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Hotel-de-Ville de Basse-Terre.JPG
The Town Hall
COA fr Basse-Terre.svg
Coat of arms
Location of the commune (in red) within Guadeloupe
Location of Basse-Terre
Coordinates: 15°59′45″N61°43′45″W / 15.9958°N 61.7292°W / 15.9958; -61.7292 Coordinates: 15°59′45″N61°43′45″W / 15.9958°N 61.7292°W / 15.9958; -61.7292
Country France
Overseas region and department Guadeloupe
Arrondissement Basse-Terre
Canton Basse-Terre
Intercommunality Sud Basse-Terre
  Mayor (2014–2020) Marie-Luce Penchard
5.78 km2 (2.23 sq mi)
  Density1,800/km2 (4,600/sq mi)
Time zone UTC−04:00 (AST)
INSEE/Postal code
97105 /97100
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.

Basse-Terre (French pronunciation:  [bɑstɛʁ] ) is a French commune in the Guadaloupe department of France in the Lesser Antilles. It is also the prefecture (capital city) of Guadeloupe. [1] The city of Basse-Terre is located on Basse-Terre Island, the western half of Guadeloupe.

The commune is a level of administrative division in the French Republic. French communes are analogous to civil townships and incorporated municipalities in the United States and Canada, Gemeinden in Germany, comuni in Italy or ayuntamiento in Spain. The United Kingdom has no exact equivalent, as communes resemble districts in urban areas, but are closer to parishes in rural areas where districts are much larger. Communes are based on historical geographic communities or villages and are vested with significant powers to manage the populations and land of the geographic area covered. The communes are the fourth-level administrative divisions of France.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Lesser Antilles Archipelago in the Southeast Caribbean

The Lesser Antilles is a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea. Most form a long, partly volcanic island arc between the Greater Antilles to the north-west and the continent of South America. The islands form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. Together, the Lesser Antilles and the Greater Antilles compose the Antilles. When combined with the Lucayan Archipelago, all three are known as the West Indies.


Although it is the administrative capital, Basse-Terre is only the second largest city in Guadeloupe behind Pointe-à-Pitre. Together with its urban area it had 44,864 inhabitants in 2012 (11,534 of whom lived in the city of Basse-Terre proper).

Pointe-à-Pitre Subprefecture and commune in Guadeloupe, France

Pointe-à-Pitre is the largest city of Guadeloupe, an overseas région and département of France located in the Lesser Antilles, of which it is a sous-préfecture, being the seat of the Arrondissement of Pointe-à-Pitre.


The Soufriere volcano La Soufriere.JPG
The Soufrière volcano

Basse-Terre is located in the south-western corner of the Basse-Terre portion of the island of Guadeloupe which is itself located some 100 km north of Dominica and some 450 km south-east of Puerto Rico. The commune is at the foot of the Soufrière volcano and is connected to the rest of the island by three main roads:

Dominica country in the Caribbean

Dominica, officially the Commonwealth of Dominica, is an island country in the West Indies. The capital, Roseau, is located on the western side of the island. It is part of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. The island is located near Guadeloupe to the northwest and Martinique to the south-southeast. Its area is 750 km2 (290 sq mi), and the highest point is Morne Diablotins, at 1,447 m (4,747 ft) in elevation. The population was 71,293 at the 2011 census. The Commonwealth of Dominica is one of the Caribbean's few republics.

Puerto Rico Unincorporated territory of the United States

Puerto Rico, officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and briefly called Porto Rico, is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of Miami, Florida.

La Grande Soufrière active stratovolcano located on the French island of Basse-Terre, in Guadeloupe

La Grande Soufrière,, is an active stratovolcano on the French island of Basse-Terre, in Guadeloupe. It is the highest mountain peak in the Lesser Antilles, and rises 1,467 m high.

Gourbeyre Commune in Guadeloupe, France

Gourbeyre is a commune in the French overseas region and department of Guadeloupe, in the Lesser Antilles. It is a suburb of the city of Basse-Terre.

Grande-Terre island in Guadeloupe, France

Grande-Terre Island is the name of the eastern-half of Guadeloupe proper, in the Lesser Antilles. It is separated from the other half of Guadeloupe island, Basse-Terre, by a narrow sea channel called Rivière Salée. Pointe de la Grande Vigie, in Grande-Terre, is the northernmost point of Guadeloupe island. To the east lies La Désirade, to the south lies Marie Galante

Saint-Claude, Guadeloupe Commune in Guadeloupe, France

Saint-Claude is a French commune in the overseas department of Guadeloupe. It lies in the interior of southern Basse-Terre Island, just northeast of the capital city of Basse-Terre.

