Saintes, Charente-Maritime


Historic district

Coat of arms

Coordinates: 45°44′47″N 0°38′00″W / 45.7464°N 0.6333°W / 45.7464; -0.6333Coordinates: 45°44′47″N 0°38′00″W / 45.7464°N 0.6333°W / 45.7464; -0.6333
Country France
Region Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Department Charente-Maritime
Arrondissement Saintes
Area1 45.55 km2 (17.59 sq mi)
Population (2008)2 26,470
  Density 580/km2 (1,500/sq mi)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
INSEE/Postal code 17415 / 17100
Elevation 2–81 m (6.6–265.7 ft)
(avg. 47 m or 154 ft)

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Saintes (French: [sɛ̃t]) is a commune and historic town in southwestern France, in the Charente-Maritime department of which it is a sub-prefecture, in Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Its inhabitants are called Saintaises and Saintais.[1] Saintes is the second-largest city in Charente-Maritime, with 26,470 inhabitants in 2008. Its immediate surrounds form the second-most populous metropolitan area in the department, with 56,598 inhabitants, the majority of which is fertile, productive fields; a significant minority of the region remains forest, its natural state.

In Roman times, Saintes was known as Mediolanum Santonum, and during much of its history, the name of the city was spelled Xaintes and Xainctes.

Primarily built on the left bank of the Charente, Saintes became the first Roman capital of Aquitaine, and later, the capital of the province of Saintonge under the Ancien Régime. Following the French Revolution it briefly became the prefecture of the department (then called Charente-Inférieure) during the territorial reorganization of 1790, until La Rochelle took its place in 1810.[2] Even though it was but a subprefecture,[N 1] Saintes was allowed to remain the judicial center of the department. In the last third of the 19th century, Saintes was chosen as the seat of the VIIIth arrondissement of the Chemins de Fer de l'État, railways, which enabled an era of economic and demographic growth.

Today, Saintes remains the economic heart of the center of the department and it is an important transportation hub.[3] A few major industrial business operate (in electronics, rail repair, construction of hoists). The city's commerce and service sector is large with the headquarters of Coop Atlantique, administrative functions of state, courts, legal services, banks, schools and a hospital. Beyond this, property maintenance, retail and tourism sectors provide large numbers of jobs.

Because of its noteworthy Gallo-Roman, medieval and classical heritage, Saintes is a tourist destination and a member of the French Towns and Lands of Art and History since 1990.[4] It has several museums, a theater, cinemas, and organizes numerous festivals.[5] A European center of musical research and practice is in its Abbaye aux Dames.[6]



Saintes is on the banks of the Charente River, in the center-eastern part of the department. The city is centred 60 km southeast of La Rochelle,[7] 33 kilometers northeast of Royan[7] and about 100 km north of Bordeaux[7] (to which it is linked by the A10 autoroute).


A chronostratigraphic stage of sedimentary rock (in stratigraphy) has been named after the former name for inhabitants, the Santones, the Santonian (approximately 84 Ma ago, after the Coniacian and Campanian. Saintes is built on its eponymous subset of mainly limestone that consists of particular flint nodules of quartz geodes and nodules of iron. Ancient stone quarries in its 'Colline de la Capitole' (Capitol Hill) and Bellevue, partially filled or converted to permit fungiculture, are evidence for Santonian stone's use in the construction of various buildings, where unimproved quite vulnerable to frost.[8]

Nearer to the river, the Cretaceous plateau gives way to more or less recent alluvial grasslands composed of bri, a type of clay.

The uplifting of Alps and Pyrenees began during the Maastrichtian, 65 Ma ago, and continued for a part of the Paleogene.


The town is divided into 14 administrative areas : Les Boiffiers, Les Tourneurs, L'Ormeau de Pied, Recouvrance, La Fenêtre, Saint-Rémy, Saint-Vivien, Saint-Eutrope, Saint-Pierre, Saint-Pallais, Saint-Sébastien de Bouard, La Récluse, Le Maine-Saint-Sorlin and Bellevue.[9]

Left bank (Rive gauche)

The neighborhood of Saint-Pierre lies between the hill of the Capitole and the river Charente. It possesses a significant number of historic monuments justifying its forming of the core of a conservation area that spans over 65 hectares (0.25 sq mi).[10] Built around the cathedral Saint-Pierre, the place du marché and the place du Synode, it is crossed by pedestrian alleys around which can be found numerous medieval, renaissance and classic buildings.[11]

