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Hotel Lanusse, prefecture (La Rochelle).jpg
Prefecture building in La Rochelle
Flag of the Department of Charente-Maritime.svg
Blason departement fr Charente-Maritime.svg
Location of Charente-Maritime in France
Coordinates: 45°57′N0°58′W / 45.950°N 0.967°W / 45.950; -0.967
Country France
Region Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Prefecture La Rochelle
Subprefectures Jonzac
   President of the Departmental Council Sylvie Marcilly [1] (DVD)
  Total6,864 km2 (2,650 sq mi)
 (Jan. 2020) [2]
  Rank 40th
  Density96/km2 (250/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+1 (CET)
  Summer (DST) UTC+2 (CEST)
Area code FR-17
Department number 17
Arrondissements 5
Cantons 27
Communes 463
^1 French Land Register data, which exclude estuaries and lakes, ponds and glaciers larger than 1 km2

Charente-Maritime (French pronunciation: [ʃaʁɑ̃tmaʁitim] ; Poitevin-Saintongeais: Chérente-Marine; Occitan : Charanta Maritima) is a département in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region on the southwestern coast of France. Named after the river Charente, its prefecture is La Rochelle. As of 2019, it had a population of 651,358 with an area of 6,864 square kilometres (2,650 sq mi). [3]



Charente-Maritime and the former provinces composing it, mostly Saintonge and Aunis Charente-Maritime et provinces.svg
Charente-Maritime and the former provinces composing it, mostly Saintonge and Aunis
Map of 'Charente-Inferieure' in the 19th century Carte de Charente-Inferieure.jpg
Map of 'Charente-Inférieure' in the 19th century

Previously a part of the provinces of Saintonge and Aunis, Charente-Inférieure was one of the 83 original département created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. [4] On 4 September 1941, during World War II, it was renamed as Charente-Maritime. [5]

When the département was first organised, the commune of Saintes was designated as the prefecture of the département (Saintes had previously been the capital of Saintonge). This changed in 1810 when Napoleon passed an imperial decree to move the prefecture to La Rochelle. [6]

During World War II, the département was invaded by the German Army and became part of occupied France. [7] To provide defence against a possible beach landing by the Allies, the Organisation Todt constructed a number of sea defences in the area. [8] Defences such as pillboxes are particularly noticeable on the beaches of the presqu'île d'Arvert [9] and the island of Oléron. [10]

At the end of the war, the two last pockets of German resistance were both in this area: at La Rochelle in the north and Royan in the south. Despite Royan having been nearly destroyed during an RAF bombing raid on 5 January 1945, [11] the town was not liberated by the French Forces of the Interior until April of the same year. [12] La Rochelle was finally liberated on 9 May 1945. [13]


Sunset in Meschers-sur-Gironde in Charente-Maritime Meschers-dawn-in-paradise.jpg
Sunset in Meschers-sur-Gironde in Charente-Maritime

Charente-Maritime is part of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine administrative region. It is surrounded by the départements of Gironde, Charente, Deux-Sèvres, Dordogne and Vendée. It has a land area of 6864 km2 and 651,358 inhabitants as of 2019. [3]

The important rivers are the Charente and its tributaries, the Boutonne and the Seugne, along with the Sèvre Niortaise, the Seudre and the Garonne, in its downstream part, which is the estuary of the Gironde.

The département includes the islands of Île de Ré, Île d'Aix, Ile d'Oléron and Île Madame.

The département forms the northern part of the Aquitaine Basin. It is separated from the Massif Armoricain by the Marais Poitevin to the north-west and from the Parisian basin by the Seuil du Poitou to the north-east. The highest point in the département is in the woods of Chantemerlière, near the commune of Contré in the north-east, and rises to 173 m. [14]

Administrative borders

North Vendée of Pays de la Loire and Deux-Sèvres
East Charente and Dordogne
West Atlantic Ocean
South Gironde and Gironde estuary

Principal towns

The most populous commune is La Rochelle, the prefecture. As of 2019, there are 7 communes with more than 8,000 inhabitants: [15]

CommunePopulation (2019)
La Rochelle 77,205
Saintes 25,287
Rochefort 23,584
Royan 18,419
Aytré 9,247
Périgny 8,684
Tonnay-Charente 8,097


The climate is mild and sunny, with less than 900 mm of precipitation per year [16] and with insolation being remarkably high, in fact, the highest in Western France including southernmost sea resorts such as Biarritz. [17] Average extreme temperatures vary from 39 °C (102 °F) [18] in summer to −5 °C (23 °F) in winter (as of 2022). [19]


The economy of Charente-Maritime is based on three major sectors: tourism, maritime industry, and manufacturing. Cognac and pineau are two of the major agricultural products with maize and sunflowers being the others. [20]

During the summer months, families flock from all over Europe to bask in the sun and enjoy the local seafood. Royan, popular for its extensive beaches and attractions, is one of the most famous seaside resort of atlantic coast.

