Saint-Pierre, Martinique

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Saint-Pierre (Martinique) avec Montage Pelee.JPG
Saint-Pierre, with Mount Pelée in the background
Blason ville fr Saint-Pierre (Martinique).svg
Coat of arms
Saint-Pierre 972.PNG
Location of the commune (in red) within Martinique
Location of Saint-Pierre
Saint-Pierre, Martinique
Coordinates: 14°44′30″N61°10′33″W / 14.7417°N 61.1758°W / 14.7417; -61.1758 Coordinates: 14°44′30″N61°10′33″W / 14.7417°N 61.1758°W / 14.7417; -61.1758
Country France
Overseas region and department Martinique
Arrondissement Saint-Pierre
Intercommunality CA Pays Nord Martinique
  Mayor (20202026) Christian Rapha
38.72 km2 (14.95 sq mi)
 (Jan. 2018) [1]
  Density110/km2 (280/sq mi)
Time zone UTC−04:00 (AST)
INSEE/Postal code
97225 /97250
Elevation0–1,397 m (0–4,583 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

Saint-Pierre ( /ˌsntpiˈɛər/ , /ˌsæ̃-/ ; French pronunciation:  [sɛ̃ pjɛʁ] ; Martinican Creole: Senpiè) is a town and commune of France's Caribbean overseas department of Martinique, founded in 1635 by Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc. Before the total destruction of Saint-Pierre by a volcanic eruption in 1902, it was the most important city of Martinique culturally and economically, being known as "the Paris of the Caribbean". While Fort-de-France was the official administrative capital, Saint-Pierre was the cultural capital of Martinique. After the disaster, Fort-de-France grew in economic importance.



Saint-Pierre was founded in 1635 by Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc, a French trader and adventurer, as the first permanent French colony on the island of Martinique.

The Great Hurricane of 1780 produced a storm-surge of 8 metres (25 ft) which "inundated the city, destroying all houses" and killed 9,000 people. [2]

Eruption of Mount Pelée

The remains of St Pierre after the 1902 eruption Pelee 1902 3.jpg
The remains of St Pierre after the 1902 eruption

The town was again destroyed in 1902, when the volcano Mount Pelée erupted, killing 28,000 people. The entire population of the town, as well as people from neighboring villages who had taken refuge in the supposedly safe city, died, except for three people—a young girl, Havivra da Ifrile, a prisoner by the name of Louis-Auguste Cyparis (known also by various other names), who later toured the world with the Barnum and Bailey Circus, and Léon Compère-Léandre, who lived at the edge of the city. [3] [4] [5]

Legend has it that the town's doom was forecast by loud groaning noises from within the volcano, but the mayor of the town had it blocked off to prevent people from leaving during an election. This story appears to have originated with one of the island's newspapers,[ which? ] published by a political opponent of the governor. Actually, there was considerable eruptive activity in the two weeks prior to the fatal blast, but since the phenomenon of the pyroclastic flow (French : nuée ardente) was not yet understood, the danger was perceived to be from lava flows, which, it was believed,[ by whom? ] would be stopped by two valleys between the volcano and the city.

Saint-Pierre. Saint-Pierre, Martinique (seen from the harbor - 2005-06-15).jpg


The city of Saint-Pierre was never restored to its former entirety, though some villages were built in later decades on its place.

Today, the town is the district capital of the Caribbean North district of Martinique. It has been designated as a "City of Art and History".[ citation needed ] There are many historic remains, and a Volcanological Museum (Musée vulcanologique Franck Perret).

See also

Related Research Articles

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Martinique is an island and an Overseas department/region and single territorial collectivity of France, and therefore an integral part of the French Republic, located in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of 1,128 square kilometres (436 sq mi) and a population of 376,480 inhabitants as of January 2016. One of the Windward Islands, it is directly north of Saint Lucia, northwest of Barbados and south of Dominica. Martinique is also an Outermost Region (OMR) of the European Union and a special territory of the European Union; the currency in use is the euro. Virtually the entire population speaks both French and Martinican Creole.

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This is a page on the history of the island of Martinique.

Fort-de-France Place in Martinique, France

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Mount Pelée Active volcano on the Caribbean island of Martinique

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Pierre Belain dEsnambuc

Pierre Belain, sieur d'Esnambuc was a French trader and adventurer in the Caribbean, who established the first permanent French colony, Saint-Pierre, on the island of Martinique in 1635.

