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In 1142, Louis VII invaded Champagne and seized Vitry-le-François. Over a thousand residents were killed when the town's church was set ablaze.
The present town is a relatively recent construction, having been built in 1545 at the behest of King Francis who wished to replace, on a new site, Vitry-en-Perthois, which in 1544 had been entirely destroyed as part of the backwash from the king's Italian War of 1542–46. The new Vitry was to be a modern city, constructed according to a plan produced by Girolamo Marini. The king's role in its creation resulted in Vitry-le-François receiving the king's name as part of its own name.