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Châtelaillon-Plage (Municipality, Charente-Maritime, France)

Last modified: 2010-11-13 by ivan sache
Keywords: charente-maritime | chatelaillon-plage |
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[Flag of Chatelaillon-Plage]         [Flag of Chatelaillon-Plage]

Flag of Châtelaillon-Plage - Images by Ivan Sache, 6 November 2006
Left, as used in the village
Right, as used in a yachting race in Brest, 2005

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Presentation of Châtelaillon-Plage

The municipality of Châtelaillon-Plage (5,673 inhabitants in 1999; 659 ha) is located on the Atlantic Ocean, 12 km south of La Rochelle. It was once known as Castrum Alionensis and the capital of the pagus alionensis, later the province of Aunis.

Châtelaillon is a very old settlement. Prehistoric remains have been found on the hill of Angoute. Roman tiles and vases have been excavated near the railway station and it is believed that a "Castrum Julii" existed on the hill of Châtelaillon-le-Vieux. An hermitage was probably built there after Clovis had expelled the Wisigoths, defeated in Vouillé in 507. This would be the oldest Christian settlement in the province of Aunis. The viguerie (administrative division) of Châtelaillon was already famous in 969 for its salt marshes; a castle was built and a feudal lineage emerged at the same period.
In the XI-XIIth century, the territory of Châtelaillon was limited by the rivers Sèvre in the north and Charente in the south; it included the islands of Ré and Aix (but not Oléron). The lords of Châtelaillon were vassals of the Count of Poitou. The lineage might have been founded by Alon, who would have given his name to the place (Castrum Alionensis); around 1050, Isembert I of Châtelaillon was a powerful and wealthy lord, thanks to salt and wine trade, who supported the development of monasteries in the region. Eble II of Châtelaillon was very ambitious and challenged the power of Guillaume, Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Poitou, who obtained his excommunication by Pope Urban II (c. 1035-1099, Pope in 1088). His son Isembert the Last followed his tracks, causing the invasion of his domain by Guillaume, who seized the fortress of Châtelaillon in 1131. The town declined and was superseded by La Rochelle as the capital of Aunis.

The domain of Châtelaillon was progressively dismembered and disputed between the kings of France and England. The 14-tower fortress was seized several times during the Hundred Years' War, abandoned and eventually destroyed by the sea in the XVIIth century. The exact location of the fortress is disputed (see the detailed monography Le château médiéval de Châtelaillon, by Denis Briand).
Lord of Châtelaillon Savary de Mauléon (1200-1227), knight and poet, took the English party, went on a Crusade and was made Seneschal of Poitou when back. In 1224, King of France Louis VIII seized Niort and La Rochelle and expelled the English from Aunis. Savary attacked La Rochelle, to no avail. In 1316, Jean Larchevêque, lord of Parthenay and Châtelaillon, increased the castle and heightened the donjon. However, the town was seized by the English in 1360 and lord Guillaume Larchevêque took the English party. He joined back the French party ten years later but carried on fighting against the burghers of La Rochelle and the royal power. Châtelaillon was later disputed among Jean II de Parthenay-Larchevêque, Count Arthur de Richemont and Georges de la Trémouille. After the death of Richemont in 1459, Châtelaillon was incorporated to the royal domain; the king transferred the village, then made of only 38 houses grouped around the castle and the St. Romard priory, to the Count of Dunois.
At the end of the XVth century, the village and the castle had nearly disappeared but the domain of Châtelaillon still existed; it was owned by the Green de Saint Marsault family from 1607 to the French Revolution. Henri Charles Benjamin Green de Saint-Marsault was made Baron and Marquis of Châtelaillon in 1780. The medieval village had totally disappeared in 1784. In 1811, the village had only 145 inhabitants (and even 140 in 1822); the Prefet could not find a villager with enough education to be Mayor, and appointed the Mayor of the neighbouring municipality of Angoulins as the Mayor of Châtelaillon, too. On 29 January 1823, Châtelaillon was incorporated to Angoulins by a Decree signed by King Louis XVIII.

Châtelaillon resurrected at the end of the XIXth century as a sea resort. The local railway company Chemin de Fer des Charentes purchased in 1877 25 ha from the Green de Saint Marsault family in the village and built a halt on the Saintes-La Rochelle line as well a housing estate with some 40 houses. From 1882 onwards, Gabriel Fauconnier, a lawyer from Barbezieux, set up a bigger housing estate stretching over 42,000 sq. m. He also funded the building of a chapel and a market hall. The start of the sea resort was rather indifferent, until Alcide d'Orbigny, a shipowner from La Rochelle, decided in 1886 to invest in Châtelaillon. He set up a landowners' syndicate, which negociated with the municipality of Angoulins the building of a school and a post office and with the national railways the building of a bigger station. The syndicate also decided the building of the casino on the promenade.
Georges Musset led the fight for the reestablishment of Châtelaillon as a municipality, which was obtained following the Bill of 19 June 1896 confirmed by Decree on 27 November 1896. Musset was elected Mayor and carried on the development of the resort; the sea wall protecting the beach was built in 1897, the town hall was built in 1898, the new post office was built in 1899 and the village church was increased in 1903. The population increased from 412 in 1892 to 814 in 1901 and 2,236 in 1936. Most of the new houses were built by merchants and pensioners from the middle classes. Châtelaillon was officially labelled station balnéaire climatique (sea health resort) in 1926.

In 1939, Châtelaillon welcomed more than 2,500 war refugees from the villages of Etzling and Alsting, in Lorraine. The municipality decided to cut down the plane trees of the promenade in order to provide firewood. The Germans entered the village on 23 June 1940. They built on the hill of Boucholers a blockhaus, part of the Atlantic Wall expected to prevent an allied landing. The Germans resisted for long in the so-called "Atlantic Pocket" and Châtelaillon was liberated only on 6 May 1945.
In the 1960s, Châtelaillon became progressively a suburbs of La Rochelle. The casino declined and the beach lost most of its sand, so that the sea resort was deemed obsolete in the early 1980s. In the late 1980s, the sea resort was redevelopped with the building of hotels and a thalassotherapy center, the revamping of the beach (with the input of 800,000 cubic meter of golden sand), of the casino, of the municipal park and of the promenade.

Source: Petite histoire de Châtelaillon by Eric Birrier (1996), as summarized on the municipal website

Ivan Sache, 6 November 2006

Flag of Châtelaillon-Plage

The flag of Châtelaillon-Plage is vertically divided light blue-yellow-light blue. It can be seen in several places of the municipality, as reported by Pascal Vagnat (September 2001) and Pascal Gross (August 2006). The colours recall the sky, the beach and the sea.
During the yachting race Challenge des Maires, held in Brest in 2005, the ship of Châtelaillon used a flag vertically divided light blue-yellow-white.

Ivan Sache, 6 November 2006