Portal:France

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Bienvenue sur le Portail France !

Flag Armoiries république française.svg
Map of France in the world and position of its largest single land territory in continental Europe.

France, officially the French Republic (In french : République française), is a country whose metropolitan territory is located in Western Europe and that also comprises a collection of overseas islands and territories located in North America, the Caribbean, South America, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. France is the largest country in Western Europe (674,843 km² with its overseas départements), with a population of 67 million inhabitants, France is the second most populous country in Western Europe (after Germany) and the 20th largest in the world. Paris is the capital of France and the country's most populous city, with over 12 million people in its aire urbaine; Lyon is the second largest city with 2.2 million people (associated with Villeurbanne), and the third is Marseille with 1.7 million people.

The French Republic is a democracy which is organised as a unitary semi-presidential republic. It has the fifth-largest economy in the world in nominal terms, its main ideals are expressed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. France is one of the founding members of the European Union, and has the largest land area of all members. France is also a founding member of the United Nations, and a member of the G7, G8, NATO, and the Latin Union. It is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council wielding veto power, and it is also one of eight acknowledged nuclear powers. With almost 82 million foreign tourists each year, France is the most popular international tourist destination in the world.

French is the official national language, but each region has its own unique accent; additionally, there are several other languages of France traditionally spoken, although their use has greatly decreased over the past two centuries. French is also an official language in 41 countries, most of which form what is called la Francophonie, the community of French-speaking nations.

More about... France, its history and inhabitants

Selected article

The Battle of Vimy Ridge, a painting by Richard Jack. Canadian War Museum.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a military engagement fought primarily as part of the Battle of Arras, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, during the First World War. The main combatants were the Canadian Corps, of four divisions, against three divisions of the German Sixth Army, the battle, which took place from 9 to 12 April 1917, was part of the opening phase of the British-led Battle of Arras, a diversionary attack for the French Nivelle Offensive.

The objective of the Canadian Corps was to take control of the German-held high ground along an escarpment at the northernmost end of the Arras Offensive. Supported by a creeping barrage, the Canadian Corps captured most of the ridge during the first day of the attack, the town of Thélus fell during the second day of the attack, as did the crest of the ridge once the Canadian Corps overcame a salient of considerable German resistance. The final objective, a fortified knoll located outside the town of Givenchy-en-Gohelle, fell to the Canadian Corps on 12 April, the German forces then retreated to the OppyMéricourt line.

Historians attribute the success of the Canadian Corps in capturing the ridge to a mixture of technical and tactical innovation, meticulous planning, powerful artillery support and extensive training, as well as the failure of the German Sixth Army to properly apply the new German defensive doctrine. A 100 ha (250 acres) portion of the former battleground serves as a preserved memorial park and site of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.

Selected biography

Messiaen in 1930
Olivier Messiaen was a French composer, organist and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex (he was interested in rhythms from ancient Greek and from Hindu sources); harmonically and melodically it is based on modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from his early compositions and improvisations. Many of his compositions depict what he termed "the marvellous aspects of the faith", and drew on his deeply held Roman Catholicism.

Messiaen entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 11 and was taught by Paul Dukas, Maurice Emmanuel, Charles-Marie Widor and Marcel Dupré, among others. He was appointed organist at the Église de la Sainte-Trinité in Paris in 1931, a post held until his death, he taught at the Schola Cantorum de Paris during the 1930s. On the fall of France in 1940, Messiaen was made a prisoner of war, during which time he composed his Quatuor pour la fin du temps ("Quartet for the end of time") for the four available instruments—piano, violin, cello and clarinet. He was appointed professor of harmony soon after his release in 1941, and professor of composition in 1966 at the Paris Conservatoire, positions he held until his retirement in 1978, his many distinguished pupils included Pierre Boulez and Yvonne Loriod, who became his second wife.

He found birdsong fascinating, believed birds to be the greatest musicians, and considered himself as much an ornithologist as a composer, he notated bird songs worldwide and incorporated birdsong transcriptions into most of his music. His innovative use of colour, his conception of the relationship between time and music, his use of birdsong and his desire to express religious ideas are among features that make Messiaen's music distinctive.

Picture of the Month (Archive)


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The "Baie des Tortues" (Turtles Bay) near "La Roche percée" (The Bored Rock) at Bourail in New Caledonia, a "collectivité sui generis" administered by France.
Photo credit: Bananaflo

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Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.

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Related portals: French literature | Lyon | Paris | Military history of France | Napoleonic Wars | New France | French language and French-speaking world