Cognac is a commune in the French département of Charente, of which it is a sub-prefecture. The inhabitants of the town are known as Cognaçais.
Cognac is situated on the river Charente
between the towns of
. The majority of the town has been built on the river's left bank, with the smaller right bank area known as the Saint Jacques district.
The town is situated on one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostella.
Unknown prior to the 9th century, the town was subsequently fortified. During the Hundred Years' War
, the town changed sides on several occasions as the result of fighting and treaties in the region.
Francis I granted the town the right to trade salt along the river, guaranteeing strong commercial success, which in turn led to the town's development as a centre of wine and later brandy.
The town's medieval quarter "Vieux Cognac" runs from the Tours Saint-Jacques, alongside the river, up to the Saint-Léger church. The area contains many unusual buildings, built between the 15th and 18th centuries, situated on narrow cobbled streets. Many contain sculptures of the salamander, the symbol of King Francis I, as well as gargoyles and richly decorated facades.
- The Château des Valois, an important medieval trading post.
- The Saint-Léger church. [Church Exterior: ,
- The musée d'Art et d'Histoire (art and history museum)
- The musée des arts du Cognac (art museum)
- The Saint-Gobain glassworks and barrelworks
The area also contains many Romanesque churches as well as several châteaux.
The musée des arts du Cognac
The town gives its name to one of the world's best-known types of brandy or eau de vie. Drinks that bear this name must be made in certain areas around the town of Cognac and must be made according to strictly-defined regulations in order to be granted the name Cognac.
The region's economy is dominated by the manufacture of brandy. Industries surrounding this include:
- Manufacture of agricultural machinery
- Bottling, storage and labelling
- Agricultural industries such as fertilizer production
- Distillation products such as stills and tanks
- Barrel making
- Glassmaking: the bottle factory of the large Saint-Gobain group is situated in Cognac
- Cork manufacture
- Printing works for labels and advertising
Farmland that is unsuitable for winemaking, principally low-lying areas that are prone to late frosts, are used for growing cereals.
Recently, winemakers have increasingly made a table wine vin de pays charentais using totally different grapes and methods to those required for cognac. This is partly to limit the effects of any unforeseen problems with the growth of the main crops.
Tourism and associated industries have also developed strongly in recent years.
The town is also home to the French Air Force training base 709.
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- François I was born in the town's castle in 1494. He was king of France between 1515 and 1547. The town's main square is named after him and a statue of the king on horseback towering over his enemies stands at the centre.
- The French poet Octavien de Saint-Gelais was born in Cognac in 1468.
- Paul-Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran, born in Cognac in 1838 discovered the elements Gallium in 1875 and Samarium in 1878.
- Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the European Union was born in Cognac in 1888.
- The car manufacturer Louis Delâge was born in Cognac in 1874.
- The glassmaker Claude Boucher, inventor of the glass-blowing machine in around 1880, lived and worked in Cognac. His invention paved the way for the industrial manufacture of glass bottles by removing the need for glasses to be blown by mouth. One of the original machines can still be seen in the town's museum.
Cognac is twinned with: