Issoudun is an old, medieval city, that highlights its natural and historic heritage in a contemporary spirit. Today this little town (14.000 inhabitants) host compagnies such as Vuitton and Sicma-aeroseat, and offer a hight quality of life.
Tourism in Issoudun
“The arms are azure with a pall couped or, accompanied by three fleurs de lys, one at the chief and two in each flank.” (In heraldry, the pall designates the shape of the “Y.”)
The town, once known as Exoldunum, Isis Xoldun and Ypsoldun, started to be peopled in ancient times. Traces of human presence dating back to 2000 B.C. have been found. The meaning of the town’s name remains mysterious, although we know that the suffix “dun” designates a high place, probably the hummock on which the Tour Blanche was built several centuries later. The location was well chosen, at the junction of Roman roads, facing the plains and on the banks of the Théols. The Musée de l’Hospice Saint-Roch retains architectural remnants which attest to these far-off times.
In the Middle Ages, Issoudun was the second largest town in the province of Berry. An historian of the times extolled the “Nobile castrum Uexselloduni”: the noble castle of Issoudun. It was actually a stronghold. Issoudun Château must have looked like “la Cité” in Carcassone. A section of the ramparts is still visible today and the layout of the fortified city can be picked out easily.
Towards the end of the Twelfth Century, Issoudun, which was located on the border between the Kingdoms of France and England (who possessed Aquitaine), was the stage of several battles. Philippe Auguste and Richard the Lionheart fought for possession of the city, whose ramparts were fortified. Construction work on the large tower was commenced in 1195 which was completed in 1202. The town was at that time owned by the Kingdom of France, since the marriage of the future Louis VIII with Blanche de Castille, Richard’s niece. The dungeon boasts an exceptionally elegant design and has been open for visits since 2000.
In 1356, during the Hundred Years’ War, the Black Prince raided Issoudun. The Tour Blanche defended “the château,” but the town and suburbs did not escape pillage and flames.
Following these unsettled episodes, the town made use of its royal privileges and enjoyed a long period of prosperity, thanks to its agricultural production and expertise in making leather goods. The religious wars would however tarnish this opulence and the great fire of 1651 ravaged the city. On the terrace of the Tour Blanche, there is a model which shows what Issoudun looked like before this tragic event.
In the French Revolution, Châteauroux was chosen to be the prefecture of Indre in preference to Issoudun which nevertheless had more than double the number of inhabitants, but the Parisian authorities were unnerved by the unruly winegrowers. The garrison town would live out some peaceful days: it was this town that Balzac described in “La Rabouilleuse” (The Black Sheep).
During the Second World War, Issoudun once again found itself in a border position, between occupied France and the part known as “free” France. It protected many “wanted” people. The bombing of the 8th of June, 1940, which, depending on the sources, is attributed either to the Italians or the Germans, destroyed numerous houses in the town centre.
Noteworthy acts of resistance took place: some of these were tragic, such as the shooting at La Place des Marchés which was renamed Place du 10 Juin, 1944; but some were victorious, such as the surrender of the Elster column, a German division, consisting of 20,000 men on the 10th of September, 1944.
Issoudun, was “under the yoke of the invader, but never let itself fall sway to promises or leaders,” and was one of the rare towns in France to be decorated with the “Médaille de Guerre” (The War Medal).
The media library offers a large selection of books on local history and you may consult the town’s archives at “Salle du Patrimoine” (Heritage Hall).