Pays de Retz

location of the Pays de Retz, south of the Loire in the Duchy of Brittany.

The Pays de Retz is a historical region of France that currently forms part of the Loire-Atlantique department, but which previously formed part of the Duchy of Brittany.

The area lies between the southern shore of the Loire estuary and the Marais breton (Breton marshlands), bordered to the west by the Baie de Bourgneuf (Bourgneuf Bay) and on the east by the Lac de Grand-Lieu (Grand-Lieu Lake) and a network of small rivers. Its main towns are Rezé, Pornic, Paimbœuf, and Machecoul (the historical capital city).


Flag of Pays de Retz

In the early 9th century the area formed part of Frankish territory, but was coveted by the Breton ruler Nominoe. Nominoe and his son Erispoe won a series of victories over the Franks between 843 and 851, resulting in the Treaty of Angers (851) between Charles the Bald and Erispoe, which gave "Ratense" or Pays de Retz to Brittany.[1]

In subsequent centuries there was conflict between Brittany and Anjou over the area. The notorious medieval serial killer Baron Gilles de Rais was from the area, and murdered and raped a large number of local peasant children.

During the War in the Vendée of 1793, the area was a Royalist stronghold.[2]


  1. René Cintre, Les Marches de Bretagne au Moyen Âge, éditions Jean Marie Pierre 1992
  2. Alain Gérard, Les Vendéens des origines à nos jours, Centre vendéen des recherches historiques, La Roche-sur-Yon 2001 (Histoire du Pays de Retz et des Ambilâtres à la fin de l'Antiquité)



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