Basse-Terre has a maritime station that receives cruise ships and has a ferry service to the Îles des Saintes.

Îles des Saintes islands in Guadeloupe, France

The Îles des Saintes, also known as Les Saintes is a group of small islands in the archipelago of Guadeloupe, an overseas department of France. It is part of the Canton of Trois-Rivières and is divided into two communes: Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas. It is in the arrondissement of Basse-Terre and also in Guadeloupe's 4th constituency.

The commune is mostly urban with some farmland in the north-east and north-west. [2] [3]

The different districts of Basse-Terre are: Agincourt (also Saint-Claude), Bas-du-Bourg, Carmel, Desmarais (also Saint-Claude) Guillaud, Morne-Chaulet, Morne-à-Vaches (also Saint-Claude), Petit-Paris, Pintade, Rivière-des-Peres, La Rue-Maillan, Saint-François, Sur-le Morne, and Versailles.


Basse-Terre lies at a transitional point between a tropical rainforest climate and a tropical monsoon climate. While Basse-Terre does feature a drier stretch from January through March, the town does not quite have a dry season month. The town’s driest month (February) sees on average roughly 60 mm of precipitation. A monthly precipitation average below 60 mm is considered dry season month. As is the norm with cities with these two climate types, Basse-Terre features relatively consistent temperatures throughout the year.

Climate data for Basse-Terre
Record high °C (°F)31
Average high °C (°F)28
Daily mean °C (°F)24
Average low °C (°F)20
Record low °C (°F)15
Average precipitation mm (inches)80
Source: Weatherbase [4]


The name comes from the mariners' vocabulary of the 17th century which designated a land or coast sheltered from the wind, as opposed to Capesterre "Cape to the east of Land".[ citation needed ]


Fort Delgres Entree principale du Fort Delgres (vue du haut du Bastion sans nom), Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe..jpg
Fort Delgrès

Native American origins

Before Basse-Terre became a French town it was a village of American Indian horticulturists and potters. The village was on the site of the present Basse-Terre Cathedral where archaeological excavations found human remains and other evidence of occupation during the restoration of the cathedral.

In 2005 on the lower part of a Native American garbage dump, excavations have uncovered a new dump containing large amounts of archaeological material: food waste, ceramics, stone tools and shell tools, ornaments, charcoal and a tomb. [5]

Birth of the town of Basse-Terre (1635-1649)

In 1635, when it was part of Saint Kitts and Nevis, an expedition was seeking a place of lasting presence in Guadeloupe. The operation was entrusted to Charles Liénard de l'Olive and Jean du Plessis d'Ossonville together with 4 missionaries and 550 colonists. The landing took place on 28 June 1635, at Pointe Allègre, far from Basse-Terre. Famine pushed the party to the south near the present town of Vieux-Fort in early 1636. The relationship between Native Americans and colonists degraded quickly; Liénard then began a bloody war against the locals. In 1660 a treaty forced him to retreat to Dominica and Saint Vincent. The war forced him to build a fort, today Fort Olive at Vieux Fort. In 1640 Aubert succeeded Liénard as the government of the island and he soon left the site to settle on the left bank of the Galion, which is the current Gourbeyre marina. In 1643 Charles Houël du Petit Pré replaced Aubert and, in 1649, he left the marina site for the right bank of the Galion and built a fort. Some religious built the first church, now the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, shortly afterwards and the city was organized around the chapel and from the fort to the river of Herbs. This was the beginning of Basse-Terre.

Birth of the town of Saint-François (circa 1680)

Around 1680 on the right bank of the river of Herbs the Capuchins built a chapel dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi where the present Guadaloupe Cathedral is located and a second centre of population grew around this place of worship. The River of Herbs separated the two distinct villages: Basse-Terre and Saint Francis. In reality, people flocked to the new town because of attacks by the English who burned the town of Basse-Terre in 1691 and again in 1703. Following these raids the people thought that the fort was attracting the invaders and consequently moved to Saint Francis. A stone bridge was built in 1739 replacing a ford and a wooden bridge across the river of Herbs.

English occupation (1759-1763) and tentative revival (1763-1789)

On 23 January 1759 the island was taken over by the British who devastated the island. The island was occupied by the British until 10 February 1763. The colony was experiencing a resurgence of activity despite the founding of Pointe-à-Pitre in 1764 - a town in a better position for the ocean swell - and despite a fire in September 1782. The town was partially redesigned around 1787.

