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From 1798 to 1802, Martigny was part of the imperialist Napoleonic Republic of Valais, then in the Rhodanic Republic, which passed to France from 1810 to 1814. In the 1840s, Martigny was the stage of a confrontation between the liberal-radical "Young Switzerland" and the conservative "Old Switzerland" movements, culminating in the Battle at the Trient of , taking place a few kilometers outside town.
There are no records of the town during the early medieval period.
In the Middle Ages, the town took Martin of Tours as its patron saint, and became known by the German name Martinach, recorded in Latinized form as Martiniacum in 1018.
Martigny was connected to the Simplon railway in 1878, with a separate railway station built in 1906.
It was connected to the Swiss motorway system in 1981 with the completion of the Great-St-Bernhard exit of the A9.
Martigny was placed under the protection of the House of Savoy in 1351, passing to Saint-Maurice in 1475, as the seven tithings (Sieben Zenden) in treaty with the bishop of Sion and the canton of Bern seized all of the Lower Valais.
The town was granted a degree of autonomy, its citizens being allowed to elect their own local officials, known as the syndics (but no judges, as justice lay with the bishopric until 1798).
It is a junction of roads joining Italy, France and Switzerland. Bernard Pass to Aosta (Italy), and the other over the col de la Forclaz to Chamonix (France).
In winter, Martigny is known for its numerous nearby Alp ski resorts such as Verbier.
Martigny lies at an elevation of 471 meters (1,545 ft), about 33 kilometers (21 mi) south-southeast of Montreux.
It is on the left foothills of the steep hillsdies of the Rhone Valley, at the foot of the Swiss Alps, and is located at the point where the southwestern-flowing Rhone turns ninety degrees northward and heads toward (Lake Geneva).