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Saint-Georges-de-Didonne (Municipality, Charente-Maritime, France)

Last modified: 2024-04-20 by olivier touzeau
Keywords: charente-maritime | saint-georges-de-didonne | gironny |
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Flag of Saint-Georges-de-Didonne - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 6 March 2022

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Presentation of Saint-Georges-de Didonne

Saint-Georges-de-Didonne (5,170 inhabitants; 1,058 ha) is a commune in the Charente-Maritime department and an important seaside resort of Royan agglomeration and the coast of Beauty, on the right bank of the mouth of the Gironde estuary and adjacent Atlantic Ocean.

The first traces of human occupation detected near Boubes date from the Neolithic period (around 3000 BC). Many remains of a Gallo-Roman villa have also been uncovered on the tip of Suzac.

During the Middle Ages the town was made up of two main centers:

  • on the one hand, the castle and the medieval village of Didonne, known as Le Châta, established on the edge of the marshes; the seigniory of Didonne is mentioned as early as 1047. Object of conquests during the Hundred Years War, and following many convulsions, the castle will be gradually dismantled then destroyed, in ruins at the beginning of the 18th century, to end up buried under the extension of the village of Didonne in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • on the other hand, probably towards the end of the Middle Ages, the village of Saint-Georges develops around an already existing priory and a parish church, the main activity of this parish is agriculture, vine, the important production of wheat turns the mills present in the town, serving as landmarks for navigators on the Gironde estuary. However, the development of Saint-Georges de Didonne was hampered by the religious wars in the 16th century. Church partially destroyed, lands of the Priory partly seized, appearance of new seigniories for the benefit of leaders of the reformed faith: the seigniories of Lussinet and Boubes... In the 18th century, Protestants were confined to hiding, two pastors were to mark this period, Pastor Louis Gibert and Pastor Jean Jarousseau "the pastor of the desert"; after his death in 1819, Protestants who had come out of hiding had a temple built in 1839.

In the 18th century, the village, taking advantage of its privileged location at the mouth of the Gironde, became an important pilot station from 1727. In 1743, out of 90 pilots listed on the Gironde estuary, 16 were from Saint-Georges in 1743 and 20 in 1831. The mooring pilots park their boats in the protected port of Saint-Georges, this activity allows development and expansion of this one. In 1812, a first dyke was built, which was enlarged in 1841. Unfortunately, twenty years later, the phenomenon of siltation continues and the port can only accommodate 15 rowboats instead of the 50 originally planned.

The golden age of the town began in the 19th century, with the vogue for sea bathing: thus began the great wave of urbanization and modernization of infrastructure that transformed the village into a real city. Several personalities in search of "a certain authenticity" then went to Saint-Georges, away from the splendor of social life that characterized the town of Royan at that time. The village still appears to be isolated, and access to Royan is via an "almost impassable" path, in the middle of vast expanses of dunes. The beginning of the 20th century saw the opening of new access roads towards the Grande Conche and the Parc district. The port is modernized, building at the same time the Lighthouse of Vallières. New housing estates were created, and the first luxury hotels were built, such as the Oceanic Hotel, frequented by high society until its closure shortly before the Second World War. Statesmen, including King Alfonso XIII of Spain, several film actresses or politicians, such as Édouard Herriot cae to Saint-Georges. During the German occupation, the Todt organization implemented the fortification of the coast, in order to prevent any Allied landings. An important military fort, consisting of a complex of blockhouses and powerful artillery pieces was built at the end of the Pointe de Suzac. Integrated into the defense system of the pocket of Royan, the town of Saint-Georges de Didonne was relatively spared from the bombardments, unlike its neighbor Royan, which was almost totally destroyed. Since then, the town of Saint-Georges de Didonne has been a family seaside resort, integrated into the Royan agglomeration.

Olivier Touzeau, 6 March 2022

Flag of Saint-Georges-de Didonne

The flag is white with the coat of arms, blazoned: gironny of 12 Argent and Gueules (photo, 2017; photo, 2021).
These are the arms of the lords of Didonne.

Olivier Touzeau, 6 March 2022

These arms are featured on a seal used in 1227 by Hugues de Didonne [source: blog Saint Georges de Didonne et son passé, 6 December 2013].

The lords of Didonne and their castle were first mentioned in a document of the Trinity abbey in Vendôme, dated 1047. In 1070, the lords of Didonne also ruled the castle of Royan. In the Middle Ages, they ruled a vast territory including the mouth of Gironde, and perceived several tolls.
During the Hundred Years' Wars, Guilbert de Didonne took the English party. King Philip of Valois confiscated his domains in 1340 and offered them to loyal knight Arnaud Bernard de Preyssac, aka Soudan de Latran. Arnaud did not remain loyal too long, and the castle of Didonne was seized by Foulque de Matha, who was created baron of Didonne and lord of Royan and Arvert on 6 October 1350. After the reconquest of Saintonge, the English returned the castle to Arnaud de Preyssac.
Charles V, after the French reconquest of Saintonge, offered on 16 September 1376 the barony of Didonne to Jean La Personne; at the time, the caslte, located on the frontline, was probably ruined. Charles VIII subsequently offered the barony of Didonne to Olivier de Coëtivy, lord of Taillebourg, who had married in 1463 his daughter Mary of Valois; he also authorized the rebuilding of the castle and its fortifications in 1468. Louis de Coëtivy, by her marriage, trandferred the barony to the La Trémoïlle lineage. Jean-Charles de Sennecterre, Marquis de Pisany, transferrde the seat of the barony of Didonne to his new castle of La Touche, in Sémussac, which had been built, according to the local tradition, with the stones of the former fortress of Didonne. In 1905, nothing remained from the old fortress but a piece of wall and deep moats.

Ivan Sache, 7 May 2022