Charente-Maritime (French pronunciation: [ʃaʁɑ̃t maʁitim] (listen); Poitevin-Saintongeais: Chérente-Marine; Occitan: Charanta Maritima) is a department 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]

Location of Charente-Maritime in France
Coordinates: 45°57′N 0°58′W
PrefectureLa Rochelle
  President of the Departmental CouncilSylvie Marcilly[1] (DVD)
  Total6,864 km2 (2,650 sq mi)
 (Jan. 2019)[2]
  Density95/km2 (250/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
  Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Department number17
^1 French Land Register data, which exclude estuaries and lakes, ponds and glaciers larger than 1 km2


Charente-Maritime and the former provinces composing it, mostly Saintonge and Aunis
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 departments 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 department was first organised, the commune of Saintes was designated as the prefecture of the department (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 department 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

Charente-Maritime is part of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine administrative region. It is surrounded by the departments 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 department includes the islands of Île de Ré, Île d'Aix, Ile d'Oléron and Île Madame.

The department 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 department is in the woods of Chantemerlière, near the commune of Contré in the north-east, and rises to 173 m.[14]

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]

Commune Population (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 department are called Charentais-Maritimes.

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
YearPop.±% p.a.


Departmental Council of Charente-Maritime

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


  1. "Répertoire national des élus: les conseillers départementaux"., Plateforme ouverte des données publiques françaises (in French). 4 May 2022.
  2. "Téléchargement du fichier d'ensemble des populations légales en 2019". The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. 29 December 2021.
  3. "Comparateur de territoires − Département de la Charente-Maritime (17) | Insee". Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  4. "Doc du mois : 1790 - la naissance des Départements | La Charente-Maritime - 17". (in French). Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  5. Brégowy, Philippe (24 August 2019). "Le jour où... La Charente-Inférieure est devenue Maritime". Sud-Ouest (in French). ISSN 1760-6454. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  6. Annales forestières (in French). 1810. p. 341.
  7. Combes, Jean; Luc, Albert-Michel. La Charente-Maritime dans la guerre 1939-1945 - Albert-Michel Luc (in French).
  8. B.Fleury (30 October 2019). "Aux abords de Royan : des blockhaus qui se fondent dans le paysage". Des murs à lire (in French). Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  9. "La libération de la poche de Royan - Le Journal des Propriétaires". Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  10. "Station radar de Chassiron (Ro 518 – Rebhurn)" (in French). Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  11. "Station radar de Chassiron (Ro 518 – Rebhurn)" (in French). Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  12. "Pourquoi Royan a été bombardé en 1945 ? - Destination Royan Atlantique". Site officiel Destination Royan Atlantique (in French). 11 May 2019. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  13. "La Libération de Royan avril 1945". (in French). Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  14. "Centre Régional Résistance & Liberté - la poche de La Rochelle". (in French). 29 April 2015. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  15. Populations légales 2019: 17 Charente-Maritime, INSEE
  16. Bry, Christian; Hoflack, Paul (2004). "Le bassin versant de la Charente : une illustration des problèmes posés par la gestion quantitative de l'eau" (PDF). Courrier de l'Environnement de l'INRA (52): 82 via HAL.
  17. Demagny, Xavier (18 June 2022). "Canicule : près de 43°C à Biarritz, de nouveaux records de chaleur battus samedi". Radio France (in French). Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  18. "Historique météo Charente-Maritime (Juin 2022)". Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  19. "Historique météo Charente-Maritime (Janvier 2022)". Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  20. "Agriculture de la Charente-Maritime". (in French). 16 September 2021. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  21. "Que faire à Marennes et ses environs ?". Infiniment charentes (in French). Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  22. Acerra, Martine (21 December 2011). "La création de l'arsenal de Rochefort". Dix-Septième Siècle (in French). 253 (4): 671–676. doi:10.3917/dss.114.0671. ISSN 0012-4273.
  23. Mankowski, Thomas (17 October 2021). "Charente-Maritime: sur le site d'Alstom Aytré, le pari gagné du tramway". Sud-Ouest (in French). ISSN 1760-6454. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  24. "Historique de la Charente-Maritime". Le SPLAF.
  25. "Évolution et structure de la population en 2016". INSEE.
  26. "Dominique Bussereau se met en retrait de la vie politique". La Croix (in French). 27 July 2021. ISSN 0242-6056. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  27. "Le sacre de Sylvie Marcilly, nouvelle présidente du Conseil Départemental de Charente-Maritime". France 3 Nouvelle-Aquitaine (in French). Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  28. "Sylvie Marcilly est la nouvelle présidente du département de la Charente-Maritime". ici, par France Bleu et France 3 (in French). 1 July 2021. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  29. "Charente-Maritime : Carte des circonscriptions - Assemblée nationale". Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  30. "Liste par département - Sénat". Retrieved 9 July 2022.
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