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Royan

 

Royan is a commune in southwestern France, located in the department of Charente-Maritime (Nouvelle-Aquitaine region). Its inhabitants are called Royannais.

Main town of the Côte de Beauté and Royannais with 18,398 inhabitants in 2017, at the heart of an urban area of ​​48,982 inhabitants in 2013, Royan is above all one of the main seaside resorts on the French Atlantic coast, with five beaches of fine sand, and also of a marina which can receive more than 1000 boats as well as an active fishing port. Economic center radiating on the southwest quarter of the department (tertiary activities: shopping centers, crafts, banks and mutual funds, educational establishments) the city also lives at the rate of the university pole of Carel, specialized in the teaching of languages.

Located in the Arvert peninsula, on the right bank of the mouth of the largest estuary in Europe, the Gironde, Royan has always been a highly coveted strategic site, costing it several sieges and destruction. After the Germanic invasions (Visigoths in particular), and some Viking incursions, Royan, then a small fishing port, was the seat of several priories during the Middle Ages. Under English domination during the Hundred Years War, the city becomes during the Wars of religion a Protestant stronghold which will be besieged and destroyed by Louis XIII.

It was only during the Restoration that Royan developed thanks to its sea baths and acquired great renown in the mid-nineteenth century, particularly from the Second Empire. It welcomes many artists during the Roaring Twenties.

Destroyed by Allied bombings during the Liberation battles (siege of Royan, September 12, 1944 - April 15, 1945), the martyred city was subsequently declared a Research Laboratory on Urban Planning and has since had an architectural heritage representative of the 1950s. (modernist architecture), which earned it to be classified as a city of art and history in 2010.

Today, Royan asserts more than ever its seaside vocation. It is a tourist and cultural center welcoming 90,000 inhabitants annually each summer season.

 

History

Royan was founded during late Antiquity, probably around the fifth century. From that time on, two distinct urban centers developed: Saint-Pierre, a farming village perched on a plateau overlooking the Gironde estuary, and the village of Roianum, camped on the Foncillon plateau, a strategic cape bordered by the waters from the estuary.

From the eleventh century, Royan was fortified by the lords of Didonne. It became an English stronghold during the Hundred Years War, and the Black Prince granted his first privileges to the city, now governed by a college of twelve aldermen and twelve councilors. The city became French again in 1451, a few years before the effective end of hostilities (1453).

During the wars of religion, Catholics and Protestants fight over the city: fight under its walls, Prince Henri de Navarre (the future King Henri IV) and the Sire de Brantôme. In 1592, Royan was established as a marquisate. The promulgation of the Edict of Nantes in 1598 made the city a Protestant place of safety.

In 1622, the population rose up against King Louis XIII, who personally led the siege of the city. The latter submits and obtains forgiveness from the sovereign. The fortified city was razed to the ground in 1631 by order of Richelieu, the citadel dismantled, the ditches filled.

The renaissance of the city only intervened with the fashion for sea bathing, imported from England at the start of the 19th century. Only then does the city begin to develop again. At the start of the “Belle Époque”, Royan became a modern city, frequented by eminent personalities from the world of culture, as well as by the upper middle class of Bordeaux first, then Paris.

Under the leadership of Mayor Frédéric Garnier, the city is modernized, welcoming the railroad (1875), inaugurating its tram network (1890) and building several casinos: the municipal casino (1895) was thus until its destruction the largest in France. At the start of the Second World War, Royan was an internationally known seaside resort, frequented by Picasso, Sacha Guitry, Jacques-Henri Lartigue.

During the Occupation, Royan was a German fortress. As the end of the conflict becomes clearer, it becomes one of the last pockets of resistance of the Third Reich in France. As a result, it was severely bombed on January 5, 1945: in the space of a few hours, Royan was reduced to smoking ruins: 427 inhabitants and 47 German soldiers were killed, 200 people were wounded. New raids were carried out on April 14 and 15, during which nearly 725,000 liters of napalm were used. On April 17, the German commander of Royan surrendered.

Royan is destroyed at more than 85%: it becomes a research laboratory on town planning. The city was rebuilt using modernist techniques then fashioned by the great architects of the time: Le Corbusier, Niemeyer. It therefore becomes an original city, marked by the spirit of the 1950s, and is not long in being reborn to seaside life.

 

Location

Main city of Royannais and the Arvert peninsula, the town occupies the right bank of the mouth of the Gironde estuary, in the immediate vicinity of the Atlantic Ocean, in the historic former province of Saintonge . Belonging to the south of France - we speak more precisely of “atlantic midday”, it can be attached to two large geographical areas, the French Great West and the French Great Southwest.

The city is located in the heart of the Atlantic Arc, in the south-west of the Charente-Maritime department, 60 kilometers south of La Rochelle and 94 kilometers north of Bordeaux.

On the coast, limestone cliffs and beaches alternate, locally called conches. These are five in number, of varying sizes. The smallest, the conche du Pigeonnier, measures only a few hundred meters and the largest, the Grande Conche, extends over nearly 2,600 meters between the marina and the tip of Vallières, in the neighboring town of Saint -Georges-de-Didonne. All are lined with extremely fine sand, around 180 µm. Their formation seems to have taken place about 10,000 years ago.

Capital of the Côte de Beauté, Royan is located opposite the Verdon, on the other bank of the Gironde (8.2 km as the crow flies), and adjoins Vaux-sur-Mer, downstream on the same shore, and Saint-Georges-de-Didonne, upstream. Saint-Sulpice-de-Royan is 3.9 km away on the Rochefort road and Medis 5.5 km away on the Saintes road.