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History-steeped Poitiers was founded by the Pictones, a Gaulish tribe, and rose to prominence as the former capital of Poitou. A pivotal turning point came in AD 732, when somewhere near Poitiers (the exact site is not known) the cavalry of Charles Martel defeated the Muslim forces of Abd ar-Rahman, governor of Córdoba, thus ending Muslim attempts to conquer France. Until the Revolution, this sublimely beautiful city was known as the 'town of 100 bell towers'; the remarkable Romanesque churches that remain today are in part a legacy of Eleanor of Aquitaine's financial support.

Poitiers has one of the oldest universities in the country, established in 1432 and today a linchpin of this small city: students make up 25% of the population.

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