Revolutionary period (1789-1802)

The French Revolution reached the island and therefore Basse-Terre in September 1789. The English passed the town to Governor Collot and Victor Hugues on 22 April 1789. Colot and Hugues were sent by the National Convention in Paris to take the colony in hand and abolish slavery. They dislodged the cannon in December 1794 and installed a guillotine. The city was the scene of military operations conducted by General Richepanse, who was sent by Napoleon to reestablish slavery, against Louis Delgrès in 1802. Delgrès retreated to the fort on 20 May 1802 and abandoned it on 22 May.

Difficult renewal (1802-1870)

The town was occupied from 6 February 1810 to 30 May 1814 and again from 10 August 1815 to July 1816. For over 20 years Basse-Terre suffered from the effects of these disturbances. Only after four hurricanes (in 1816, 1821, 1825, and 1844) did Basse-Terre think of rehabilitating the construction and development of the Champ d'Arbaud by building a Military Hospital (now Gerville-Réache High School), a bishopric, sanitation, and expansion of the city by creating new neighbourhoods such as Trianon, Versailles, Petite Guinée, and Petit-Paris but the situation remained unchanged, worsened more by a cholera epidemic in 1865.

Renewed activity (1870-1976)

From 1870 the commune began to recover and inaugurated its town hall in 1899. It was the first city in Guadaloupe to be electrified in 1913. The impetus came from Ali Tur, who arrived after the cyclone of September 1928 and built the courthouse, the General Council, and a market in the 1930s. A port was built (as wooden quays had previously served as a port) from 1961 to 1964, the boulevard was built in 1962 to serve the port: it was extended in 1964 and again in 1965 along what was once a pebble and black sand beach that ran along the coast. On 26 November 1970, 1.5 inches of rain (38.1 mm)fell in a minute, the heaviest ever recorded. Cyclonic conditions repeatedly ravaged the development of this boulevard in 1989 with Hurricane Hugo and Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, Hurricane Lenny in 1999, and Hurricane Omar in 2008.

Since 1976

In 1976 73,600 inhabitants of the town were evacuated (from 15 August to 18 November 1976) due to the high activity of the Soufrière volcano. Some evacuees never returned and moved to Jarry. For 20 years, the town centre was depopulated in favour of peri-urban areas or neighbouring towns such Baillif, Saint-Claude, and Gourbeyre despite attempts at renewal.


Arms of Basse-Terre COA fr Basse-Terre.svg
Arms of Basse-Terre
The fleur-de-lis symbolise the belonging to France while sun symbolises a tropical island.

Gules, charged with a sun of Or; in chief Azure 3 fleurs-de-lis Or.


List of Successive Mayors [6]

Mayors from the French Revolution to 1944
17901792Jean Baptiste Louis Thirus de Pautrizel
1792La Graët
18371843Jean Rémi Terrail
18431846Charles Le Dentu
18471848Aristide Lignières
18481848J. L. Rousseau
18481848Lomont Bernard
18481850P. H. Laurichesse
18501852P. H. Laurichesse
18631869A. Eggimann
18691871Aristide Lignères
18711876Emile Le Dentu
18761883Richard Jean-Romain
18831884Hildebert Bernus
18841888Auguste Silvie
18881893Hildebert Bernus
18931894J. Cascon
18971902Wilfrid Montout
18971900Delmance Demonchy
19111925Arnaud Lignières
19251933Georges Favreau
19331938Maurice Marie-Claire
19381944Maurice Martin
Mayors from 1945
19451951Joseph PitatDoctor, President of the General Council 1945-1949
19511953Annibal WaneybergueRetired
19531959Élie Chauffrein PCF
19591971 Gaston Feuillard Lawyer, MP 1958-1973
19711995Jérôme Cléry PCG Doctor
19952001 Lucette Michaux-Chevry RPR Lawyer, President of the Regional Council 1992-2004, Senator 1995-2011
20012001Pierre Martin DVD
20012008Guy Georges DVD Merchant
20082014 Lucette Michaux-Chevry UMP Lawyer, former Minister, Senator
20142020 Marie-Luce Penchard UMP Territorial Administrator, former Minister

(Not all data is known.)

Judicial and administrative bodies

The commune of Basse-Terre has a Courthouse, which was built in 1934 by architect Ali Georges-Tur, and which also houses the Basse-Terre Court of Appeal, a Tribunal d'instance, a High Court an Administrative Court, and an industrial tribunal. [7] The Bar Association of the Bar of Guadeloupe is also established in the commune. Basse-Terre benefits from the presence of a Chamber of bailiffs, a Chamber of Notaries, and a Chamber of Commerce. The prefecture is also present and the city is the seat of the Urban community of South Basse-Terre. There is a police station and a prison.


