After Paris, Rouen was the second largest city in France, a site of much building activity, and a leading port, well positioned for trade with England and the New World.
  “Brazilian Festival and Triumphal Entry over the River,” from the Relation de l’entrée de Henri II, roi de France, à Rouen, le 1er octobre, 1550
Rouen, BM, f. 62.

Before 1500, the capital of Paris must have looked something like this: we see the imposing façade of Notre-Dame, the large tower of the bishop’s palace, the rooftops of the Hôtel-Dieu, and the Pont St.-Michel with its houses in front of the Petit-Châtelet.

  Jean Fouquet, “The Right Hand of God Protecting the Faithful against Demons,”
from the Hours of Etienne Chevalier, France, Tours, 1452-60.
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert Lehman Collection (Inv. 1975.1.2490)

Although in 1436, during the Hundred Years’ War, Charles VII of France reclaimed Paris from English rule, and it again became the capital in title, the real center of power had shifted to the Loire Valley, especially to Tours, home of the administration and the king’s household.

  The Master of Jean Charpentier, from the Katherina Hours,
France, Tours, c. 1485-90, f. 26.
Paris and Chicago, Les Enluminures

Charles VII actually resided in Bourges, and his son Louis XI was born there, giving Bourges the status of a royal city, where Louis XI established a university and two fairs a year.

  Workshop of Jean Colombe, “Pieta,” single leaf from a Book of Hours
Paris and Chicago, Les Enluminures

Poised as the main gateway for Italian trade with the north (the Low Countries and Germany), Lyons enjoyed remarkable affluence, becoming a cosmopolitan center, rivaling Paris for its publishing and hosting many humanist-writers and their clients.

  Guillaume II Le Roy, “View of Lyon: the Hill of Fourvière and the Neighborhood of St.-Jean,” in Pierre Sala,
Les Prouesses de plusieurs roys

Paris, BnF, MS fr. 10420, f. 1v