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Port Royan.jpg
Coat of arms of Royan
Coat of arms
Royan is located in France
Location within Nouvelle-Aquitaine region
Royan is located in Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Coordinates: 45°37′N 1°02′W / 45.62°N 1.03°W / 45.62; -1.03Coordinates: 45°37′N 1°02′W / 45.62°N 1.03°W / 45.62; -1.03
Country France
Region Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Department Charente-Maritime
Arrondissement Rochefort
Canton Royan
Intercommunality Communauté d'agglomération Royan Atlantique
 • Mayor (2017–2020) Patrick Marengo
Area1 19.30 km2 (7.45 sq mi)
Population (2015)2 18,393
 • Density 950/km2 (2,500/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+2 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code 17306 /17200
Elevation 0–35 m (0–115 ft)
(avg. 20 m or 66 ft)

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Royan (French pronunciation: ​[ʁwa.jɑ̃]; locally [ʁwe.jɑ̃] in Saintongeais dialect) is a commune in the south-west of France, located in the Department of Charente-Maritime in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Its inhabitants are known as Royannais and Royannaises.[1] With five beaches, a marina for over 1,000 boats, and an active fishing port, Royan is one of the main French Atlantic coastal resorts, and is the capital of the Côte de Beauté. As of 2013, the population of the greater urban area was 48,982. The town had 18,393 inhabitants in 2015.

Royan is located on the peninsula of Arvert, at the mouth of the Gironde estuary on its eastern shore. Royan was once of strategic importance, coveted in particular by the Visigoths and the Vikings. The city became a Protestant stronghold during the Hundred Years' War under English rule, and was besieged and destroyed by Louis XIII. During the Restoration, and especially during the Second Empire, Royan was celebrated for its sea baths. It attracted many artists during the Roaring Twenties.

Allied bombing between September 1944 and April 1945 destroyed the town. Known then as the "martyred city", it was declared a "Laboratory of research on urbanism", and it is now a showcase of the Modernist architecture of the 1950s. It was classified as a Town of Art and History (Ville d'Art et d'Histoire) in 2010.[2] Royan today is a tourist and cultural hub, with some 90,000 visitors each summer season.[3]


Royan is a seaside resort town situated in the west of the department of Charente-Maritime, in the former province of Saintonge. It lies near the Atlantic coast on the eastern side of the mouth of the Gironde estuary, the largest in Europe. Limestone cliffs alternate along its coastline with the five beaches known locally as conches.


The city of Royan is built on a calcareous rock plateau dating from the Cretaceous Period (about 150 million years ago). It is bounded by the Pousseau marshes to the north and the Pontaillac marshes to the west. The estuary, the cliffs and the conches were shaped approximately 66 million years ago by the folding of limestone layers as the Alps and the Pyrenees formed.



Royan is approximately 65 kilometres (40 mi) from the administrative capital (or prefecture) of the department, La Rochelle, by departmental road D 733 and national road (Route nationale, RN) 137. It is 98 km (61 mi) from Bordeaux by departmental road D 730 and the A10 freeway, and 507 km (315 mi) from Paris. Travel time on RN 150 is just under half an hour from Royan to the city of Saintes, the historic capital of Saintonge and an important centre of art and history.


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

Across the Gironde estuary, the station of La Pointe-de-Grave at Le Verdon-sur-Mer connects through the Médoc region to Bordeaux-Saint-Jean station.[4][5][better source needed]


The conurbation of Royan does not have its own airport, but Rochefort-Saint-Agnant Airport some 30 km (19 mi) away offers flights to several European destinations, including the British Isles. Also accessible is La Rochelle – Île de Ré Airport, 70 km (43 mi) away. International connections are within reach 100 km (62 mi) to the south, from Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport.


The TransGironde car-ferry provides bicycle, car and lorry transport across the Gironde estuary to the Medoc region.[6] The crossing from Royan to Le Verdon-sur-mer takes almost 20 minutes).[7] [8]


The climate is oceanic: rainfall is relatively moderate in autumn and in winter and the winters are mild. Sea breezes keep summers temperatures moderate. Two winds, the north-westerly noroît and the south-westerly suroît, blow in from the ocean and along the coast of the department. The very high average insolation of 2250 hours a year is comparable to the French Riviera.

Charente-Maritime was the department most affected by Cyclone Martin on December 27, 1999. Winds speeds were recorded of up to 198 kilometres per hour (123 mph) on the island of Oléron (Île d'Oléron) and 194 kilometres per hour (121 mph) in Royan, with severe damage to local buildings, woodland, and harbour facilities.

