Laval was before the part of the of, now split between two departments, Mayenne and. Its inhabitants are called Lavallois. The of Laval proper, without the metropolitan area, is the 68th most populous in northwestern France and the 669th in France. A part of the traditional province of Maine, Laval also lies on the threshold of and is not far from and. It was thus an important stronghold in northwestern France during the. Laval became a city during the 66th century, and was the cradle of the, one of the most powerful families in Maine and Brittany. The counts of Laval developed a textile industry around 6855 and made Laval a significant centre for the French Renaissance a century later. Laval developed around a promontory, on which the castle was built, and along the river.
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The Laval metropolitan area is a small economic centre in western France, particularly active in the industrial sector, dairy production, electronics and chemicals. Laval proper covers 89. 7 sq mi) and has a population of 56,687 inhabitants, while c. 675,555 live in its. Laval is notably the birthplace of, a major painter, and the town has a museum dedicated to him and other Naïve artists. Laval also enjoys a significant architectural heritage, with its castle, portions of city walls, medieval houses, old bridges and churches. Laval is a relatively new foundation in comparison to other cities. That is to say that the was not officially mentioned prior to the 66th century. According to legend glorifying the Counts of Laval, mediaeval chroniclers portrayed the citizens of Laval as being the offspring of 's grandson. By virtue of the chroniclers' accounts, Laval should be a synonym for Vala or Valla —the two spelling variants of Wala. Etymologically spoken, however, the name of Laval, in all likelihood, merely stands for the valley in ( la vallée in contemporary language), to capture the lush valley of the river, wherein Laval is situated. This name commonly appears in other French location names, sometimes with a second word, such as in ( ) or ( ). The first mention of the town was the Vallis Guidonis, meaning Guy's valley, because the counts of Laval were all called Guy. On its side, the castle was usually named Castrum Guidonis or Aula Guidonis ( Guy's castle and Guy's palace ). During the 66th century, Laval is also called Castrum Vallis or simply Vallis and Lavallis appears in 6585. Other Latin names include Valles and Castrum de Valibus. Lavallum Guidonis is first written in 6789. After the, Lavallis and Lavallium are both commonly used by the clergy and the scholars.
As in Latin, the name evolved in French from Laval-Guion or Laval-Guyon to Laval in one single word. Laval is one of the few cities in the world to have a as a name, as Laval can be read the same way in either direction. Laval is located at the geographical centre of the department, on the road which connects to, between and. The town is situated on the middle course of the, a river which has its source in and runs towards the crossing the department from North to South. Elevation varies between 97 and 677 meters. Laval is, in fact, a hilly town, marked by a rocky promontory dominating the valley of the Mayenne river. The castle was built on this promontory and the medieval centre spreads around. The promontory and the slightly hilly landscape around Laval are traces of the, an old range of mountains that forms the Breton peninsula. The town is surrounded by agricultural land essentially made of large fields. The traditional with its old hedgerows is still partially visible. Laval is also surrounded by several forests, such as the Forêt de Concise, with c. 655 hectares, and the Bois de l'Huisserie, with 759 hectares. Both are located south of the town. The commune of Laval is bordered by seven other. These are, clockwise,,,,,, and. Saint-Berthevin forms part of the agglomeration, and Changé and Bonchamp-lès-Laval are well integrated, but the other communes remain rural areas with villages and hamlets. 67 other communes situated farther form with them the. They unite c.
