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Port-Saint-Père (Municipality, Loire-Atlantique, France)

Last modified: 2021-06-14 by ivan sache
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Flag of Port-Saint-Père - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 15 February 2019

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Presentation of Port-Saint-Père

The municipality of Port-Saint-Père (2,910 inhabitants in 2016; 3,257 ha; municipal website) is located in Pays de Retz, 25 km south-west of Nantes and 30 km east of Pornic.

Port-Saint-Père is the site of one of the oldest settlements in the area, as evidenced by Neolithic deposits excavated in 1880, 1921 and 1922. The village was first documented in the 12th century, as the parish of Portus Sancti Petri. "Portus" refers to the port of La Morinière, established on river Acheneau, which connects nearby Lake Grandlieu to river Loire; until the early 20th century, the port was busy with barges transporting grain, wines, wood and other goods.
"Sancti Petri" refers to the parish's patron saint, St. Peter (Saint Pierre), whose name was subsequently altered to Saint-Père.

During the French Revolution, the village was renamed to Port Boulay, for the lawyer Pierre-Sébastien Boulay-Paty (1763-1830), appointed National Commissioner of the Paimbœuf district. In 1793, a blaze destroyed all the houses of the village but three; accordingly, the village was locally known as Port Brûlé (Burned Port).
Sand of the best quality required was extracted from 1880 to 1930 from the Sables Rouges (Red Sands) quarries. Their main customer, the Trignac foundry, located near the Saint-Nazaire shipyards, purchased up to 3,000 t sand per year, which were shipped from the Hamoneau port via the Acheneau and the Loire.

Flag of Port-Saint-Père

The flag of Port-Saint-Père (photo) is white with the municipal logo.
The logo represents a bridge reflecting in the water of the river, forming the "O" of "Port".

Crossing river Acheneau was required to connect the marshes that surround Lake Grandlieu - also represented on the logo by a reed - and the salt-producing shore district of GuérandePort-Saint-Père. Port Saint-Père was established at the site where the river is particularly narrow, making the crossing easier. However, the Gallo-Romans do not appear to have build a permanent bridge, because of the soil's lack of consistence and the variations of water height with seasons. Rather, they immersed a timber sill of 5 m in width, which allowed crossing by pedestrians and carts, replaced in the Middle Ages by a stone causeway; the crossing was, however, very dangerous because of the heavy barge traffic and unexpected variations in water height. In the 14th century, the lord of La Tour set up a cable ferry with a toll; safety was not significantly improved, as evidence by parish accounts reporting several casualties caused by floods and navigation errors. This did not prevent the ferry to be very popular, since it remained one of the only available means to cross the river; in 1622, the sister of the king of France used the ferry "heading to the ocean". During the French Revolution, the crossing was fiercely disputed between the Republican and Royalist parties, which caused the aforementioned destruction of the village.

On 16 January 1818, Aristide Locquet de Grandville (1791-1853), Mayor of Port-Saint-Père, proposed to erect a bridge and to rectify the course of the Acheneau. A Royal Order signed on 17 July 1828 by Charles X prescribed the erection of a stone bridge to replace the ferry and of two levees on each side of the river. The mayor funded the works and was subsequently granted the concession of the toll bridge.
The toll exerted a huge pressure on the inhabitants of the region, especially those living on the northern side, since the school, the market and the doctor were located on the southern side. On 21 January 1849, the Municipal Council of Port-Saint-Père asked the Departmental Council of Loire-Atlantique to purchase the rights on the bridge; this was obtained only in 1879, when the Council acquired all the toll bridges in the department and granted free access to them.
A metallic catwalk was added in 1890 to the stone bridge, since the Acheneau used to flow out of its new, narrowed bed in winter and spring.
[Municipal website]

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 16 February 2019