Cradle of Christianity.
Human settlements existed in Champagne and in Ardenne during the Bronze Age, when various tribes established villages on sites that are now major urban centers. In 56 BC, the Romans conquered Champagne, started to cultivate grapes for the production of wine and transformed villages into prosperous trading hubs. The regionâ€™s open and central location left it vulnerable to invasion by Eastern European tribes, including Attilaâ€™s Huns, who were defeated in 451 at ChÃ¢lons-en Champagne. In 499, the Merovingian king Clovis was baptized in Reims, and at his death in 511, Champagne was divided into several small kingdoms, all of which were later incorporated into the Holy Roman Empire under Charlemagne in 800.
Prosperity in the Middle Ages.
Throughout the Middle Ages, Champagne was famous for the great fairs held in its cities, where merchants from the rest of Europe met six times a year. This commercial prosperity brought with it religious, political and artistic ascendancy, culminating in the construction of a gothic cathedral in Reims in 1176. Also built during that period were the medieval old town in Troyes and a fortified castle in the Ardennes town of Sedan that is the largest medieval stronghold in Europe. In 1284, Champagne was brought to the French crown when the Countess of Champagne married the French king.
The Renaissance years saw a period of strife in the region, which nonetheless rebounded to become a flourishing center of trade during the reign of Louis XI. In the following century, Champagne was devastated by the Wars of Religion, which reached a fever pitch in 1572 with the widespread Saint Bartholomewâ€™s Day massacre, undermining the power of the Protestants in both Champagne and Ardenne. Serious unrest continued in the 17th century, with persistent Spanish offensives in Champagne.
Theater of Two Wars.
More recently, Ardenne has been the site of deadly battles that were to decide the fate of France, from the defeat of imperial France at Sedan in 1870 to the famous German breakthrough of the Maginot Line (a defensive line constructed along the German, Luxembourg and Belgian borders) in 1940.0