The market garden village, with 650 inhabitants, can be proud of being, since 2013, recognized Small Cities of Character®. It thus joins for a period of five years the seven other communes of Deux-Sèvres which have received this label. This distinction rewards towns of less than 5000 inhabitants with remarkable historical, rural and urban buildings. Arçais now sets itself the ambition of safeguard, restore, maintain its heritage, to highlight it, animate it and promote it to residents and visitors. This aspiration translates, for example, into burying the electrical and telephone networks.

What to see in Arçais?

01. Arçais and its Grand Port

The Grand Harbor d'Arçais is, from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 20th centuryone of the main places of exchange between the plain and the Sèvre Niortaise valley. Her paved wedge is arranged in the bend of a conch and the two wooden cranes recall that in the past the trunks of poplars, transported by water, were hoisted onto the bank. On the edge of the river port stands a home built and enlarged in the 19th century (private residence visible from the street). Its first owner is at the origin of the establishment of the first poplar in the Poitevin marsh. The eleven stores on the ground floor were used for the storage of goods (wines, wood, fish) in transit to Niort and Marans, then rented until around 1960 to farmers who stored there their equipment necessary for exploiting the marsh. In its extension, line up along the Garenne towpath byold farms with double access overlooking both the street and the Minet reach (diversion canal). Typical village of market garden habitat, Arçais, labeled Towns and Villages in Bloom (a flower), is an ideal starting point to discover the wet marsh on foot, by boat or by bike.

02. Saint-Cyr church 

Built to the south of the current commune, at a place called Butte de la Vieille Eglise, the first sanctuary, isolated (no trace of nearby dwellings), called the Great Church, was undoubtedly destroyed during the Wars of Religion. The religious building was masond up to 1,20 m high. high, then the rest of the elevation was made of wood. It was surrounded by a Merovingian necropolis used until the 1620th-XNUMXth century (discovery of sarcophagi). In XNUMX, René Goulard, lord of Arçais, donated the site on which it was raised a new church, at the top of the highest point in the village (5 m.). It was blessed in 1626 by Jean Marcoux, priest of Saint-Hilaire-la-Palud. In 1653, Georges Goulard, knight and lord of Arsay, signed recognition of the donation made by his father. The parish was part of the diocese of Saintes until before the Revolution, but the priest was appointed by the Saint-Hilaire-le-Grand chapter of Poitiers, lord of the land of Arçais from the 1855th to the 1862th century. From XNUMX to XNUMX, the parish church is rebuilt in the other direction (reversal) in the neo-gothic style. Later, the old cemetery was transformed into a public square by adding a meter of embankment.
Unusual are the hooks of the north exterior cladding of Saint-Cyr, located high up and which served used to dry the firefighters' leather hoses without twisting them.

03. The houses of Garenne 

The majority of the houses are from the 2nd Empire, time when the wet marsh is drained, wooded, cultivated and pastured. The farm, called a cabin, is structured between the street and the waterway. Rural architecture is linked to local geology (limestone stones of the hillside, poplar framework, so-called boot stem tiles, etc.). Under the same low roof, the building is divided into two approximately equal parts (residential house and farm house made up of the stable, the hayloft and the shed called balet). The boat with two chains to cross the Sèvre Niortaise.

04. The Bourdettes site

Located between Arçais and Damvix, on the Sèvre Niortaise waterway network, the Bourdettes site includes a lock (-1862 1872) and an old lift bridge cables (modified in 2003) to allow road traffic by connecting departmental roads 102 and 104 and river for the passage of maintenance equipment up to Marans ou Niort.

A secret of the Marais Poitevin

Listen to Aurore from the Chamber of Agriculture who gives us a secret in the commune of Arçais. At the Bourdettes lock, come and meet Quentin Deschamps, beekeeper, and who has rehabilitated an old lock keeper's house to set up its honey shop.

Quentin also takes the floor to talk to you about his favorite hike village of Arçais, this small town of character au rich and authentic heritage. We meet there the local breed of cow “la maraîchine” but also many channels and conches forming this green maze. We listen to it…

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