruptions, until 1648, when it passed under Spanish rule through its incorporation with Franche-Comté. After Louis XIV's second conquest of Franche-Comté (1674), Besançon became (1676) the capital of his new province. Although bombed during World War II, many old monuments remain: Roman ruins, a cathedral (12th–16th cent.), and numerous buildings in Spanish Renaissance style, notably the Palais Granvelle (birthplace of Cardinal Granvelle, now housing a museum) and the imposing town hall. An intellectual center, Besançon is the seat of a university (founded 1422 in Dôle and moved to Besançon in 1691), a music academy (founded 1726), and an international music festival.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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