Climate data for Royan
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 8.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 5.9
Average low °C (°F) 3.4
Average precipitation mm (inches) 82.5
Mean monthly sunshine hours 84 111 174 212 239 272 305 277 218 167 107 85 2,250
Source:[citation needed]


Prehistory and antiquity

The site of Royan has been occupied since prehistoric times, as evidenced by archaeological finds of knapped flint.[citation needed] The Santones, a Celtic people, were early arrivals on the peninsula of Arvert. The Romans developed vineyards, oyster farming, and the saltern technique for salt production. The poet Tibullus celebrates the coast after the victory of his patron, the general Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, and the poet Ausonius built a villa here. The Visigoths arrived in Saintes in 418. In 419, defensive walls were built around Royan, and in this year the town appeared for the first time in an old collection.[clarification needed] Gregory of Tours mentions the usurpation of the church of Royan by the Arian Visigoths. In the summer of 844, the Vikings came up the Gironde, plundering everything in their path.

Middle Ages

Left image:Saint-Pierre church in 1918
Right image: Saint-Pierre church in 2010

At the beginning of the 11th century, a precarious peace returned to the peninsula. Small fiefdoms and abbeys emerged. Between 1050 to 1075, the Prieuré de Saint-Vivien de Saintes built the Saint Pierre priory on the Saint-Pierre plateau, two kilometres from Royan, founding a small settlement. In 1092, the Grande-Sauve Abbey established another priory nearby on the coast, Saint Nicolas, built on the Foncillon rock. A small castle in Royan protected the beach of Grande Conche, used as a harbour. By the end of the 11th century, harbour activity was significant, and many vessels used the Gironde estuary as a stopping point while waiting for favourable winds or currents. The Lord of Didonne took advantage of this to impose a tax on any boat stopping at the foot of the castle.

In 1137, Eleanor of Aquitaine married the king of France, Louis VII. Royan became part of the Duchy of Aquitaine, passing under the direct control of the king of France. In 1152, the marriage was annulled and Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet, who became King Henry II of England in 1154. Royan then passed under English control.

The English king strengthened the town's defences with robust bulwarks and a solid keep. The various taxes paid by ships in the 13th century were codified by the Lords of Royan in 1232, as the Custom of Royan (Coutume de Royan). On May 20, 1242, King Henry III of England, at war against King Louis IX of France (Saint Louis), landed at Royan with 300 knights. Although defeated at Taillebourg, under the Treaty of Paris (1259) the English retained control of the South of Saintonge, and with it the town of Royan. In 1355, during the Hundred Years' War, the Black Prince, heir to the throne of England, occupied Saintonge and further strengthened Royan's defences. Royan became a large town, administered by twelve magistrates (échevins) and twelve councillors. In 1451, at the end of the Hundred Years' War, the region had become definitively French, but the town was in ruins.

In 1458, Marie de Valois (1444–1473), natural daughter of Charles VII and his mistress Agnès Sorel, married Olivier de Coëtivy, Count of Taillebourg. She brought a dowry of 12,000 écus and the fiefdoms, or châtellenies, of Royan and Mornac. In 1501, by marriage to Louise de Coëtivy, Charles de la Trémoille became Baron of Royan. Commerce developed in the town, but access was made difficult by the town's fortifications. From the beginning of the 16th century, a suburb developed along the beachfront.

During the French Wars of Religion in the 16th century, almost all the great captains of the time, including the future King Henry IV of France Henri de Navarre, and Pierre de Bourdeille, seigneur de Brantôme, who later became a prior of Saint-Pierre-de-Royan), fought beneath the walls of the citadel. In 1592, Henry IV made the town a marquisate, granted to Gilbert de la Trémoille. At the beginning of the 17th century, Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette, the first Duke of Épernon, considered it "one of better places of its size in France". After the Edict of Nantes, Royan was a Protestant fortified town under King Henry III.

The town was besieged at first time in 1622 by King Louis XIII of France, but resisted. A second siege in 1623 caused great hardship. Many inhabitants abandoned the city and were banned from returning. The garrison was forced to surrender. In 1631, Cardinal Richelieu ordered the leveling of the town; the citadel was dismantled, and the ditches were filled in. The city, which no longer had a church, was associated with the rural parish of Saint Pierre.

After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, a majority of the population emigrated, many people going to the Dutch Republic. Persecution continued under King Louis XV. The storm of 1735 destroyed the harbour embankment, and navigation was not restored until the 19th century.

French Revolution

On December 22, 1789, the National Constituent Assembly set up in the early stages of the French Revolution voted for the administrative division of France into departments instead of the former provinces. The department of Charente-Inférieure was created on March 4, 1790 with the entry into force of this law. Each department was subdivided into districts, and each district into cantons. Royan became the administrative centre of its canton.

