EPINAL, a town on the north-eastern frontier of France, capital of the department of Vosges, 46 m. S.S.E. of Nancy on the Eastern railway between that town and Belfort. Pop. (1906), town 21,296, commune (including garrison) 29,058. The town proper - the Grande Ville - is situated on the right bank of the Moselle, which at this point divides into two arms forming an island whereon another quarter - the Petite Ville - is built. The lesser of these two arms, which is canalized, separates the island from the suburb of Hospice on its left bank. The right bank of the Moselle is bordered for some distance by pleasant promenades, and an extensive park surrounds the ruins of an old stronghold which dominated the Grande Ville from an eminence on the east. Apart from the church of St Goëry (or St Maurice) rebuilt in the 13th century but preserving a tower of the 12th century, the public buildings of Epinal offer little of architectural interest. The old hospital on the island-quarter contains a museum with interesting collections of paintings, Gallo-Roman antiquities, sculpture, etc. Close by stands the library, which possesses many valuable MSS.
The fortifications of Epinal are connected to the southward with Belfort, Dijon and Besançon, by the fortified line of the Moselle, and north of it lies the unfortified zone called the Trouée d'Epinal, a gap designedly left open to the invaders between Epinal and Toul, another great fortress which is itself connected by the Meuse forts d'arrêt with Verdun and the places of the north-east. Epinal therefore is a fortress of the greatest possible importance to the defence of France, and its works, all built since 1870, are formidable permanent fortifications. The Moselle runs from S. to N. through the middle of the girdle of forts; the fortifications of the right bank, beginning with Fort de la Mouche, near the river 3 m. above Epinal, form a chain of detached forts and batteries over 6 m. long from S. to N., and the northernmost part of this line is immensely strengthened by numerous advanced works between the villages of Dognéville and Longchamp. On the left bank, a larger area of ground is included in the perimeter of defence for the purposes of encampment, the most westerly of the forts, Girancourt, being 7 m. distant from Epinal; from the lower Moselle to Girancourt the works are grouped principally about Uxegney and Sarchey; from Girancourt to the upper river and Fort de la Mouche a long ridge extends in an arc, and on this south-western section the principal defence is Fort Ticha and its annexes. The circle of forts, which has a perimeter of nearly 30 m., was in 1895 reinforced by the construction of sixteen new works, and the area of ground enclosed and otherwise protected by the defences of Epinal is sufficiently extensive to accommodate a large army.
Epinal is the seat of a prefect and of a court of assizes and has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a board of trade-arbitrators, a chamber of commerce, training-colleges, a communal college and industrial school, and exchange and a branch of the Bank of France. The town, which is important as the centre of a cotton-spinning region, carries on cotton-spinning, -weaving and -printing, brewing and distilling, and the manufacture of machinery and iron goods, glucose, embroidery, hats, wall-paper and tapioca. An industry peculiar to Epinal is the production of cheap images, lithographs and engravings. There is also trade in wine, grain, live-stock and starch products made in the vicinity. Epinal is an important junction on the Eastern railway.
Epinal originated towards the end of the 10th century with the founding of a monastery by Theodoric (Dietrich) I., bishop of Metz, whose successors ruled the town till 1444, when its inhabitants placed themselves under the protection of King Charles VII. In 1466 it was transferred to the duchy of Lorraine, and in 1766 it was, along with that duchy, incorporated with France. It was occupied by the Germans on the 12th of October 1870 after a short fight, and until the 15th was the headquarters of General von Werder.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)