Charleroi is the largest city and municipality of Wallonia, located in the province of Hainaut, Belgium. The municipality features an industrial area, iron and steel industry, glassworks, chemicals, and electrical engineering. Charleroi is in the center of a vast coal basin, called Pays noir. Many slag heaps still surround the city. Charleroi is also known for its publishing industry with Dupuis, one of the main publishers of Franco-Belgian comics, located in Marcinelle. The Charleroi area was already settled in the Prehistoric period, with traces of metallurgical and commercial activities along the Sambre. Several public buildings, temples and villas were built in that area in the Roman period. Burying places, with jewels and weapons, were also found. The first written mention of a place called Charnoy dates from a 9th-century offering in the Lobbes abbey, which lists various neighbouring towns and related tithe duties.
During the Middle Ages, Charnoy was just one of the many small hamlets in the area, with no more than about 50 inhabitants, part of the County of Namur. The history of the city of Charleroi starts in 1666. In the spring of that year, Francisco Castel Rodrigo, Governor of the Netherlands at the service of the five-year-old Charles II of Spain, expropriated the area from the local lords to build a fortress near the Sambre. In September of that same year, the name Charnoy was officially replaced by that of the newly founded city of Charles-Roy (King Charles), so named in honour of Charles II. The chronogram FVNDATVR CAROLOREGIVM (MLCDVVVI), can be found in the register of the parish of Charnoy for the year 1666. A year later, Louis XIV’s armies under the command of Turenne besieged the unfinished fortress. Vauban completed the fortification work; the future city was granted its privileges; a bridge was built over the river; and free land was distributed to the inhabitants. Public transport is run by TEC (Transport En Commun), the Walloon public transport company. The greater Charleroi region is served by bus lines and a light rail Metro system (Métro Léger de Charleroi). Part of the latter is famous for incorporating one of the few remnants of the Vicinal, the former Belgian national tramway network.
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