Toulon (tōlôNˈ) [key], city (1990 pop. 170,167), Var dept., SE France, in Provence, on the Mediterranean Sea. An important commercial port and industrial center, Toulon is France's principal naval center on the Mediterranean; shipbuilding and ship repairing are major industries. Chemicals, machinery, furniture, and cork are also produced. Toulon is also a growing center for aerospace and other related industries. Toulon first achieved eminence as a hostel for errant Crusaders during the Middle Ages. The city was fortified by Vauban in the 17th cent. and was the scene of many historic naval battles, including the Battle of 1793 in which the royalists surrendered the city to the English. The same year the young Napoleon Bonaparte gained distinction by retaking the city for the French. After 1815, Toulon became the center of French naval power. During World War II much of the French fleet was scuttled (1942) to avoid its capture by the Germans. Although it suffered considerable damage during World War II, the city has preserved the fortifications by Vauban and the Church of St. Marie Majeure (17th–18th cent.).
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