Royan elected a city council at that time, chaired by Daniel Renaud, a Protestant and the mayor Nicolas-Thérese Vallet of Salignac. On July 12, 1790, the National Constituent Assembly passed a law, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which subordinated the Catholic Church to the government. In the canton of Royan, the priests of the parishes of Royan, Vaux and Saint-Sulpice refused to take an obligatory oath of allegiance to France, so joining the group of "refractory priests" (prêtres réfractaires) condemned to deportation.

Throughout the country, church properties were seized. In Royan, the 1622 convent of the Récollets, set in grounds of 33 hectares (82 acres), was put up for sale. It was bought on February 25, 1791, and then demolished, by shipowner Jean Boisseau.

As elsewhere, economic crisis caused growing dissatisfaction in Royan. To address this, clubs celebrating patriotic events were 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, mayor Nicolas-Thérese Vallet of Salignac was removed from office and was replaced by François d' Aulnis de Puiraveaux.

In 1791, Daniel Renaud was elected mayor of the commune. In May 1791, the "the friends of the constitution" club was established in Royan. In general, however, the Terror had little impact, and few notables were concerned.

Seaside resort

The casino in 1895, destroyed in 1945

Work to pave the streets began in 1816, and was finally completed in 1826. In July 1819, mayor Raymond Labarthe signed the first order regulating sea bathing. This forbade nude bathing at beaches neighbouring houses, and reserved 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 wrapped (surrounded) the cliff of Foncillon inside the port. In 1847, the engineer Lessore built the first casino. The first street lights were installed in 1854, during a time of considerable development in the town of Royan under the Second Empire (1852–1870). Between 1850 and 1870, tourist numbers increased from 9,000 to 10,000, and the population from 3,329 to 4,500.


During World War II, two German forts defended the Gironde estuary: Gironde Mündung Nord (to the north, at Royan) and Gironde Mündung Süd (to the south, at La Pointe de Grave). These constituted one of the last pockets of Third Reich resistance along the the Atlantic coast of France, well after the liberation of the rest of the country. A force of some 350 heavy bombers of the Royal Air Force (RAF) bombed Royan in two raids conducted in the early hours of January 5, 1945, destroying the town. This was done at the request of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF),[9] which had been told that the only people left in Royan were Germans and collaborators. Responsibility for this raid is generally attributed to General de Larminat of the Free French Forces.[10]

The Allied operation against the German forces on the island of Oléron and at the mouth of the Gironde estuary began with a general naval bombardment on April 15, 1945, some 10 months after D-Day. For five days, the American 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.

The first bombing raids killed over 1,000 civilians and only 23 German soldiers. When the Americans returned later and used napalm, they destroyed the entire town and killed another 1,700 civilians.[11]

Blandford writes, "There was a Free French commander with the U.S. Seventh 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 many bombardiers who participated in the World War II attacks on Royan. He later wrote of the bombardment.

Royan today

The town was rebuilt as part of an urban development programme in the 1950s, and is very representative of the Modernist architecture of the period.


Inhabitants of Royan are known as Royannais (for the men) and Royannaises (for the women).

Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1806 2,202 —    
1820 2,339 +6.2%
1876 5,155 +120.4%
1906 8,843 +71.5%
1911 9,330 +5.5%
1921 10,242 +9.8%
1936 12,192 +19.0%
1946 6,649 −45.5%
1954 12,289 +84.8%
1962 16,521 +34.4%
1968 17,292 +4.7%
1975 18,062 +4.5%
1982 17,540 −2.9%
1990 16,837 −4.0%
1999 17,102 +1.6%
2008 18,541 +8.4%

International relations

Royan is twinned with:


Church of Notre-Dame (église Notre-Dame)

After Royan's 1877 neo-Gothic church, on what is now the Square Charles de Gaulle, was destroyed in the January 5, 1945 bombing of Royan, the decision was taken to rebuild. The new church was to be bigger, architecturally ambitious and spectacular, drawing its aesthetic inspiration from the large Gothic cathedrals.

Notre-Dame de Royan, completed in 1958 and built entirely of reinforced concrete by architects Guillaume Gillet and Marc Hébrard and engineers Bernard Lafaille, René Sarger and Ou Tseng, is considered a masterpiece of contemporary architecture.[12] The church took three years to build. The elliptical nave is 45 metres long by 22 metres wide (148 ft × 72 ft) and has a seating capacity for some 2000 people. It is flanked by an ambulatory, and a gallery three metres above the floor. The gallery is lit by rhombus-shaped stained glass representing the Stations of the Cross. The building's structure alternates prestressed V-shaped reinforced concrete elements made using the Lafaille process, named for its inventor, French engineer Bernard Lafaille, with huge windows, made by master glazier Henri Martin-Granel and covering a total area of 500 square metres (5,400 sq ft). The church was classified as a historical monument in 1988.

