Rochelle, La lä rôshĕl´ [key], city (1990 pop. 73,744), capital of Charente-Maritime dept., W France, on the Bay of Biscay. Industries include naval, aircraft, and automobile construction. La Rochelle is the principal French fishing port on the Atlantic coast. Chartered in the 12th cent., it soon became one of the chief seaports of France. It was a Huguenot stronghold during the Wars of Religion and successfully resisted Catholic besiegers for half a year (1572–73). However, when Cardinal Richelieu resolved to crush the Huguenots, La Rochelle fell after a siege of 14 months (1627–28). Louis XIV had the port refortified by Vauban; his revocation (1685) of the Edict of Nantes resulted in the foundation of New Rochelle, N.Y., by Protestant refugees. La Rochelle prospered again as it became the chief center of trade with Canada, but it suffered from the loss of Canada by France and from the Continental System under Napoleon. Although its fisheries, canneries, and shipyards still make it a busy port, La Rochelle never recovered its former importance. The principal harbor is now at La Pallice, some 3 mi (5 km) distant. The picturesque old fishing port in the heart of the city, the Renaissance town hall, and other old buildings make the city a favorite tourist center.
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