Very early in human history – as soon as men set sail – ships had to be steered. Beacons appeared along the coasts over time. Here as elsewhere, landmarks guide sailors along the coasts of sand, rock or marshes.
With 2/3 of its borders on the coast, Royan Atlantique collects these visual landmarks. They are mainly found along the Gironde estuary.
The bitters in the face of Dangerous navigation
Navigation has never been easy on the largest estuary in Europe. From the Pertuis de Maumusson to the Bec d'Ambès, the currents clash. Sandbanks and shoals are thus in perpetual motion. Evidenced by the evolution of the bay of Bonne Anse at the mouth of the estuary. These marine movements are thus responsible for many shipwrecks and groundings. But the fear of danger is often no match for the recklessness of sailors. However, navigation cannot be improvised…
The Pertuis de Maumusson: from Charybde to Scylla
Less famous than the strait described in Homer's Odyssey, the pertuis of Maumusson separates the country of Royan from the island of Oléron. Its name comes from the old French "bad musse" which means "wrong way". Local sailors have always feared this maelstrom with powerful currents.
It is not an abyss, the sea seems flat and smooth on the surface, you can barely distinguish a slight flexion; but one hears under this calm water a formidable noise. Any large ship that touches the sluice is lost. (…) Nothing can stop in its slow and terrible movement the formidable spiral which has seized the ship.
Opposite La Coubre, the Banc de la Mauvaise has a sufficiently evocative name for sailors to know that they should also be wary of it...
The landmarks, along the right bank of the Gironde estuary
The Gardour Tower
Alienor d'Aquitaine would have ordered the construction of a first guard post on the heights of the Coubre forest. It thus made it possible to monitor the coasts and to help ships to locate themselves. In 1873, a new tower was built. During the Second World War, German soldiers dynamited it. Facing the Atlantic Ocean, the Gardour tower current always serves as a benchmark for safe navigation.
The old bell tower
The old church of Saint-palais-sur-mer was raised in the XNUMXth century to become a landmark with its black painted steeple. The Cistercians built this Romanesque building in the XNUMXth century. Listed as a Registered Monument, only the apse and the bell tower now remain. At its foot, the small cemetery separates it from the current church. For the anecdote: among the graves, is that of a victim of the sinking of the Titanic.
Also in Saint-Palais, the hearth lit on the Roche aux Moines responded to the fire from the rock of Cordouan, before the installation of the lighthouse. In the XNUMXth century, the State acquired Bois du Roi, which thus served as a natural landmark. It was delimited by stone markers. One of them is now reused in the wall of the villa La Roche au Moine with the engraved mention “AMER”.
The Pyramid of the Guard
Erected in the XNUMXth century, the Pyramid of the Guard overlooks the remains of the ancient Gallo-Roman site of Fâ. In the municipality of Barzan, the geodesic network point was used to create the Cassini map. Subsequently, the navigators of the estuary gave it the role of landmark to locate the coast. 4 meters high, it consists of a square base surmounted by a pyramid. The latter is decorated with moldings on each of its faces. They are oriented towards the 4 cardinal points. The top is unfortunately broken. From the height of 45 meters on this hillside, the panoramic view over the Bay of Chandorat is unique.
This fire tower was once a landmark for ships using the Gironde estuary. We do not have a precise date of its construction. This old beacon indicated the right bank of the estuary thanks to its light. Sailors could then locate the ports of Mortagne or Port Maubert. Conical in shape, it culminates at 59 meters above sea level. The opening at its top thus allowed the fire to illuminate. Administratively in the commune of Saint-Fort-sur-Gironde, you can get there via the former commune of Saint-Romain-sur-Gironde, now attached to Floirac. The old name of Saint-Romain-de-Beaumont testifies to the link of this town with the burrow of Beaumont. Until the Middle Ages, the sea came to the foot of this relief. From here, you can admire the Gironde estuary and its marshes.
Legend has it that it was born from stones that fell from the dorne (the apron) of the mother of the giant Gargantua as she straddled the estuary. Gargamelle wanted to build a bridge over the estuary. When she stumbled on the hill, the strings of her apron came loose. And the stones fell to form the tower.
Cadet's conch is the most secret beach of My dears and the closest to troglodyte caves of Regulus. They bear the name of a warship. Its captain scuttled it in 1814 facing the cliffs of Meschers. He thus avoids the English capturing him.
According to the little story, Cadet was a shipwrecker who had made a pact with the devil to deceive the ships passing in front of the cliffs on a stormy night. Accompanied by Belin, his black goat equipped with a lantern in one ear and a bell in the other, he attracted the boats which crashed on the rocks. He then looted the wrecks and amassed the treasures. Their hiding place has never been discovered to this day…
More modern bitters
The “White Chair” of the Grande Côte
Return to Saint-Palais-sur-Mer, off Grande Côte beach. The "big chair" questions many bathers and walkers. Thanks to its pilings, this metallic dolphin comes out of the water to serve as a landmark for boats sailing at the mouth of the Gironde estuary. The alignment with the Combots radar tower and a luminous buoy offshore indicates the path to follow. It also acts as a weather station.
The Water Tower on the Chemin du Phare de Saint-Pierre
At the heart of Royan, near the Romanesque church of Saint-Pierre, this water tower also serves as a beacon. It can therefore be part of the family of bitters. Its light aligns with the lighting of the Chay lighthouse to guide ships from Pointe de Grave. This lighthouse, probably the least known of the country of Royan, is only 13 meters high. Its luminous range is 18 miles (33 km).
the medieval fire of Mornac-sur-Seudre
This firewall is a reconstruction set up at the port of Mornac-sur-Seudre in 2006. In the middle of oyster marshes, it is inspired by old Scandinavian structures. In the Middle Ages, in the absence of relief, these rocking light holders were thus put in place to help with navigation. By a balance system with counterweight, a night fire and a smoke during the day were then maintained. This reconstruction was part of the community exhibition “Under the light of the lighthouses of the Royannais region” at the Palais des Congrès in Royan. This event also gave pride of place to bitters in the Royan Atlantique territory.