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Bourcefranc-Le Chapus

Bourcefranc-Le Chapus, the last (or first!) municipality on the mainland is in fact two villages – Bourcefranc (from “free town”, ie exempt from taxes) and Le Chapus (Latin, “caput” = head).  Today it’s the most important oyster port in the whole of the Marennes-Oléron basin.  In addition, the “Lycée de la Mer et du Littoral” is found here, training youngsters in the maritime professions and in particular, oyster-farming.
 

Introduction :

Apart from Bourcefranc and Le Chapus, other little villages – La Pimpelière, La Sainceaudière, Châtain and parts of Nodes and la Chaînade – make up the municipality.  The principal activities are sea-based – in the past, they were salt-farmers or fishermen, today most of the population is involved in oyster-farming but there are still a few fishermen. Bourcefranc-Le Chapus is a major logistics centre for the despatch of oysters and shellfish.  The bridge that connects Oléron to the mainland starts here.
 

Sites :

Fort Louvois, the last fortification built during Louis XIV’s reign, was given the name of the minister of war responsible for its construction.  The architect François Ferry followed Vauban’s military architecture principles and the fort was erected on the Chapus rock between 1691 and 1694.So as to prevent the English from destroying the royal arsenal at Rochefort, the canons of the fort bracketed their fire with those of the Château d’Oléron, on the other bank of the Coureau.  Fort Louvois was classified as a historic monument in 1929; it was damaged in 1944 and restored by the government between 1954 and 1955.  Today it belongs to the municipality and is open to visitors who access it by a tidal causeway 400 long.

St Louis church was built in 1687 by royal decree at the request of Mme de Maintenon, the king’s mistress.  It opened in 1694.  It is a simple construction with a nave, small transept and apse in the form of a semicircle. The church’s first bell, previously hung at the protestant church in St Just in 1604 was transferred to the “new” church in Bourcefranc in 1694.  The current bell-tower was added by Father Paul Bourgeon, vicar of the parish, in 1957.

La Plataine is a 17th century windmill that has been fully restored and now belongs to the municipality. It may be visited on European Heritage Days in September.

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