The Location of the Region of Poitou-Charentes
The region of Poitou-Charentes is located in the far west of central France. It is bounded, to the northwest by the region of
Pays-de-la-Loire, to the north by the region of
Centre, to the east by
Limousin, to the southeast and south by
Aquitaine and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean’s Bay of Biscay. It consists of four départements: Charente, Charente-Maritime, Deux-Sèvres and Vienne. The two areas of Poitou and Charente are joined by the Charente River valley, with the vines of the Cognac on the right bank.
Poitiers is the capital of Poitou-Charentes and was the ancient capital of Poitou, the region’s northern part..
The Massif Central touches and covers the region’s southeast, where the rural population centers in villages that are surrounded by open fields. Along the Massif Armoricain, which extends into the region’s northwestern portion, the area is characterized by small farms and a dispersed rural population. The area between the two Massifs is a lowland plateau that hosts the Vienne and Clain rivers. The plains, to the south, slope towards the ocean and are drained by Nortaise, Sèvres and Yon rivers. The coastal plains are flat.
The Vandée, to the northwest of Poitou-Charente, is principally a Catholic area, with Protestant communities around Chantonnay and Pouzauges.
Vienne has large Protestant communities surrounding
Châtellerault, Loudun and
The History of Poitou-Charentes
Prior to the
Roman conquest in 56 BC, a Celtic tribe, known as the Pictones [or Pictavi], ruled the area. During the Roman era, the Poitou [derived from Pictones] area, together with what is now Vandée, was absorbed into the Roman province of
Aquitaine. Roman Aquitaine, after this consolidation, embraced what are now the modern regions of Aquitaine and Poitou-Charentes. Subsequently, in 418 AD, the Visigoths conquered the Combined Aquitaine. They, in turn, lost it in 507 when the Franks, under
Clovis I, defeated them at Vouillé.
Charles Martel routed the Muslim Saracens, at their point of furthest penetration into Western Europe, at the Battle of
Poitiers. The Counts of Poitiers, who latter also held the title of dukes of Aquitaine, ruled the area after 778.
Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future Louis VII of France, her dowry consisted of Aquitaine and other lands. Her subsequent marriage, in 1152, gave Henry II, of England, a considerably enhanced dowry, inclusive of Aquitaine.
In the earlier part of the 13th century,
Philip Augstus and
reconquered Aquitaine for France. Alphonse,
Louis IX’s brother, then ruled the land as Count of Poitiers from 1241. It was incorporated into the French crown in 1271.
The English defeated the French at the
Battle of Poitiers in 1356. The subsequent treaties of
Calais, that were negotiated in 1360, ceded the area back to the English.
Charles V, of France,
reconquered the area in 1372. Poitou was united with the crown when the Dauphin was crowned as
Charles VII. Charles VII moved the
Poitiers in 1423. The Parliament continued to meet there until 1436. In 1569, the French and English fought a battle at Moncontour. The area suffered during the Wars of Religion and the Revolutionary period Wars in the Vandée. In 1790, the province was divided into the three départements of Deux-Sèvres, Vendée and Vienne.
The Gastronomy of Poitou-Charentes
The region’s cuisine places great emphasis upon seafood. You will often find mussels on the menu, marinated in white wine or cooked in heavy cream. Fish soup with white wine is a favorite, as are escargots prepared in wine.
The Economic Activity of Poitou-Charentes