Noirmoutier - Encyclopedia

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NOIRMOUTIER, an island of western France, belonging to the department of Vendee, and protecting the Bay of Bourgneuf on the south-west. Pop. (1906) 8388. The area amounts to 22 sq. m., one-sixth dunes. Between the island and the mainland is a sandbank laid bare at low water, and crossed by an embankment and carriage road some 22 m. long. It was not till about 1766 that it was found possible to walk across to the island, which lies from N.N.W. to S.S.E., and is 12 m. long, its breadth varying from m. in the south part to 3 or 4 m. in the north. It appears to be formed of alluvial deposits gradually accumulated round a rock of no great size situated at the meeting-place of the Gascony and Brittany currents. Fishing, agriculture, oyster-breeding and work in the salt marshes also occupy the inhabitants. There are two communes, Noirmoutier and Barbatre. Noirmoutier, which has a small port, has about 2165 of its 6644 inhabitants gathered together in a little town with narrow and winding streets. Its castle was once the residence of the abbot of Her. In the church (12th, 14th and 19th centuries) there is a crypt of the nth century. A mile to the north of the town lies a pleasant watering-place, rendered picturesque by the La Chaise woods (evergreen oaks and pines), and a grand confusion of rocks, among which lie charming beaches. A dolmen, several menhirs, and the ruins of a GalloRoman villa with its hot baths show that the island must have been occupied at an early date; but the first fact in its recorded history is the foundation of the Benedictine monastery of Her by St Philibert about 680. From this monastery the name Noirmoutier (Heri monasterium, Hermoutier) is derived. It had already attained to great prosperity when it was pillaged by the Normans in 825 and 843. In 1 205 the abbey of Notre Dame la Blanche was built at the north extremity of the island to take the place of a Cistercian convent established in the Ile du Pilier, at that time attached to Noirmoutier by a dike. This abbey was ruined by the Protestants in 1562. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries the island belonged to the family of La Tremoille, and in 1650 the territory was made a duchy. In 1676 the island was captured by the Dutch. Having been seized by Charette during the war of Vendee, it was recovered by the Republican general, Haxo, who caused the Vendean leader, d'Elbee, to be shot.

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