ANDRE LEMOYNE SQUARE
André Lemoyne (1822-1907), grew up in Saint-Jean-d’Angély. He began studying law in Paris. As a fervent republican, he didn’t hesitate to show his political commitment through his texts. Not wishing his legal skills to serve the Empire, the enemy of Republic, he became a typographer and lived modestly. Between 1856 and 1902 he published several poems and novels. The French Academy crowned his work 4 times. His writing skills earned him the distinction of the Legion d’Honneur.
In 1907 he returned to his native Saint-Jean-d’Angély, where he died the same year. This square was named after him in 1909 and a memorial was sculpted by Emile Peyronnet and Pierre-Marie Poisson.
DID YOU KNOW?… In 1892, Paul Verlaine dedicated a copy of « La revue des hommes d’aujourd’hui » to André Lemoyne.
Archaeological excavations attest to a Roman presence in Saint-Jean-d’Angély from the second century. At least one Gallo-Roman villa was built, as evidenced by the thermal baths found in Rue Lacoue and Rue Michel-Texier.
Its geographical location was advantageous: near Melodianum Santonum (Saintes), capital the province of Aquitania , and at equal distance from the roman roads connecting Saintes to Nantes, Poitiers and Angers.
Water to the town was provided by an aqueduct. Its inhabitants farmed and bred livestock.
DID YOU KNOW?… The ground under Saint-Jean-d’Angély is strewn with remains. In 1859, in the ducts of the aqueduct, a copper statuette was discovered. It represents a sistrum player thought to be the goddess Iris. It is now kept at the Cordeliers Museum.
CANTON DES FORGES
This area once housed iron works (forges). Blacksmiths, locksmiths, cutlers and gunsmiths lived in half-timbered houses of which there are three remaining examples. In the Middle Ages a canton was a triangular area, often built next to fortifications.
In 1935, the Archaeological Society of the city installed the first museum in the Hauzen’s private mansion, 17 rue de Verdun. Its façade clad on a former convent is rich in decorations typical of the eighteenth century. On the first floor, bearded heads adorned with grape clusters, vine leaves and an anchor which reflect the wine trade, a source of economic growth for the city from 17th to 19th century. There are 130 private mansions or ‘hôtels particuliers” in the town.
DID YOU KNOW?… At number 9 is an intact storefront of a butcher shop from the 1960s. It was used as a setting for several scenes of the French television series “Mixte” filmed in Saint-Jean-d’Angély.
There are ten half-timbered houses in Saint-Jean-d’Angély. The oldest one dates back to the 15th century.
They are easily recognizable by their wooden frames and infills, tiled roofs, and corbelling where the higher floors are wider than the ground floors.
Craftsmen lived in these houses with their workshops on the ground floor.
The city has retained the medieval urban layout. The street names tell us about daily life: « rue des bouchers » (butcher’s street) evokes the economic activity of a neighbourhood, “rue des douves” (moat) the old fortifications of the city.
DID YOU KNOW?… Corbelling was a common trick in the Middle Ages to reduce taxes which were based on the surface of the ground floor.
HOTEL DE CONDE
Henri I of Bourbon, prince of Condé (1552-1588) lived in this mansion. He was named war leader of the Protestant party, he led numerous campaigns against the Catholic royal troops during the wars of religion.
In 1569, King Charles IX besieged Saint-Jean-d’Angély, a Huguenot bastion. The town was taken in a month and half, and the protestants left. But in 1576, King Henri III ceded it to the Protestants and gave the government to Henri de Condé.
In 1588, he died brutally. His wife Charlotte de la Trémoille, a Catholic by birth, was accused of poisoning him but was eventually found not guilty eight years later.
Did you know? After the siege of Louis XIII, Saint-Jean-d’Angély, the town changed name and became Bourg-Louis.
The town’s market was established here gradually throughout the 19th century. First a food market in 1809, by the 1850s the building threatened to collapse. Michel Texier mayor at the time decided to have it rebuilt following new health regulations with a wooden framework to help ventilation. The work was completed in 1856. The square was redeveloped in 1960, adjoining buildings were destroyed and streets were made pedestrian.
