Royan: Wikis


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Coordinates: 45°37′N 1°02′W / 45.62°N 1.03°W / 45.62; -1.03

Commune of Royan

Port Royan.jpg
Royan is located in France
Country France
Region Poitou-Charentes
Department Charente-Maritime
Arrondissement Rochefort
Intercommunality Pays Royannais
Mayor Didier Quentin
Elevation 0–35 m (0–110 ft)
(avg. 20 m/66 ft)
Land area1 19.30 km2 (7.45 sq mi)
Population2 18,100  (2005)
 - Density 938 /km2 (2,430 /sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 17306/ 17200
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.
2 Population sans doubles comptes: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Royan (Saintongeais: Roeyan) is a commune in the Charente-Maritime département, in south- western France. Inhabitants are called royannais and royannaises in french.

A seaside resort, Royan is a city of 18,100 inhabitants in the heart of an urban area estimated at 38,638 inhabitants, which makes it the fourth largest conurbation in the département after La Rochelle, Rochefort and Saintes. Capital of the « Côte de beauté », the city is located in the mouth of the Gironde Estuary, the largest estuary in Europe. Royan has five sandy beaches, a marina and a fishing port.

Famous from the nineteenth century for its « Bains de mer » (sea swimming), this very rich resort welcomed numerous artists during the roaring twenties. Ravaged by terrible bombardments in 1945, the city was declared a research laboratory on town planning and since then has an architectural heritage dating from the 1950s (modernistic architecture). The city's post-war revival allows it today to welcome up to 90,000 inhabitants at the height of the season.



Royan is a seaside resort situated in the southwest of the department of Charente-Maritime, in the former province of Saintonge. It occupies a site on the mouth of the Gironde Estuary, on the right, near the Atlantic coast. On the coast limestone cliffs and beaches, locally called conches, alternate. There are five of these, varying in size from the smallest, measuring only some hundreds of metres (conche of the pigeonnier ) to the largest ( the grande conche ), which spreads across about 2600 metres between the marina and the cliffs of Vallière in the nearby commune of Saint-Georges-de-Didonne. All are covered with extremely fine sand (of the order of 180 µm). Their formation seems to have occurred approximately 8000 years ago.

Three islands are nearby: Île de Ré, Île d'Oléron and Île-d'Aix.


The city of Royan is built on a calcareous plateau of rocks dating from the Cretaceous Period (approximately 150 million years), limited to the North by the swamps of Pousseau and on the West by the swamps of Pontaillac. The formation of the estuary, the cliffs and the conches occurred there is approximately 65 million years as the birth of the Alps and Pyrenees creased the coats of limestone.



Royan is situated approximately 65 kilometres from the départemental prefecture, La Rochelle (via the départemental road 733 and national road 137), 98 kilometres from Bordeaux (by départemental road 730 and freeway A10) and 507 kilometres from Paris. The RN150 allows a journey time of a little less than half an hour from Royan to the city of Saintes, the historic capital of Saintonge and an important city of art and history.


Royan SNCF railway-station is the terminus of a line connecting the city to Saintes, Angoulême, and Niort ( TGV for Bordeaux and Paris).


The conurbation of Royan does not possess its own airport; the city is situated in around thirty kilometres from Rochefort-Saint-Agnant Airport, allowing flights to several European destinations (notably the British Islands ), and approximately 70 kilometres from La Rochelle - île de Ré Airport. A hundred kilometres in the South, Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport allows connections from the region to numerous cities around the world.


The climate is oceanic : the pluviometry is relatively moderate in autumn and in winter and the winters are sweet. The summer remains moderate thanks to the marine breeze. Two winds coming from the ocean, the noroît and the suroît, blow on the coast of the department. Insolation is very important: with 2250 hours a year, it is comparable to the french riviera.

Charente-Maritime is the French département which was most hard touched by the hurricane Martin, of December 27, 1999. The national records of registered winds were reached with 198 km/h on the island of Oléron and 194 km/h in Royan. Buildings, woods and harbour facilities underwent heavy damage.

Weather averages for Royan, France
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Avg low (°C) 3.4 4.0 5.4 7.4 10.7 13.7 15.8 15.7 13.7 10.5 6.3 3.9 9.2
Avg high (°C) 8.5 9.9 12.1 14.7 17.9 21.3 23.8 23.5 21.8 18.0 12.6 9.2 16.1
Average (°C) 5.9 6.9 8.7 11.1 14.3 17.5 19.8 19.6 17.8 14.2 9.4 6.6 12.7
Insolation (h) 84 111 174 212 239 272 305 277 218 167 107 85 2250
Precipitation (mm) 82.5 66.1 57.0 52.7 61.1 42.9 35.1 46.4 56.5 81.6 91.8 81.8 755.3


Prehistory and antiquity

The site of Royan was occupied from prehistory: cut flints brought to light by archeological excavations give evidence of this. The Celtic people of Santones began to emphasize the peninsula of Arvert. Romans developed the cultivation of vineyards, the breeding of oysters and the saltern technique. Tibulle celebrates the coast after the victory of Messala, and Ausone built a residence there. In 418, the Visigoths arrived at Saintess. To protect itself, Royan surrounded itself with walls in 419, the date on which this city is mentioned for the first time in an old man cartulaire. Grégoire of Tours mentions a usurpation of the church of Royan by the Arian Visigoths. In summer 844, the Vikings came up the Gironde, plundering everything on their passage.