Basse-Terre has twinning associations with: [8]


The total number of households in the commune in 2010 was 5158. [9] Since 1982 the population has remained stable.

In 2010 the commune had 999 inhabitants. The evolution of the number of inhabitants is known from the population censuses conducted in the commune since 1793. From the 21st century, a census of communes with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants is held every five years, unlike larger communes that have a sample survey every year. [Note 1]

Population change (See database)

Sources : Ldh/EHESS/Cassini until 1962, [ INSEE database from 1968] (population without double counting and municipal population from 2006)

Population of Basse-Terre Population - Municipality code 97105.svg
Population of Basse-Terre


The commune has 24 educational institutions: [10]

Former high schools?:

3 private primary schools: [11]

  • Immaculée Versailles
  • Jeanne-D Arc
  • Saint Paul de Bouillon

Private secondary schools under contract: [13]


Medical institutions in Basse-Terre are among the largest on the island. In 2012 the hospital in Basse-Terre had 235 beds organized into four areas (emergency, surgery, enlarged internal medicine, obstetrics and pediatrics) and had a staff of 850 doctors, hospital and administrative staff. [14] The commune also has a Health Centre.

Town planning

The central Roundabout in Basse-Terre, at the intersection of boulevard du General-de-Gaulle and boulevard du Gouverneur-Eboue Rond-Point central de Basse-Terre.JPG
The central Roundabout in Basse-Terre, at the intersection of boulevard du Général-de-Gaulle and boulevard du Gouverneur-Éboué

Urban morphology

360º Panorama of the waterfront of Basse-Terre along the boulevard du Général-de-Gaulle

Over the centuries the commune spread along a street formerly named Grand Rue. The River of Herbs separates two early nuclei of houses which now correspond to the districts of Carmel and Saint Francis. The town developed on a narrow coastal strip between the Caribbean Sea and the first hills of the long mountain ridge that divides the island in two. The volcanic massif of the Soufrière is to the north-east and the mountains of Caraïbes and Houëlmont are to the south-east, which enclose the commune in lush greenery. The city itself stretches over 3 km in spite of a rugged terrain intersected by ravines.

Communal territory

The boundaries of the commune have varied over the centuries. The colonial Decree of 20 September 1837 endorsed the creation of communes (endorsed on 12 November 1789) and set the powers of the mayor and city council. The territory of Basse-Terre was previously split into two: intra-muros which was the urban part and its inner periphery and extra-muros that extended to the slopes of the Soufrière (although this terminology is used, the city has never been surrounded by walls). In 1837 two new communes were created by cutting extra-muros from Basse-Terre and the future Saint-Claude and Gourbeyre were created. A decision of the municipal council of 15 March 1839 specified the limits of the commune. By 16 October 1953, the commune has grown and included the neighbourhoods of Rivière-des-Peres by the sea as well as Pintade, Thillac, Morne-à-Vaches, Desmarais, Guillard, and Delille.


The total number of dwellings in the commune is 5,540. 82.1% are primary residences against 83% nationally. The number of second homes is estimated at 0.5% and the number of vacancies to 16% which is above the national average of 8%. [15]


The area of the commune has been greatly reduced since the end of the 19th century and its mountainous terrain does not allow it to develop large-scale farming.[ citation needed ] Only the Bologna distillery, a rum producer, remains significant and is one of the jewels of local production shared with the commune of Baillif.[ citation needed ] The city, as capital of the department, hosts major administration establishments as well as the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Basse-Terre.[ citation needed ]

There has been development of the economic sector through improving the reception of cruise ships and passengers in the port of Basse-Terre. [16] The first stone for the ferry terminal was laid on 27 December 2013. The modern terminal has a capacity of 100 people with areas for ticketing and restaurants was opened on 2 October 2015. [17]


The unemployment rate in 2012 for the town was 25.6% out of a total workforce of 7,293 individuals. [18]

Division of employees into type of activity

 Agricultural workersTradesmen, shopkeepers, company directorsManagers and ProfessionalsMiddle managersEmployeesWorkers
Moyenne Nationale2,4%6,4%12,1%22,1%29,9%27,1%
Source od data: INSEE [19]

Culture and heritage

The commune has a very large number of buildings and sites that are registered as historical monuments. For a complete list with links to descriptions (in French) and photos click here. Some of the most interesting are shown below.

