Saint-Pierre d'Oléron

Saint-Pierre d'Oléron owes its nickname of “capital” of the island to the size of its population, much higher than in the other townships and its geographical position, in the heart of the island, has done much for its economic development. 

Introduction :

Saint-Pierre d'Oléron is the economic, business, administrative and cultural centre of the island. The Museum of the Ile d'Oléron houses permanent and temporary exhibitions. Whatever the season, its pedestrianised streets are animated and its market, with stalls covered with colourful local produce attracts a great number of customers. There are many little hamlets and villages and the municipality extends from east to west between Saint-Georges d'Oléron to the north and Dolus to the south. The famous fishing port of La Cotinière is perhaps the most well-known of these villages.

Sites :

The hexagonal bell-tower of the church points to the heavens and, difficult to miss because of its size, was a navigational reference point for sailors. A wonderful panorama is to be had once at the top of the tower. The current church, dating from the 17th century, was built on the site of a much earlier edifice dating from 500 years earlier but destroyed during the Wars of Religion. 

A Lantern of the Dead stands in Place Camille Mémain and is the tallest of the ten or so remaining in France. It was built in the 12th century in the centre of the town’s medieval cemetery. A lantern at the top of the tower housed a flame that was to commemorate the souls of the dead. No mention was made of it also being a warning to the living!

The former château of the Le Berton family, masters of Bonnemie, was built in the 14th century and has been frequently modified right up to our era. The landscaped park invites the visitor to stroll and dream…

It is impossible to describe Saint-Pierre d'Oléron without mentioning Pierre Loti. The island where he spent his childhood summer holidays was a source of inspiration for this great writer, member of the French Academy and naval officer. Although born in Rochefort, it was at Saint-Pierre d'Oléron that he wished to be buried and where, since 1923, he has been reposing in the garden of La Maison des Aïeules. This property had been sold by the maternal side of his family but in 1899, Loti managed to buy it back and rechristen it. A plaque on the front of the house, situated in Rue Pierre Loti, reminds the casual visitor of this fact.

La Cotinière :

A flotilla of brightly-coloured fishing boats, an incessant ballet of boats in the port, intense activity on the quayside at any time of year: this is La Cotinière! Facing the ocean to the west, this authentic little fishing port is well-known for the quality of its produce unloaded onto the quaysides: sea-bass, soles, langoustines, flat fish… These noble species and highly-skilled fishing techniques have made La Cotinière the major fishing port of Charente-Maritime and the seventh in France. When the boats return to unload their catch, the spectacle is unmissable.

The little streets and the morning market are very lively. Stroll among the low fishermen’s houses with their whitewashed facades and their green or blue shutters… try an ice-cream after a swim… buy souvenirs or simply relax on a café terrace. In the evenings, join the throngs wandering along the quays taking in the various stalls, live music, fireworks or simply having a good time. In summer, La Cotinière is a hive of activity.

The villages :

Nestling behind the dune for shelter from the westerly winds, La Biroire, La Menounière and La Chefmalière are examples of authentic island architecture with a multitude of little lanes bright with flowers that invite the stroller to wander between these old walls. La Boirie, Arceau, L’Eguille and La Perrotine are villages in the heart of a mosaic of marshes and each worth a short visit.

This is where land meets sea. Salt and fresh water unite, creating a true sanctuary for flora and fauna. Fort Royer is an exceptional site in the Moëze-Oléron nature reserve with its typical landscape of multi-coloured oystermen’s huts in the centre of acres of oysters. Guided visits are available to discover the occupations of these “peasants of the sea.”

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