Saint-Etienne get its second wind
Hit for six by the industrial restructuring of the 1970s, Saint Etienne has since succeeded in its whole-hearted restoration.
Saint Etienne's industrial past has paved the way for a people with a human touch but with fierce pride in their origins. The city's foundations are unclear but it soon became an important centre of steel production with coal mines fuelling the Royal Ordnance (Manufacture Royale d’Armes) established in 1764 by Francois Ist. By the 19th Century Saint Etienne had become the centre of France’s biggest industrial region. It became known as Napoleon’s arsenal, having picked up the nickname «Armeville » (Gun town) during the Revolution. The steel industry was at its apogee when the first railway line was built in 1823 to carry coal to the river Loire.
City of art and history
The second half of the 20th Century brought steep decline in step with the trials and tribulations of the industrial crisis. However, the last 20 years have seen the Rhône valley’s second biggest agglomeration get its second win. The old Manufrance factory, symbol of the town’s prosperity and a pioneer in mail order catalogue sales, has become a business centre. A high-tech optics park of 20 hectares was also developed in a show of confidence in the city’s renewed dynamism. Its past has left Saint-Etienne an architectural heritage earning it a listing as a town of art and history.
Capital of design
Art has become a jewel in the town’s activity. The Museum of Modern Art houses the biggest collection of contemporary art after the Beaubourg centre in Paris. The former mining town, to which the Museum of Mining pays homage, has now become a capital of design. It has staged the International Biennale of design since 1998 and a business quarter devoted to the activity will be opened in 2006.
Its turning-on to rugby will be guaranteed by the waves of Scottish fans set to descend for two 2007 RWC matches as the city streets will resound to the braying of the bagpipes and the melody of Flower of Scotland.