Middle ages

Saint-Pierre church

At the beginning of the XIth century, a precarious peace returned, the peninsula was slowly reborn at the instigation of small seigneuries and abbeys. Between 1050 and 1075, the prieuré of Saint-Vivien de Saintes built Saint Pierre prieuré on the plateau Saint-Pierre, two kilometres from the village. This fixed a small hamlet. In 1092, the abbey of the Grande-Sauve settled another prieuré, Saint Nicolas, not far from the village. This one is on the rock of Foncillon, by the sea. Attached to the village, a small castle protected the bottom of the beach of Grande Conche which served as a harbour. Already at the end of the XIth century, harbour activity was important. Numerous lighters made the Gironde a stopover waiting for winds or favorable currents. The Lord of Didonne took advantage of this to charge a tax in any boat stopping at the foot of the castle.

In 1137, Eleanor of Aquitaine married the king of France, Louis VII. Royan become an integral part of the duchy of Aquitaine and passed under the direct control of king of France. But in 1152, Eleanor divorced and was married again with Henri Plantagenet, who became king of England in 1154. Royan then passed under English control.

The king of England strengthened the defences of the village, protecting it with robust bulwarks and a solid donjon. The various taxes paid by ships in the XIIIth century were codified by the Lords of Royan in 1232 under the name of Coutume ( Custom ) of Royan. On May 20, 1242, Henry III, king of England, at war against Louis IX (saint Louis), landed at Royan with 300 knights. Beaten at Taillebourg, the English kingdom kept, by the treaty of Paris, control of the South of Saintonge, with the city of Royan. In 1355, during the One Hundred Years War, the Prince Noir, heir of the throne of England, occupied Saintonge. He strengthened the defences of Royan, which becomes a big village administered by twelve Echevins and twelve councillors. At the end of the One Hundred Years War, in 1451, the region of Royan was definitively part of French kingdom, but the city was totally ruined.

In 1458, Marie de Valois ( 1444-1473 ), illegitimate daughter of Charles VII and Agnès Sorel married Olivier de Coëtivy, count of Taillebourg. She brought a dowry of 12 000 ecus and the châtellenies of Royan and Mornac. In 1501 Charles de la Trémoille, by its marriage with Louise de Coëtivy, became baron of Royan. The business developed there. But walled up in its ramparts, its access was difficult. From the beginning of the XVIth century, a suburb developed bordering the beach.

However, in the XVIth century, the religious wars raged, and almost all the big captains of the time, such as Henri de Navarre, the future king Henry IV, and the Sire of Brantôme ( who will become a prior of Saint-Pierre-de-Royan ), made war under the walls of the citadel. In 1592, Henry IV set up the city as marquisate to the advantage of Gilbert de la Trémoille. At the beginning of the XVIIth century, the duke of Épernon considered that " it is one of better places for his greatness which was in France ". Since the edict of Nantes, Royan was a Protestant fortified town under king Henry III.

The strengthened city underwent a first siege in 1622 steered by Louis XIII, but resisted. The second siege in 1623 was terrible for Royannais, which had to abandon the city with ban to return there. The garrison had to surrender. But it was Cardinal Richelieu who, in 1631, made shave ramparts and houses of the suburb. The city which has even no more a church, is connected with the rural parish of Saint Pierre.

After the revocation of the edict of Nantes, the major part of the population emigrated, especially to Holland, and the persecutions continued to under Louis XV. After the storm of 1735 took the elevation of its harbour, the navigation was not restored before the XIXth century.

During the French Revolution

When in December, 1789, the National Assembly voted for the division of France into departments, instead of the former provinces, they created the département of Charente-Inférieure, and Royan became an administrative centre of the canton from 4 February 1790.

At the same time, they elected a city council, chaired by the Protestant Daniel Renaud, and the mayor Nicolas-Thérese Vallet of Salignac. On July 12, 1790, the National Assembly voted for the civil constitution of the clergy, in the canton of Royan. The priests of the parishes of Royan, Vaux and Saint-Sulpice refused to take the constitutional oath and become prêtres réfractaires, condemned to deportation.

Throughout the country, church properties were seized. In Royan the convent of the Récollets, built in 1622, was put on sale with its 33 hectares and was acquired on February 25, 1791 by Jean Boisseau, a shipowner, who demolished it.