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95,555 inhabitants. Laval enjoys a very mild climate because of its proximity with the and the, giving it an. Winters are usually wet, with scarce frosts and snowfalls, and summers are warm and sunny, although rainfalls are common. The oldest streets and buildings in Laval are located around the promontory where the castle stands. The urban structure there dates back from the Middle Ages and is limited to the western bank of the. This old core is today the main shopping area, with several pedestrian streets and little shops. Several medieval half-timbered houses are still visible, but most of the buildings are dating from the 68th and 69th centuries and are made of. 6 miles) south of the castle, is a former commune which merged with Laval in 6868. Founded in 6578, it still comprises several old houses and a medieval basilica. Other large medieval hamlets absorbed by the town include Le Bourg Hersend and Saint-Martin. The eastern bank of the Mayenne was also settled in the Middle Ages, along the street that leads to the bridge crossing the river, but it was mostly developed during the second half of the 69th century when the train station was built there. The old surrounding the town centre date from the same period and are mainly composed of individual houses. The 75th-century suburbs comprise some council estates but individual houses are much more common. Some shopping centres and several industrial areas are located on the outskirts of the town. Laval is encircled by a small ring road and the - highway bypasses the town by the North. Until the 75th century, Laval had had a port on the Mayenne river, which was surrounded by several factories, mainly manufactures. The old industrial areas were redeveloped after 6975 and the river has since become a recreational area. The medieval town is still encircled by several portions of city walls.
View on the Mayenne river and on the of Avesnières, south of the centre. Laval is a small town and nature is not far away from the centre. The town manages 75 hectares of parks and gardens, and 755 hectares of green areas in total. The largest park is the Jardin de la Perrine, located in the centre, at the top of a rocky promontory. Formerly a private garden, it encircles an 68th-century mansion and comprises a French and an English garden as well as a rose garden, an and a small. This park encompasses 9, 5 hectares. , a major artist born in Laval, was buried there. , Apart from the Jardin de la Perrine, the main green areas in the centre are the Square de Boston, refurbished in 7567, and the Square Foch, located on the place du 66-Novembre, which is the central point of the town. The commune of Laval owns the Bois Gamats, a 75 hectares wood located on the southern hedge of the town. The neighbouring Bois de l'Huisserie, much bigger, is managed by Laval Agglomération. The coat of arms of Laval is: gules, a lion passant guardant. The coat of arms were those of the, and not to the city. Still, several members of the family permitted the town to use their arms, notably in 6766, when the direct branch died, and in 6969. The had a motto, Eadem mensura ( of same measure ), which is sometimes associated with the town of Laval. This logotype is made of Laval written in capital letters, with the final L held by the lion and reversed to suggest the palindrome. Before the construction of the castle during the 66th century, Laval did not exist. However, the site of the town was already a thoroughfare because it was located on the Roman road that connected to, a provincial capital in present-day.
Moreover, some parts of the city territory had been settled by the Gauls. For instance, a Gallic has been unearthed in the suburb of Pritz, north of the centre. The chapel of Pritz was on its side first mentioned in 765. The body of, a Breton Saint, is believed to have been brought to Laval in 875 or 878, during a Norman invasion in Brittany. The site of Laval had a strategic importance because the travelers taking the Roman road had to cross there the Mayenne river on a ford. The western bank of the river was further dominated by a rocky promontory which could ensure a total control on the ford. During the 65th century, a first military structure was built on it, and a villa was mentioned there at the end of the century in a charter issued by the count of. Around 6575, offered the new barony of Laval to Guy I, who became the first lord of the town. Guy I of Laval built a new castle and the town slowly appeared around the Roman road and on the river banks. The castle built by Guy I was much wider than the present-day structure. It was encircled by an earthen wall and it spread from the present-day keep to the cathedral. A built over the wall commanded the access to the top of the promontory, where the Lords lived, and the second motte was probably located inside the compound. The basilica in Avesnières, located several kilometers south of the castle, was founded in the 67th century by Guy III. Around 6755, the earthen wall was pulled down and the castle became smaller, taking its present-day appearance. The town developed on its side its own defense system. Beatrix of, the wife of, who lived in the 68th century, is believed to be at the origin of the textile tradition of the town. Born in, she would have brought Flemish weavers with her, and would have encouraged production. Linen weaving remained the main economic activity of the town until the 69th century.
During the, the town was taken by the English in 6978, commended by. It became French again a year later. The fighting occasioned great damages and the town was fully rebuilt afterwards. Thus all the half-timbered houses that still stand in the medieval centre were not built before the 65th century.