Did you know? In the 13th century, the market stalls (bancs) extended to the streets around, hence the Rue des Bancs.
PLACE DE L’HOTEL-DE-VILLE
Built in 1867, the neoclassical architecture of the courthouse is signed Aimé Bonnet (1827-1911). During excavations before its construction, archaeologists discovered the ruins of a crypt and archaeological objects belonging to the church of Notre-Dame des Halles, destroyed during the Wars of Religion.
To the west stands the Renaissance style Town Hall (hôtel de ville) built between 1882 and 1884 according to a project by the architect Charles-Francois Brunel (1848-1926). On the facade are the town’s coat of arms.
The columns that make up the windows of the Alienor d’Aquitaine municipal hall, inaugurated in 1903, come from the former cloister of the abbey.
DID YOU KNOW?… Following the monumental fire of the church in 1568 during the Wars of Religion, the inhabitants of the city renamed the place « place brûlée ». (burnt square).
In 2003, the Archaeological Society became the municipal museum and moved to the former sub-prefecture built in the 19th century.
Private mansions or “hôtels particuliers” are symbols of social success. Between courtyard and garden, these buildings with their fine reception rooms also show the financial success of their owners.
Count Michel Regnaud (1762-1819) acquired this hôtel particulier in 1803. He was a great political figure of the 19th century. The buildings date from the end of the 18th, but on the two wings on either side there are traces, like the remains of a door overlooking the street, that may suggest an earlier construction.
DID YOU KNOW?… The museum takes its name from its location. It is built on the remains of a former convent of Cordeliers, a religious order that wore a particular clothing, made of grey cloth and a rope (corde) belt.
SAINT JACQUES BRIDGE
The bridge takes its name from its location on the road to Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims crossed it to reach Saint-Jean-d’Angély, by the faubourg Taillebourg.
A water mill was erected nearby. The hydraulic power of the mill was used to make powder from charcoal. But in 1818, the royal powder mill exploded. After that the water mill was used for making flour.
All that remains today is a wooden wheel.
DID YOU KNOW?… Many pilgrims still take this route to Santiago de Compostela: in 2017, 1,500 of them stopped in Saint-Jean-d’Angély.
THE BENEDICTINE CHAPEL
There were numerous religious orders in Saint-Jean-d’Angély. The revolutionary period pushed them into exile. During his escape, the Benedictine abbot gave money to a nun named Gertrude to ensure the survival of the Church.
In 1816, Sister Gertrude bought a house on Rue de Bésée with the money and founded a women’s convent called Notre-Dame des Anges that housed the nuns until 1957.
The Benedictine chapel now holds exhibitions.
DID YOU KNOW?… According to one resident of the city, the nuns came out for the first time in 1945 to go to vote.
THE CLOCK TOWER
In 1199, Saint-Jean-d’Angély received royal advantages allowing the town to establish itself as a commune. Built where once stood an old city gate, the clock tower is the symbol of this communal freedom, it served as a watchtower. Every evening it rang the curfew, which incited residents to return home and extinguish lights and fires.
In the 18th century, it was used as a prison: graffiti, large locks and gates bear witness to this today.
DID YOU KNOW? Many bullet holes are visible on the outside of the tower, testimony of the wars of religion that shook the city.
THE PILLORY FOUNTAIN
In 1204, the king of France Philippe-Auguste allowed the town to expose thieves to the pillory.
In Saint-Jean-d’Angély, the pillory was erected in a lively square where the condemned were tied by the hands and neck. By extension, the square took its name: Place du Pilori. In 1789, the revolutionary regime abolished the pillory.
In 1819, in a desire to modernize the district, the inhabitants bought the margelle of Brizambourg castle. It was moved and rebuilt stone by stone over an existing fountain.