Almost immediately west lies the neighbourhood of Saint-Eutrope, that has developed over the centuries around a rocky elevation bounded by two small valleys at right angles to the river. Dominated by the Saint-Eutrope basilica, it also contains the remains of a Clunian priory and several hillside houses. Little valleys lead to the vallon des Arènes (meaning arenas vale) below, where a Roman amphiteatre survives, in a park named "Parc des Arènes".[11]

The cours Reverseaux and cours des Apôtres de la liberté separate Saint-Eutrope (and its hill) in the west from the faubourg Berthonnière. These partly separate the hill of the Capitole to the north. Once outside-of-the-walls, the faubourg included some hostelries and inns for pilgrims.[11] The streets of the faubourg converge toward the place Saint-Louis, the place de l'Aubarrée and the place Blair, dominated by a column of Liberty (in France popularised as fictional Marianne at the time) erected during the Revolution.[12] The square Goulebenéze stands between the place Blair and the river.

The neighbourhoods of les Boiffiers and Bellevue are separated from the rest of the city by the avenue de Saintonge; they consist mainly in low-rent housing (HLM) and suburban housing standing on a plateau bounded by the Charente. Bellevue has 1,560 inhabitants and spans 17 hectares (42 acres); it is listed as a zone urbaine sensible (ZUS).[13]

La Recouvrance, in a triangle formed by the cours du maréchal Leclerc, the cours Genet and the rocade ouest (bypass), contains a lycée, the former seminary, the Yvon Chevalier stadium and a shopping mall. The water tower of Recouvrance is decorated with frescoes by contemporary artist Michel Genty.

The north of the urban area, the Saint-Vivien neighborhood has an old faubourg (exurb) inhabited since antiquity where the thermes de Saint-Saloine, ancient Roman baths are found.[11]

Right bank (Rive droite)

The église Saint-Pallais on the right bank.

The neighborhood of Saint-Pallais was probably urbanized in antiquity. Structured around the main access way of the Roman city, it was then linked to the town center by a bridge with a monumental entrance, the Arch of Germanicus. During the Middle Ages, a funeral basilica, dedicated to the bishop Palladius, was established (and later replaced by the église Saint-Pallais, which gives its name to the neighborhood), then a Benedictine abbey of women amongst the largest in the region, the Abbaye aux Dames de Saintes. The presence of this monumental heritage led to the integration of part of the neighborhood in a conservation area. It was during the 19th century that the neighborhood began to develop. The antique bridge was destroyed and replaced in 1879 by the pont Bernard-Palissy, a few meters upstream ; the avenue Gambetta and the place Bassompierre are created ; the train station, the Gare de Saintes, the prison, the Haras national de Saintes, the parc Pierre-Mendès France, the Jardin public Fernand Chapsal and the protected area of the prairie de la Palu[11] were subsequently created.

Adjacent communes

Map showing Saintes and its neighboring communes
Saintes and its neighboring communes (in orange : Communauté de communes du Pays santon).


The autoroute A10 leaving Saintes towards Bordeaux

Saintes is a transportation hub of some importance, connected by two motorways and several secondary roads, national and departmental, that converge towards the rocade (partly a 2x2) that bypasses the city on its western and southern sides.

The A10 autoroute (France), operated locally by Autoroutes du Sud de la France, passes through the commune in its western part, in a north-south axis. It can be accessed by the interchange 35. By the A10, Saintes is 125 km from Bordeaux, 140 km from Poitiers, 470 km from Paris.

The A837 autoroute is a spur road of the A10 linking the area to Rochefort, the third city in the department.

The Saint-Eutrope basilica from the Avenue de Saintonge

Saintes is on the Route Centre-Europe Atlantique, an expressway that links it to Limoges and Lyon in the east its dualled western section Saintes-Saujon opened to traffic in 2008 making the two 25 minutes apart by car. An extension towards Royan on the coast completed in the following decade.

The rocade is formed in its western part by the national road 137, that meets two key roads, the departmental road 728 (that links Saintes to the Island of Oleron by Marennes) and the departmental road 150 that intersects near the locality of Diconche. In its southern part, the rocade integrates the national road 141, that runs east towards Cognac, Angoulême and Limoges. The departmental road 150, at the end of the east part, runs towards Niort by Saint-Hilaire-de-Villefranche et Saint-Jean-d'Angély. The town center of Saintes is bypassed by the avenue de Saintonge or departmental road 24, that crosses the Charente with the bridge de Saintonge, opened in 1969.