The Company of the American Islands was a French chartered company that in 1635 took over the administration of the French portion Saint-Christophe island from Compagnie de Saint-Christophe which was the only French settlement in the Caribbean at that time, and was mandated to actively colonise other islands. The islands settled for France under the direction of the Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique before it was dissolved in 1651 were:

Culture of Martinique

As an overseas départment of France, Martinique's culture is French and Caribbean. Its former capital, Saint-Pierre, was often referred to as the Paris of the Lesser Antilles. Following French custom, many businesses close at midday, then reopen later in the afternoon. The official language is French, although many Martinicans speak a Creole patois. Based in French, Martinique's Creole also incorporates elements of English, Spanish, Portuguese, and African languages. Originally passed down through oral storytelling traditions, it continues to be used more often in speech than in writing.

Index of Martinique-related articles Wikipedia list article

Articles related to the French overseas department of Martinique include:

The Compagnie de Saint-Christophe was a company created and chartered by French adventurers to exploit the island of Saint-Christophe, the present-day Saint Kitts and Nevis. In 1625, a French adventurer, Pierre Bélain sieur d'Esnambuc, landed on Saint-Christophe with a band of adventurers and some slaves. Returning to France, in 1626 he applied to and received a charter from Cardinal Richelieu to create the Compagnie de Saint-Christophe. Richelieu was a major stockholder in the company, contributing some 10,000 livres out of the company's capital stock of 45,000 livres. The company was not very successful. In 1635 Richelieu directed his councilor François Fouquet to reorganize the company under the name Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique, French for "Company of the American Islands". It was charged with colonizing Sainte-Christophe, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Jacques Dyel du Parquet

Jacques Dyel du Parquet was a French soldier who was one of the first governors of Martinique. He was appointed governor of the island for the Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique in 1636, a year after the first French settlement had been established. In 1650 he purchased Martinique, Grenada and Saint Lucia. He did much to develop Martinique as a colony, including introduction of sugarcane.

Jean Dupont was the first local governor of Martinique after the island had been taken by French forces under Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc. Accounts of events are confused, but after some fighting he managed to establish an uneasy peace with the island Caribs, who withdrew to the east of the island. He was returning to report to d'Esnambuc in Saint Christophe when he was shipwrecked, taken captive by the Spanish, and held captive for the next three years.

Jean du Plessis, sieur d’Ossonville was a joint leader of the French expedition that established a colony on the island of Guadeloupe in 1635. He died on the island after less than six months.

Charles Liénard, sieur de L'Olive was a French colonial leader who was the first governor of Guadeloupe.

1902 eruption of Mount Pelée

The 1902 eruption of Mount Pelée was a volcanic eruption on the island of Martinique in the Lesser Antilles Volcanic Arc of the eastern Caribbean, which was one of the deadliest eruptions in recorded history. Eruptive activity began on 23 April as a series of phreatic explosions from the summit of Mount Pelée. Within days, the vigor of the explosions exceeded anything witnessed since the island was settled by Europeans. The intensity then subsided for a few days until early May, when the explosions increased again. Lightning laced the eruption clouds and trade winds dumped ash on villages to the west. Heavy ash fall at times caused total darkness. Some of the afflicted residents panicked and headed for the perceived safety of larger settlements, especially Saint-Pierre, about 10 km (6.2 mi) south of Pelée's summit. Saint-Pierre received its first ash fall on 3 May.


  1. "Populations légales 2018". INSEE. 28 December 2020.
  2. Orlando Pérez (ed.). "Notes on the Tropical Cyclones of Puerto Rico, 1508��?970". p. 11. Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.
  3. International, Ripley (1982). "Volcanoes". Ripley's Believe It or Not Great Disasters. Ripley's Believe It or Not. New York: Pocket. p.  17. ISBN   0-671-46220-2.
  4. Garesche, William A. (1 March 2007). "The Destruction of St Pierre, Martinique". Complete Story of the Martinique and St Vincent Horrors. READ BOOKS. pp. 48–0. ISBN   978-1-4067-5983-9 . Retrieved 10 June 2010.
  5. Ernest Zebrowski (2002). The last days of St. Pierre: the volcanic disaster that claimed thirty thousand lives . Rutgers University Press. ISBN   978-0-8135-3041-3.