On the entablature of the Renaissance-style margelle, it is written « Je fus édifiée et assise en l’an 1546 » (I was built and seated in the year 1546)
It is classified as an Historical Monument.
DID YOU KNOW?… the condemned to the pillory were exposed during market days, but the inhabitants didn’t have the right to insult them and could be fined for doing so.
It was through the port on the Boutonne river that most of Saint-Jean-d’Angély’s trade developed. Navigable over 31 km, the Boutonne is the biggest tributary of the river Charente. From the Middle Ages to the 20th century, producers travelled on it connecting the town to estuary ports such as Tonnay-Charente and Rochefort.
Producers exported wine, spirits, flour, grain and wood on barges and flat-bottom boats.
DID YOU KNOW?… spirits destined for the internal market were transported by land, while spirits destined for foreign countries were transported on the Charente, these goods were heavily taxed.
THE ROYAL ABBEY
The abbey was founded in the 9th century by Pépin Ier (797-838), king of Aquitaine, to house the skull of Saint John the Baptiste. The Benedictine abbey quickly became highly renowned. Sacked shortly after by the Vikings, the abbey was rebuilt and became an important stop on the Pilgrims’ road to Compostela. Despite the Hundred Years’ war, it grew richer throughout the Middle Ages thanks to the trade of wine and salt produced on its land. Its destruction during the Wars of Religion and the disappearance of the relic in the 16th century put an end to its influence.
The current buildings date from the 17th and 18th centuries. At the revolution, the monks fled. The abbey was converted into a school from 1803 to 1984. It now houses the media library and the municipal music school, as well as a Microfolie.
DID YOU KNOW?… Louis XIV came several times to Saint-Jean-d’Angély. During a stay at the abbey with his mother, Queen Anne of Austria, he accepted to be the godfather of a little girl called Anne Martin, on October 1650.
THE STATUE OF REGNAUD
In 1859, Michel Texier mayor of the city, build a statue in honour of count Michel Regnaud, a great politician who took part in the embellishment of Saint-Jean-d’Angély. Created by the Parisian sculptor Bogino, it was inaugurated in 1863.
Minister of Napoleon Bonaparte, Regnaud was ennobled in 1808. Napoleon allowed him to attach to his title of count “de Saint-Jean-d’Angély” in homage to the town of his childhood.
DID YOU KNOW?… Count Regnaud de Saint Jean d’Angély is one of the principal drafters of the Code Civile ( civil code), a copy of which is shown at his feet.
THE TOWERS OF THE ABBATIAL CHURCH
On this site are the foundations of three different buildings. A buttress and a chapel from the 13th century bear witness to the existence of a monumental Gothic abbtial church. It was sacked in 1568 during the Wars of Religion.
A provisional church was built in 1615, its chapel integrating the remains of the previous abbey.
In the West, two towers stand: they were built in 1741 to replace the ransacked church. However, the lack of money and the revolutionary unrest interrupted the project and the church was never rebuilt in its entirety.
The temporary church was closed in 1793 and became a saltpetre warehouse during the revolution. In 1802 the monks were allowed to come back; they rebuilt the church in 1899 and named it “Saint John the Baptist”.
DID YOU KNOW?… The gothic abbatial church was recognized as one of the most beautiful buildings in the south of France. Its dimensions were similar to those of Notre-Dame of Paris.
THE VOYER BARRACKS
The barracks are named after Marc René Voyer d’Argenson (1771-1842) Lieutenant-General of the king’s armies in Saintonge.
The building once housed the convent of the Capucins, then it became a saltpetre factory at the Revolution. In 1806, an imperial decree re-established a relay for horses in Saint-Jean-d’Angély. The military barracks provided horses to the army for nearly 100 years. In disrepair, it was rebuilt between 1842 and 1844.
During the Second World War, it was occupied by the Germans. Then Americans were stationed here from 1952 to 1956 and finally a French regiment until 1996.
DID YOU KNOW?… The building and the military wasteland now house the new Thermal Centre, which mainly focuses on treating rheumatology.