Village developed around the former estate of Bassinius, rich Gallo-Roman landowner, Bessines is located at the crossroads of Aunis and Poitou. Bordered by the Jaron reach and the Vieille Sèvre, this rural commune is nestled on the side of a hill that dominated the ancient Gulf of the Pictons. Its Romanesque church Saint-Capraisa stopover on the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela, and its three ports open the door to the Poitevin Marshes. Its marshland is classified as a Biotope and Natural Zone of Ecological, Faunistic and Floristic Interest. In 2011, Bessines joined the Terre saine charter of the Poitou-Charentes region by adopting alternative solutions to become a community of environmental excellence (reduction in the consumption of pesticides, rational mowing to preserve copses and unique or protected species and the return of insects, sowing 1,200 m2 of roadside verges with floral plants). The peaceful village has also welcomed a number of personalities from the plastic arts and the 7th art, the most famous of whom is Jean Richard, the only actor in the world to have interpreted all the Commissioner Maigret of Georges Simenon and who was born in 1921 in Bessines, at the manor house of the Pierre Levée (a 15th century private property). The suburban village is one of the few communes in the Deux-Sévres where Angelica, the emblematic plant of Niort and the Poitevin Marshes. In fact, it is being honoured in May at the Angelica Festival.
What to see in Bessines?
The hermit Caprais, a little known saint, became the first bishop of Agen in the 4th century. Bessines is the only church in the diocese of Poitiers placed under this name.
Away from the village, the church, now listed as a historical monument, is first mentioned in a charter in 988. The 11th century monument was redesigned in the 15th century. Half ruined during the Wars of Religion, it was partially restored in the 17th century. In 1982, following damage caused by bad weather, the building was restored, and then again delivered to worship in 1986.
What to see: 17th-century portal, bell tower with comb, two stoup basins with shells (Bessines is on the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela), rood beam depicting the risen Christ surrounded by Mary and John the Evangelist (created in 1982 by Niort sculptor Laurent Page and installed in 2000 to celebrate the building's millennium), 1771 hosannière cross in the cemetery.
02. Jean Richard (Bessines, 1921-Senlis, 2001) alias commissaire Maigret
He was the founder in 1955 of the 2nd private zoo in France the inventor in 1963 of the 1st French theme park (the Mer de sable at Ermenonville, in the Oise) and the owner in 1977 of Europe's largest entertainment and leisure company (3 travelling tents, 1 permanent tent, 1 zoo and 2 amusement parks). It is also the only actor in the world to have played all of Georges Simenon's Maigret series, from 1967 to 1990. He has appeared in the Poitevin Marshes in 1968 in L'inspecteur Cadavre, one of the 92 episodes of the cult TV film.
It is the author in 1989 of The Man from Bessines. These little green men 86 cm high installed on the municipal water network (fountains spitting water from all body orifices) were commissioned by the public for street furniture, reflect the close relationship between the market gardener and the Poitevin Marshes and are also present throughout the world. This internationally renowned artist living in Paris also created in 1991 World's largest soap listed in the Guinness Book of Records (22 tons moulded in a truck body). In 1995, he transformed the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris into a Hybermarché and set up a professional hairdressing salon at the Centre Georges Pompidou for the 1996 Féminin/Masculin exhibition.
Other sights to see:
- The dovecote-porch the Grand Pruneau (17th century, private historic monument)
- La Boudrie Neuve (representative habitat of Bessines)
- The partly Protestant cemetery and sa cross hosanniere of 1771
- The little green men by Fabrice Hybert
- The Espace Noisy (association and cultural centre, communal gîte d'étape and nautical base)
- The municipal port
- The angelica fields and the annual festival dedicated to the umbelliferous plant.
Important events not to be missed in Bessines
In May, 'celebrate' what you like by (re)discovering angelica, the emblematic plant from Niort and the Poitevin Marshes through Angelica Festival and thanks to the volunteers of the Bessines festival committee! On the programme: guided tours of the plantations, market of local products, lunch under the tivoli, local crafts...