Charente-Maritime is the headquarters of the major oyster producer Marennes-Oléron. [21] Oysters cultivated here are shipped across Europe.

Rochefort is a shipbuilding site and has been a major French naval base since 1665. [22]

La Rochelle is a seat of major French industry. Just outside the city, in Aytré, is a factory for the French engineering giant Alstom, where the TGV, the cars for the Paris and other metros are manufactured (see fr:Alstom Aytré). [23] It is a popular venue for tourism, with its picturesque medieval harbour and city walls.


The inhabitants of the département are called Charentais-Maritimes.

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
YearPop.±% p.a.
Sources: [24] [25]


Departmental Council of Charente-Maritime

Political map of the cantons of Charente-Maritime following the 2021 departmental elections. Cantons de la Charente-Maritime 2021.svg
Political map of the cantons of Charente-Maritime following the 2021 departmental elections.

The President of the Departmental Council has been Dominique Bussereau (LR) since 2008. [26] He was replaced by Sylvie Marcilly after the departmental elections of June 2021. [27] [28]

National representation

In the 2017 legislative election, Charente-Maritime elected the following members of the National Assembly:

ConstituencyMember [29] Party
Charente-Maritime's 1st constituency Olivier Falorni DVG
Charente-Maritime's 2nd constituency Frédérique Tuffnell LREM
Charente-Maritime's 3rd constituency Jean-Philippe Ardouin LREM
Charente-Maritime's 4th constituency Raphaël Gérard LREM
Charente-Maritime's 5th constituency Didier Quentin LR

In the Senate, Charente-Maritime is represented by three members: Daniel Laurent (since 2008), Corinne Imbert (since 2014) and Mickaël Vallet (since 2020). [30]


Popular destinations include La Rochelle, Royan, Saintes, Saint-Jean-d'Angély, Rochefort, the Île d'Aix, Île de Ré and Île d'Oléron.

The department is served by the TGV at Surgères and La Rochelle. It can also be reached by motorway by the A10 (E5, Paris-Bordeaux) and A837 (E602, Saintes-Rochefort).

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Oléron</span> French coastal island

The Isle of Oléron or Oléron Island is an island off the Atlantic coast of France, on the southern side of the Pertuis d'Antioche strait.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rochefort, Charente-Maritime</span> Subprefecture and commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Rochefort, unofficially Rochefort-sur-Mer for disambiguation, is a city and commune in Southwestern France, a port on the Charente estuary. It is a subprefecture of the Charente-Maritime department, located in the administrative region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. In 2018, it had a population of 23,583.

Saintes is a commune and historic town in western France, in the Charente-Maritime department of which it is a sub-prefecture, in Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Its inhabitants are called Saintaises and Saintais. Saintes is the second-largest city in Charente-Maritime, with 26,470 inhabitants in 2008. The city's immediate surroundings form the second-most populous metropolitan area in the department, with 56,598 inhabitants. While a majority of the surrounding landscape consists of fertile, productive fields, a significant minority of the region remains forested, its natural state.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aunis</span> Place in France

Aunis is a historical province of France, situated in the north-west of the department of Charente-Maritime. Its historic capital is La Rochelle, which took over from Castrum Allionis (Châtelaillon) the historic capital which gives its name to the province.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Arrondissement of Rochefort</span> Arrondissement in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

The arrondissement of Rochefort is an arrondissement (district) in the Charente-Maritime department in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France. It has 78 communes. Its population is 189,875 (2016), and its area is 1,534.6 km2 (592.5 sq mi).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Arrondissement of La Rochelle</span> Arrondissement in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

The Arrondissement of La Rochelle is an arrondissement of France, located in the Charente-Maritime department, region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. It has 58 communes. Its population is 215,707 (2016), and its area is 852.8 km2 (329.3 sq mi).

The following is a list of the 27 cantons of the Charente-Maritime department, in France, following the French canton reorganisation which came into effect in March 2015:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aytré</span> Commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Aytré is a commune in the Charente-Maritime department, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, southwestern France.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anais, Charente-Maritime</span> Commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Anais is a commune in the Charente-Maritime department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwestern France.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Andilly, Charente-Maritime</span> Commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Andilly is a commune in the Charente-Maritime department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwestern France.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Angoulins</span> Commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Angoulins is a commune in the Charente-Maritime department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwestern France.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Arvert</span> Commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Arvert is a commune in the Charente-Maritime department and Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of south-western France.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bourcefranc-le-Chapus</span> Commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Bourcefranc-le-Chapus is a commune in the Charente-Maritime department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in southwestern France. The commune was created in 1908 from part of Marennes. Bourcefranc-le-Chapus is a major oyster farming port. Fort Louvois is a fortification built by Vauban on the Chapus islet in front of the town.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Étaules, Charente-Maritime</span> Commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">La Flotte</span> Commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">La Tremblade</span> Commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

La Tremblade is a commune in the Charente-Maritime department and Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwestern France.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nouvelle-Aquitaine</span> Administrative region of France

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Isle of Oléron railway</span>

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