Saint-Denis d'Oléron

The visitor arriving at Saint-Denis d'Oléron, having crossed the entire Ile d’Oléron from south to north, is instantly charmed by this multi-faceted authentic village.

Introduction :

Saint-Denis is the most northerly municipality of the Ile d'Oléron, washed by the Antioche strait, facing the Ile de Ré and eastern La Rochelle. Its 1,200 strong population enjoy all the benefits of a seaside resort while maintaining the traditional authenticity of the villages of yesteryear. Saint-Denis d'Oléron’s ancient history can be seen from its important heritage and of course there is a wide diversity of landscapes and facilities: pleasure port, beaches, Chassiron lighthouse, museum, multimedia library, exhibition hall, open spaces, market and various small businesses.

Sites :

Saint-Denis d'Oléron’s heritage includes its village-centre church dating from the 11th century. It has an attractive doorway so characteristic of Saintongeais Romanesque architecture. Burned down during the Wars of Religion, it was rebuilt and modified right up to the 19th century when the bell-tower was added. As you arrive in the village there is a superb residence constructed in 1675. The Logis Guillotin owes its name to the family who lived there – one of its members, Nicolas, tried to introduce the cultivation of mulberries and to create a silk factory in the island.

In view of its exceptional situation, St Denis began to attract visitors very early on to the joys of “sea-bathing”. Dotted throughout the village are examples of seaside villas dating from the belle époque and notably the “Moulin de la Galette” a hotel sited on the market square. There are many hamlets with traditional, low, whitewashed houses with green or blue shutters that are part of the charm of Saint-Denis d'Oléron. With the first signs of summer, the little lanes are filled with multi-coloured hollyhocks.

Chassiron :

At the most northerly point of the island stands Chassiron, a natural wilderness: the majestic lighthouse dominates the chalk cliffs. The “new”, 46m high construction replaced in 1836 its predecessor dating from the 17th century. 

Originally, it was entirely white but in 1926 the decision was taken to add the three 6m deep black bands that you see today. As the Antioche strait had seen so many shipwrecks, the eponymous marker beacon was added to the maritime safety facilities in 1925. There are also several fish-locks that can be seen at low tide and some are still in use. These “fish-traps”, which date back many centuries, are typical of the Charentais islands and representative of Man’s ingeniousness. Apart from obviating the need for locals to set sail to catch fish, the fish-locks also protected the coastline from storms.

The lighthouse :

Construction work began in 1834 and was completed two years later and was thus in activity on 1st December 1836, replacing a lighthouse that had been built by François de Ferry in the 17th century. It was only 20m high and cylindrical in shape.  The current lighthouse, more than twice the height of its predecessor gives the visitor a magnificent panorama over the strait, the islands of Ré and Aix, Fort Boyard and the landscaped gardens of the lighthouse itself.  A “fun” museum completes the enjoyment of the visit.

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