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Laon is the capital city of the Aisne department, part of Picardie in northern France. The hilly district of Laon has always held strategic importance. In the time of Julius Caesar there was a Gallic village where the Remis (inhabitants of the country around Reims) had to meet the onset of the confederated Belgae. Whatever may have been the precise locality of that battlefield, Laon was fortified by the Romans, and successively checked the invasions of the Franks, Burgundians, Vandals, Alans and Huns. At that time it was known as Alaudanum or Lugdunum Clavatum.
The city contains many medieval buildings. The most important of these is the cathedral Notre-Dame of Laon, dating mostly from the 12th and 13th centuries. The chapter-house and the cloister contain beautiful specimens of the architecture of the beginning of the 13th century. The old episcopal palace, contiguous to the cathedral, is now used as a court-house. The front, flanked by turrets, is pierced by great pointed windows. There is also a Gothic cloister and an old chapel of two storeys, of a date anterior to the cathedral.
The church of St Martin dates from the middle of the 12th century. The old abbey buildings of the same foundation are now used as the hospital. The museum of Laon had collections of sculpture and painting. In its garden there is a chapel of the Templars belonging to the 12th century. The church of the suburb of Vaux near the railway station dates from the 11th and 12th centuries.
The town has the only fully automated municipal cable car system in the world, called the Poma 2000. It links the upper town (the historical center, located on a plateau) with the lower town, has three stations and runs on rubber tyres. In contrast, the San Francisco cable car system is manually operated, and all the other automated cable car systems have restricted operations within airports and hospitals.
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