Convention Centre (Palais des congrès)

The Palais des congrès was built in 1957 by Bordeaux architect Claude Ferret. Its design is based on cubic geometry, relieved by the oblique lines of external staircases and by the subtle interweaving of convex inner walls. A glass wall opens a broad outlook onto the Gironde estuary, and the building was later extended with gardens under a transparent cube. It was classified as a historical monument in 2004.

Central Market (Marché central)

Built in 1955 by architects Louis Simon and Andre Morisseau and engineer René Sarger, the Central Market is a round concrete shell with walls 8 centimetres (3 in) thick. It rests on thirteen peripheral support-points, and has no internal pillars. The structure is 52.40 metres (171.9 ft) in diameter, with a central height of 10.50 metres (34.4 ft). It served as the model for the market in Nanterre and for the Centre of New Industries and Technologies (CNIT) in the La Défense neighbourhood of Paris.


CAREL (Centre Audiovisuel de Royan pour l'Étude des Langues)

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 students from around 80 countries, and consists of 20 soundproof audiovisual rooms, 4 language laboratories, an auditorium, a library, a television studio and a self-service cafe for the students. It prepares students for the examinations of the DALF, DELF, TCF and TFI.

The colleges 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.


The main stadium of the city is the Stade d'honneur, near the railway station. Royan has numerous other sports facilities, including two swimming-pools, of which one, at Foncillon, is an outdoor seawater pool open in the summer months; several gymnasiums; a sports hall; several tennis courts; a Basque pelota wall; a rugby ground; and a golf course.

The commune also has a surf-club, based near Pontaillac beach, and a karting circuit (KFM - Circuit of the côte de beauté).

Nearby, La Palmyre, in the commune of Les Mathes, has a racecourse, a riding school and an 18-hole golf course.

On June 18–24, 2017, the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) World Championships of Beach Ultimate were held in Royan.


Born in the commune of Royan:


See also


  1. ^ "" : Royan "".
  2. ^ "" Royan sacrée ville d'Art et d'histoire "".
  3. ^ "" Royan en chiffres "".
  4. ^ SNCF 'Le Verdon' to 'Bordaux St-Jean'
  5. ^ fr:Ligne du Médoc
  6. ^ [1] [2]
  7. ^ Les Ferrys (only in france)
  8. ^
  9. ^ Bomber Command Diary January 1945 Archived June 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ The Zinn reader: writings on disobedience and democracy, Howard Zinn; page 275 ff. google books
  11. ^ Zinn, Howard (1997). The Zinn Reader. Seven Stories Press. p. 271. ISBN 978-1-583229-46-0.
  12. ^ Devillebichot, Daniel; Bezançon, Xavier (2014). Histoire de la construction moderne et contemporaine en France [History of Modern and Contemporary Building in France] (in French). Editions Eyrolles. p. 281. ISBN 9782212268799. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  13. ^ MacBeath, George (1979) [1st pub. 1966]. "Dugua de Monts (Du Gua, de Mons), Pierre". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Volume I (1000-1700). Toronto/Quebec, Canada: University of Toronto/Université Laval. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  14. ^ Petit, Edouard. Eugène Pelletan, 1813-1884, l'homme et l'oeuvre : d'après des documents inédits [Eugène Pelletan, 1813-1884, The Man and His Work: From Unpublished Documents] (in French). Paris, France publisher=Aristide Quillet, Editeur. p. 6. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  15. ^ Société des artistes indépendants (1937). Catalogue de la 48e exposition au Pavillon des Salons (Esplanade des Invalides) du 5 mars au 4 avril inclus, 1937 [Catalogue of the 48th Exhibition at the Pavillon des Salons (Esplanade des Invalides) from March 5 to April 4 inclusive, 1937] (in French). Paris, France publisher=Société des artistes indépendants. p. 168. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  16. ^ Piganeau, Didier (December 4, 2013). "Royan : hommage au peintre Picasso en 2014" [Royan: Tribute to the Painter Picasso in 2014]. Sud Ouest (in French). Bordeaux, France. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  17. ^ Service, Robert (2010). Trotsky: A Biography. Pan Macillan. p. 421. ISBN 9780330522687. Retrieved 15 October 2018.

External links

  • Official website (in French)
  • Tourist office website
  • Royan information (in French)
  • Vidéorama touristique sur Royan
  • Royan from
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