Civil heritage

Religious heritage



Sports facilities in the commune:

They are used by sports clubs:


The TV channel Guadeloupe I and radio Guadeloupe I are available in the commune.

Notable people linked to the commune

See also

Notes and references


  1. At the beginning of the 21st century, the methods of identification have been modified by Law No. 2002-276 of 27 February 2002 Archived 6 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine , the so-called "law of local democracy" and in particular Title V "census operations" allows, after a transitional period running from 2004 to 2008, the annual publication of the legal population of the different French administrative districts. For communes with a population greater than 10,000 inhabitants, a sample survey is conducted annually and the entire territory of these communes is taken into account at the end of the period of five years. The first "legal population" after 1999 under this new law came into force on 1 January 2009 and was based on the census of 2006.

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  1. INSEE
  2. 1 2 3 Basse-Terre on Google Maps
  3. 1 2 Basse-Terre on the Géoportail from National Geographic Institute (IGN) website (in French)
  4. "Weatherbase: Historical Weather for Basse-Terre".
  5. Report of Activity 2006, Inrap, page 87 Archived 17 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine (in French)
  6. List of Mayors of France (in French)
  7. List of competent jurisdictions for Basse-Terre, Ministry of Justice website (in French).
  8. National Commission for Decentralised cooperation (in French)
  9. INSEE Key Statistics for Households (in French)
  10. Schools in Basse-Terre (in French)
  11. 1 2 3 "LISTE DES ECOLES PUBLIQUES ET PRIVEES SOUS CONTRAT." Académie de la Guadeloupe  [ fr ]. Retrieved on 10 March 2018.
  12. 1 2 "Établissements du 2nd degré PUBLIC 2017-2018." Académie de la Guadeloupe  [ fr ]. Retrieved on 10 March 2018.
  13. "Etablissements du 2nd degré privé sous contrat 2017-2018."Académie de la Guadeloupe  [ fr ]. Retrieved on 10 March 2018.
  14. Presentation of the Hospital Centre of Basse-Terre on its official website (in French)
  15. Logement à Basse-Terre, INSEE data compiled by Linternaute (in French)
  16. Major work planned in the port in France-Antilles on 19 March 2011 (in French)
  17. Basse-Terre turns around its port (in French)
  18. INSEE Population Active (in French)
  19. Demographic data from INSEE compiled by L'internaute (in French)
  20. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée IA97100904 Fort Delgrès (in French)
  21. Marie-Emmanuelle Desmoulins, The Guadaloupen interlude of Georges Rohner: the paintings in the Town Hall of Basse-Terre (1934-1936), In Situ - Revue of Heritage, No. 6, 2005 Read online (in French)
  22. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM97100025 Painting: Portrait of Victor Schoelcher Camera aabb.svg (in French)
  23. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM97100024 Painting: Horseman talking to a woman and small boy Camera aabb.svg (in French)
  24. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM97100023 Painting: Workman carrying a hand of bananas Camera aabb.svg (in French)
  25. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM97100022 Painting: Two fishermen shaking their nets with a woman Camera aabb.svg (in French)
  26. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM97100021 Painting: Two fishermen shaking their nets Camera aabb.svg (in French)
  27. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM97100020 Painting: Basse-Terre Bay Camera aabb.svg (in French)
  28. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM97100020 Painting: Women talking under a tree Camera aabb.svg (in French)
  29. 1 2 3 Michèle Robin-Clerc, Descriptive note of the works of Ali Tur, Conseil régional de Guadeloupe, Basse-Terre, 2010, p. 7-8 (in French)
  30. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée IA97100912 Courthouse (in French)
  31. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée IA97100911 Lycée général et technologique Gerville-Réache (in French)
  32. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00105889 General Council of Guadeloupe (in French)
  33. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée IA97100914 Prefecture of Guadeloupe Camera aabb.svg (in French)
  34. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA00105849 Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadeloupe (in French)
  35. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée IA97100917 Bell Tower of the Cathedral (in French)
  36. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée IA97101043 Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (in French)
  37. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM97100018 Cabinet Camera aabb.svg (in French)
  38. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM97100005 Processional Cross (in French)
  39. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM97100004 Monstrance (in French)
  40. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM97100003 Funeral plaque for Jean Louis Honoré d'Hesmivy (in French)
  41. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM97100002 Funeral plaque for François Charles de Bourlamaque (in French)
  42. Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM97100001 Sculpture (in French)
  43. Ministry of Culture, Mérimée PA97100022 Saint Antoine Monastery (in French)