Dissatisfaction due to the economic crisis built in Royan as elsewhere. To address this, clubs celebrating patriotic events are formed. On July 14, 1790, the feast of the federation took place, and a ceremony was organized in Saint Pierre church, on the occasion of the " federative oath ". At the end of November, Nicolas-Thérese Vallet of Salignac was removed from office and was replaced by François d' Aulnis de Puiraveaux.

In 1791, Daniel Renaud was elected as mayor of the commune. In May 1791, the club of "the friends of the constitution" was opened in Royan. In general nevertheless the Terror is hardly noticeable and few notables were worried.

French seaside resorts

Main street near Pontaillac beach

Royan was a convalescence center for the soldiers of Napoleon's Grande Armée. As a consequence, Inns opened and the inhabitants got used to renting rooms to the soldiers. There was at the time no street along the beach and the sea broke through in many places. In order to protect themselves from storm waves, almost every house behind the beach possessed a garden with a thick low wall. The port dried out at low tide. A small dike was built in 1810.

By 1816, sea bathing developed, imported from England by the last immigrants. Royan, thanks to its beaches and its climate, attracted its first tourists, receiving holidaymakers from the greater part of Bordeaux. In 1819, with the steamer La Garonne, but especially from 1821 with La Gironde and L'Hirondelle, the first paddle steamers to make a regular Bordeaux-Pauillac-Royan service in the summer. These boats did not moor at Royan, but to the cliffs of Foncillon which is called Plataine, the travelers transhipping to shore by means of small boats.

Paving of the streets began in 1816 and was finished only in 1826. In July 1819, the mayor, Raymond Labarthe, signed the first prescription regulating sea bathing; this forbade nude bathing from beaches bordering houses and reserved the Foncillon beach for women. In 1820, it was forbidden "to wash pigs, horses and other cattle in the sea as we have baths". In 1836, a staircase was cut out of the rock to facilitate the landing of passengers from boats. By 1845, the engineer Botton makes wrap (surround) the cliff of Foncillon inside the port. In 1847, the engineer Lessore builds the sketch of the first casino. Under the Second Empire, the city undergoes much development. In 1854, the first street lights were installed. Between 1850 and 1870, the number of tourists increased from 9000 to 17,000, and the population from 3329 to 4500. Royan became a big regional seaside resort with businesses, a renowned casino and large cafes. In August 28, 1875, the first train arrived from Paris, adding another dimension to the resort.

In twenty years, between 1875 and 1895, the city became one of the sea resorts of the océan coast . From 1885, new areas in Le Parc and Pontaillac were covered with luxurious villas. A new casino, the work of the Bordeaux architect Alfred Duprat, was inaugurated in 1885, dominating Foncillon beach. In 1895, the municipality asked the Parisian architect Gaston Redon to build another casino at the edge of Grande Conche beach. He is advised "to give free rein to its imagination and to skimp neither on the space, nor on the proportions ". In August, 1895, the biggest casino in France was inaugurated.

Destruction of Royan

Howard Zinn, 2nd Lieut. Bombardier, Army Air Force, England, participated in one of the first military uses of napalm, which was over Royan in April 1945. In two books, The Politics of History and The Zinn Reader, Zinn described how the bombing was ordered-- a few weeks before the war in Europe ended --by military officials who were likely motivated more by the desire for career advancement than legitimate military objectives.

During the Second World War, two German fortresses defended the Gironde Estuary: Gironde Mündung Nord (or Royan) and Gironde Mündung Süd (or La Pointe de Grave). These constituted one of the Atlantic "pockets" which the Germans held on to grimly well after the liberation of the rest of France. In the early hours of January 5, 1945, planes of the Royal Air Force, having been told that nobody was left in Royan but Germans and collaborators, bombed the centre of Royan out of existence in two raids. The blame for this raid is usually attributed to Free French General Larminat.[1]

The Allied operation against the German forces on Île d'Oléron and at the mouth of the Gironde River, began with a general naval bombardment at 0750 on April 15, 1945, some 10 months after D-Day. For five days the US naval task force assisted the French ground forces with naval bombardment and aerial reconnaissance in the assault on Royan and the Pointe de Grave area at the mouth of the Gironde. American B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator aircraft carried out aerial bombing missions, including extensive and pioneering use of napalm, finishing the destruction of January 5.

More than 3000 French civilians were in the town, of which half were killed or injured in the air raids.

Blandford writes, "There was a Free French commander with the US sixth army outside Royan, who was not informed until too late. The message was in French and the American signalman could not understand it. It took four hours to get it translated".

Howard Zinn, author of "A People's History of the United States" was one of the many bombardiers that attacked Royan during World War Two and later wrote on the topic.

