Vosges (French pronunciation: [voʒ] (listen)) is a department in the Grand Est region in Northeastern France. It covers part of the Vosges mountain range, after which it is named. Vosges consists of 17 cantons and 507 communes, of which 234 are classified as rural, including Domrémy-la-Pucelle, where Joan of Arc was born. In 2017, it had a population of 367,673 with an area of 5,874 km2 (2,268 sq mi); its prefecture is Épinal.
Hundred Years' War
Joan of Arc was born in the village of Domrémy, then in the French part of the Duchy of Bar, or Barrois mouvant, located west of the Meuse. The part of the duchy lying east of the Meuse was part of the Holy Roman Empire. The Duchy of Bar later became part of the province of Lorraine. The village of Domrémy was renamed Domrémy-la-Pucelle in honour of Joan.
The Vosges department is one of the original 83 departments of France, created on 9 February 1790 during the French Revolution. It was made of territories that had been part of the province of Lorraine. In German it is referred to as Vogesen.
In 1793, the independent Principality of Salm-Salm (town of Senones and its surroundings), enclosed inside the Vosges department, was annexed to France and incorporated into Vosges. In 1795, the area of Schirmeck was detached from the Bas-Rhin department and incorporated into the Vosges department. The Vosges department then had an area of 6,127 km2 (2,366 sq miles), which it kept until 1871.
In 1794, Vosges was the site of a major battle between the forces of Revolutionary France and the Allied Coalition. The oldest square in Paris, Place Royale, was renamed Place des Vosges in 1800 when the department became the first to pay the new revolutionary taxes.
After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871, 4% of the Vosges department in the extreme northeast of the department was annexed to the German Empire by the Treaty of Frankfurt on the ground that the people there spoke Germanic dialects. The area annexed on May 18, 1871 corresponded to the canton of Schirmeck and the northern half of the canton of Saales. Schirmeck and Saales had been historically part of Alsace. These territories, along with the rest of Alsace and the annexed territories of Lorraine, became part of the Reichsland of Elsaß-Lothringen. The area of the Vosges department was thus reduced to its current 5,874 km2 (2,268 sq. miles).
First and Second World Wars
In 1919, with the allied victory in the World War I, Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France by Germany at the Treaty of Versailles. However, Schirmeck and Saales were not returned to the Vosges department, but instead were incorporated into the recreated Bas-Rhin department.
An ill-fated Special Air Service (SAS) mission called Operation Loyton took place in the Vosges forests in 1944.
Various military cemeteries are located in the department the largest of which is the Le Quéquement American Cemetery in Dinozé, near Epinal. It was built by the American 45th Infantry Division in September 1944 and completed in 1959. 5,255 soldiers killed in action during fighting in France, the Vosges, the Rhine valley and Germany are interred there.
The largest cities/towns are Épinal (approx. 33,000), Saint-Dié-des-Vosges (approx. 21,500), Gérardmer (approx. 8,500), on the lake of the same name, and Remiremont (approx. 8,000). A total population of 378,830 inhabitants was recorded in the 2011 census. The population is split with 70% in urban areas and 30% living in rural districts.
Roughly 47% of the department is covered by woodlands and forests (the third highest in France), while 38% of land is in agricultural use. The remaining 13% is commercial, industrial and residential.
While the west part of the Vosges is flat sedimentary land (well suited for mineral waters), the east is dominated by the Vosges Mountain range (including the Ballons des Vosges Regional Nature Reserve) of which the Grand Ballon at 1424m is the highest peak. The Monts Faucilles traverse the south of the department in a broad curve declining on the north into elevated plateaus, on the south encircling the upper basin of the River Saône. This chain, dividing the basins of the Rhône and the Rhine, forms part of the European watershed between the basins of the Mediterranean and Atlantic.
The Saône rises (named after the Celtic goddess Sagon) at Vioménil, in the Vosges. The Anger river also passes through it.
Population development since 1801:
The Roman fortified town of Grand, located 30 km from Toul, has an amphitheatre and a temple to the Cult of Apollo. At La Bure, located a few kilometres from Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, archaeologists have found evidence for human habitation going back to around 2000 BC.
Current National Assembly Representatives
As a border area, the Vosges region was a route for possible invasion. As such four important forts were constructed in the department: Bourlémont Fort in Mont-les-Neufchâteau (built between 1878 and 1881); Uxegney Fort (built between 1882 and 1884); Bois l'Abbé Fort
(built in 1884 and 1885); and the Le Parmont Fort in Remiremont (built between 1874 and 1876).