Saint-Étienne is a city in eastern central France. It is located in the Massif Central, 50km southwest of Lyon in the Rhône-Alpes region, along the trunk road that connects Toulouse with Lyon. Saint-Étienne is the capital of the Loire department and has a population of approximately 178,500 in the city itself and over 508,000 in the metropolitan area .HistoryNamed after Saint Stephen, the city first appears in the historical record in the Middle Ages as Saint-Étienne de Furan (after the River Furan, a tributary of the Loire). In the 13th century it was a small borough around the church dedicated to Saint Etienne. On the upper reaches of the Furan near the Way of St. James the Abbey of Valbenoîte had been founded by the cistercians in 1222. In the late 15th century it was a fortified village defended by walls built around the original nucleus.From the 16th century, Saint-Étienne developed an arms manufacturing industry and became a market town. It was this which accounted for the town's importance, although it also became a centre for the manufacture of ribbons and passementerie starting in the 17th century. During the French revolution, Saint-Étienne was briefly renamed Armeville – 'arms town' – because of this activity.