Royan today

The town was rebuilt in the 1950s, as part of an urbanisation programme and is very representative of the modernistic architecture of the time. A pleasant resort, known also for its casino and hotels, Royan has a typical Atlantic climate. It is particularly favoured by families with young children because of the safe beaches, several in attractive coves (conches) with beach cafes.


1806 1820 1876 1906 1911 1921 1936 1946 1954 1962 1968 1975 1982 1990 1999 2005
2202 2339 5155 8843 9330 10242 12192 6649 12289 16521 17292 18062 17540 16837 17102 18100

Twin towns

Famous monuments

Church of Notre-Dame (église Notre-Dame)

Built in three years by the architects Guillaume Gillet and Marc Hébrard, in association with the engineers Bernard Lafaille, René Sarger and Ou Tseng, the church Notre-Dame of Royan is considered as one of the leaders of work of the contemporary architecture.After the bombardments of January 5, 1945 which destroyed the former neogothic church which dated 1877, located at the current Square Charles de Gaulle, it was decided to build a building of bigger size and in the architecture so ambitious as spectacular, inspired by the aesthetics of the big Gothic cathedrals. Finished from 1958, it is completely built in raw concrete. The church was classified as historical monument in 1988. His dimensions are: a nave in ellipse, 45 metres long on 22 metres wide which can contain approximately 2000 persons, flanked by an ambulatory and by a stand situated in three metres of the ground. This stand is enlightened by stained glasses in the form of rhombus representing the Stations of the Cross. The structure of the building consists of an alternation of elements in reinforced concrete précontraints V (Lafaille system, of the name of the engineer Bernard Lafaille which created the process) alternating with immense covering windows 500 m2, work of the glassworker Henri Martin-Granel.

The Congress palace (Palais des congrès)

Built in 1957 by the architect of Bordeaux Claude Ferret. It is designed as a cubic geometry eased by the oblique movement of outside staircases and by the subtle interweaving of internal convex walls. Widely opened on the estuary of the Gironde by a glass wall, it was later enlarged with gardens, under a transparent cube. It was classified as a historical monument in 2004.

Central Market (Marché central)

Built in 1955 by the architects L. Simon and In. Morisseau and the engineer René Sarger. It is a round shell in a concrete eight centimeters thick. It rests on thirteen peripheral support points without any internal pillar. It is 52,40 metres in diameter, and its height in the center is 10,50 metres. It served as model for the conception of the market of Nanterre and as the CNIT of the Defence near Paris.

Park of the "Jardins du monde"

The Parc Jardins du Monde ( gardens of the world ) is vast all 7,5 hectares situated in border of the swamp of Pousseau, in the North of the city. Various ecosystems were reconstituted, the Japanese garden , inspired by the Buddhist and Shintoist traditions, ,or the Mediterranean park where cotoient lavender, palm trees and the other oleanders, around an impressive old olive tree of about 1800 years native of the region of Valencia, in Spain.


Royan attracts many foreign language students due to its local language university, le CAREL (Centre Audiovisuel de Royan pour l'Étude des Langues). It is frequented by thousands of stemming students of about 80 countries, and consists of 20 soundproof audiovisual rooms, 4 laboratories of language, an auditorium, a library, a television studio and a self-service for the students. It prepares for the examinations of the DALF, DELF, TCF and TFI.

The collèges include: the Collège Émile Zola, the Collège Henry Dunant and the Collège Sainte-Marie.

The lycées include: the lycée de l'Atlantique and the lycée de Cordouan.


Front de mer square

The main stadium of the city is the stadium of honor (stade d'honneur in french), situated near the railway station, Royan has numerous other sports facilities, including two swimming-pools of which one is an outdoor sea water pool opened in the summer, to Foncillon, several gymnasiums, a sports hall, several tennis courts, a pelota wall , a rugby ground and a golf course.

A surf-club is also based in the commune, near Pontaillac beach, as well as a karting circuit (KFM - Circuit of the côte de beauté).

A racecourse, a riding school and a 18 hole golf course, are in nearby La Palmyre, in the commune of Les Mathes.

Famous people born in Royan

Royan was the birthplace of:

Famous people who visited Royan

External links


  1. ^ The Zinn reader: writings on disobedience and democracy Howard Zinn p.275ff [1]

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

There is more than one place in the world called Royan:

  1. Royan, France - A small town in the Charente-Maritime département.
  2. Royan, Iran - A town formerly called Alamdeh in Northern Iran.
This article is a disambiguation page. If you arrived here by following a link from another page you can help by correcting it, so that it points to the appropriate disambiguated page.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Simple English

[[File:|thumb|right|200px|Royan : The Marina]] Royan is a city in the south west of France near the Atlantic Ocean and the Gironde estuary. About 18 100 (2005) people live in the city. Royan is a famous seaside resort, with five sandy beaches, a marina and a fishing port.

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