Saintonge (French pronunciation: [sɛ̃tɔ̃ʒ]), historically
spelled Xaintonge and Xainctonge, is a former province of France
located on the west central Atlantic coast. The capital city was
Saintes (Xaintes, Xainctes). Other principal towns include
Saint-Jean-d'Angély, Jonzac, Frontenay-Rohan-Rohan, Royan, Marennes,
Pons, and Barbezieux-Saint-Hilaire. The borders of the province
slightly shifted through history, and some mapmakers, such as Nicolas
Johannes Blaeu (1662), and Bernard Antoine Jaillot
(1733), show it extending into Cognac, traditionally part of
Angoumois, and to the parishes of
Braud-et-Saint-Louis and Étauliers,
part of the Pays Gabay on the right bank of the Gironde River.
Today, four fifths of the historical
Saintonge province occupies the
modern département of Charente-Maritime. Most of the other fifth is
in Charente, and a small section extends north into Deux-Sèvres, all
within the administrative region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine.
3 See also
The province derives its name from the Santones, an ancient Gallic
tribe that once inhabited the area. During antiquity,
part of the
Roman province of Gallia Aquitania, and Saintes became its
first capital. The region fell under the control of the kings and
dukes of Aquitaine, the counts of Anjou, then the counts of Poitiers,
before becoming integrated for centuries in the new Duchy of
Aquitaine. Occupying the frontier between Capetian and
Plantagenet-controlled areas during the late Middle Ages, between 1152
and 1451, it was the site of constant struggles between lords torn
between their allegiance to Anglo-Aquitaine and those linked to Paris.
Saintonge was primarily attached to Anglo-Aquitaine until the
mid-fourteenth century. However, errors by Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke
of Lancaster and
Edward, the Black Prince
Edward, the Black Prince gradually contributed to
weakening English power, and the province ultimately came under the
control of the King of France, Charles VII, "the Victorious", in 1451.
Saintonge was the birthplace of French explorer
Jean Allefonsce (or
Alfonse) in 1484, and
Samuel de Champlain
Samuel de Champlain in 1574, who explored the
New World and founded Quebec. It also was one of the centers of
French Huguenots, Protestants.
Saintongeais dialect (patouê saintonjhouê, jhabrail)
was once spoken throughout Saintonge, as well as in the provinces of
Aunis and Angoumois.
The region is famous for its grapes, which are used to produce cognac
and Pineau des Charentes.
Saintonge jug (1275–1350) exported to London. Now in the Tower of
This area is famous for its medieval pottery, which was widely
exported. Sherds of it have been found in large quantities in medieval
excavations throughout Ireland and other European countries. These
shards are from vessels made and exported as a by-product of the
Bordeaux wine trade (Deroeux and Dufournier, 1991). This ware has been
found on Irish excavations from the later 12th century but it is most
commonly uncovered in 13th-century contexts. They consist of an
off-white micaceous fabric with moderate amounts of quartz and sparse
inclusions of haematite. They are glazed on the external surface only,
with a clear lead glaze. In
Saintonge Green wares, the addition of
copper filings, or copper oxide to the clear lead glaze, produced a
mottled mid-green colouring. Many forms of
Saintonge wares were
Saintonge Green, and in some
cases unglazed wares. Slipped
Saintonge is more consistent in colour
and appearance than unslipped, having the benefit of an undercoating
to regulate the process.
Saintonge polychrome dish in the style of Bernard Palissy, mid-1500s,
excavated in London. London Museum.
The most common forms of vessel produced in this ware were wine jugs.
These were characteristically tall, with slightly ovoid bodies, flat
bases, parrot-beak spouts and strap handles.
Saintonge was exported well through the 17th century. Acadians and
French colonists in
Quebec and Eastern Canada imported many Saintonge
ceramics, including bowls, plates, mugs and other types. Many
Saintonge ceramic fragments have been found in context with
17th-century colonists and are often used as evidence of pre-British
occupation of these areas.
^ Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607–1896. Chicago:
Marquis Who's Who. 1963.
Derœux, D. & Dufournier, D. 1991. "Réflexions sur la diffusion
de la céramique très decorée d’origine française en Europe du
nord-ouest XIII-XIVe siècles", Archéologie médiévale 21,
Historical provinces of France
Flanders and Hainaut