The Gare de Saintes (train station) is at the focal point of five railways that link the agglomeration to Nantes (by La Rochelle), Bordeaux, Angoulême, Niort and Royan ; the trains are mainly part of the regional rail network TER Poitou-Charentes and the network Corail Intercités

In 1894, the station was the starting point of a 3 km long network of tramways that was stopped in 1934. In 1894 was also founded a secondary railway 42 km long linking Saintes to Mortagne-sur-Gironde, by Gémozac, then a somewhat important economic center ; however, this railway was dismantled in 1947.[14]

The importance of this railway network is explained by the designation of Saintes as the seat of the Compagnie des chemins de fer des Charentes in 1867, then as the regional seat of the VIIIth arrondissement of the Chemins de fer de l'État from 1911 to 1971. The SNCF is still a major employer in the city, and new depots and workshops have been opened in 2009 and 2010.


Historical population
From 1793 to 2007


Cathédrale Saint Pierre
Basilique Saint-Eutrope in Saintes


Saintes is in the catchment of and under the auspices of the académie de Poitiers.

List of schools :
Public kindergartens and elementary schools
  • École Le Cormier
  • École Roger Pérat
  • École Saint-Pallais
  • École Saint-Eutrope
  • École Les Jacobins
  • École Saint-Exupéry
  • École Émile Combes
  • École Jean Jaurès
  • École Jules Ferry
  • École Louis Pasteur
  • École Eugène Pelletan
  • École Paul Bert
  • École Nicolas Lemercier
  • École Léo Lagrange
Private elementary schools
  • École Marie-Eustelle
  • École Jeanne d'Arc-Notre-Dame
Public collèges
  • Collège Edgar Quinet
  • Collège Agrippa d'Aubigné
  • Collège René Caillé
Collège privé
  • Collège Jeanne d'Arc-Notre-Dame
Public lycées of general education
  • Lycée Bernard Palissy
  • Lycée polyvalent régional Bellevue
Private lycée of general education
  • Lycée Notre-Dame-de-Recouvrance
Public professional lycées
  • Établissement régional d'enseignement adapté
  • Lycée agricole Georges Desclaude
  • Lycée professionnel horticole Chadignac
Private professional lycée
  • Lycée technique Claire Champagne
Military school
  • École d'enseignement technique de l'armée de l'air (EETAA)
Higher education
  • Institut de formation en soins infirmiers (IFSI)
  • Institut de formation des aides-soignants (IFAS)
  • Centre d'étude d'architecture et d'urbanisme (CEAU)

Twin towns

Saintes is twinned with:[15]

See also


  1. The prefecture of Charente-Maritime is La Rochelle and the subprefectures are alphabetically: Jonzac, Rochefort, Saint-Jean-d'Angély and Saintes.


  1. "Gentilé Saintes" (in French).
  2. (French) Charente-Maritime, encyclopédie Bonneton, p. 64
  3. "Saintes : Pôle économique". Ville de Saintes (in French). Retrieved 27 August 2010.
  4. "Le label Ville d'art et d'histoire". L'atelier du patrimoine de Saintonge (in French). Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  5. "Saintes : Culture et Patrimoine". Ville de Saintes (in French). Retrieved 27 August 2010.
  6. (French) Synthèse des travaux de la commission de stratégie, L'abbaye aux Dames, centre européen de recherche et de pratique musicale de Saintes, note de réflexion stratégique, 2003, Read online
  7. 1 2 3 "Calcul de l'orthodromie entre Saintes et La Rochelle". (in French). Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  8. Saintes, plus de 2,000 ans d'histoire illustrée, Société d'archéologie et d'histoire de la Charente-Maritime, p.11-14
  9. Contrat urbain de cohésion sociale 2007-2012, 80 pages
  10. "Le secteur sauvegardé". L'atelier du patrimoine de Saintonge (in French). Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 "Historique des quartiers". Ville de Saintes (in French). Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  12. (French) Le patrimoine des communes de la Charente-Maritime, éditions Flohic, p. 1023
  13. "ZUS Bellevue". Website of the ministère du travail, des relations sociales .... et de la ville (in French). Retrieved 29 October 2009.
  14. "Les chemins de fer secondaires en France". Fédération des amis des chemins de fer secondaires. Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  15. Town hall website: Villes jumelées (French)


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