Welcome to the destination Niort - Marais Poitevin, mysterious land where famous people and legendary beings. Over the years, many people have participated in the creation of this territory with a history and a heritage exceptional. Let yourself be carried away by their stories...
The legendary beings
Melusine, Celtic deity with snake-like forms, the word 'marvel' means 'wonder' or 'fog of the sea'. Fairy Builder, she works in the moonlight until the cock crows. If a curious person catches her, she stops her work. In this way, for example, the last stone of the spire of the Notre-Dame de Niort church.
The legend of the Soldier and the Dragon of Niort
It is described as a huge amphibious winged snake both in the swamp and the Sèvre Niortaise than on land. Legend has it that he was killed by Jacques Allonneau, he was promised a pardon if he managed to destroy the monster that was devastating the whole country. This courageous soldier managed to mortally wound the Serpe by thrusting it his sword in the throat. Believing the beast to be dead, he removed the glass helmet that protected him from the venom, which led to his downfall, for the dragon poisoned him in a last breath. Thus, they perished together. The legend echoes the dragonnades, this was the name given to the persecutions carried out in the 17th century, under Louis XIV, against the Protestant communities. Indeed, it was the Dragons, the king's army corps, who were responsible for converting the Huguenots by force.
In 1992, this local legend is illustrated by the The installation of four bronze dragons in Rue Amable Ricard. In 2011, they were removed to allow the pedestrianisation of the street. In order to mark the entrances to the city centre, two heads were transferred in 2012 to the top of rue Ricard and the other two to rue du Temple.
The legend of Gargantua or the birth of the Marais Poitevin
It happened that Gargantuacoming from La Rochelle, and heading towards Niort, after a prolonged drinking bout, was forced to stop for a while to evacuate the excess of his libations. Setting foot on the cathedral of Luçon in the Vendée, the other on the bell tower of the Niort church, and turning to the west, he made the liberating gesture which, while relieving him, flooded a country which he thus watered to the sea. This is how the Marais Poitevin was conceived!
Eleanor of Aquitaine (Nieul-s.-l'Autise, 1122-Fontevraud, 1204), 1st great politician
It is the granddaughter of William IX the Troubadour, the first French lyric poet; daughter of Duke William X, known as the Toulousan, and Aénor de Châtellerault. At the age of 15, she was the heir to more than 2/3 of the kingdom of France, this is a huge area stretching from the Loire to the Pyrenees and from the ocean to the Auvergne! Wife of the King of France, then of England, she was the mother of 10 children and died at the canonical age of 82! In 1203, it confirms the charter of the free commune of Niort, granted in 1199 by his son Jean sans Terre. Thus, the town became one of the first communes in France, a small medieval republic administered by a mayor.
Richard the Lionheart (1157, Oxford-1199, Fontevraud), the knight king
Son of Henry II Plantagenet, king of England and Eleanor, duchess of Aquitaine and Countess of Poitou. According to the black legend of his mother, he was born of a relationship with the Devil. He grew up in Poitiers, he wrote poetry and composed music. In 1170, at the castle of NiortAt the age of 13, Eleanor presented her favourite son, the Duke of Aquitaine, to the Poitevin barons, who pledged their allegiance to her. On the death of his father, he becomes King of England in 1189. The following year, Richard was in Parthenay before leading his great vassals, except Hugues I Larchevesque, to a new crusade in the Holy Land. On his return from the East, he is said to have imported a defensive technique of vertical shooting, the machicolated bow, which he used for the first time in Western Europe in Niort dungeon. In 1199, wishing to seize the treasure of Châlus (Limousin) in order to improve the Château-Gaillard and increase his number of mercenaries, the king knight climbed up to attack the fortress of Count Aymar of Limoges without first putting on his cap and lacing his chain mail. Wounded by an arrow in the shoulder, he dies at Fontevraud whose tombstone is still visible today.
Madame de Maintenon (Niort, 1635-Saint-Cyr, 1719), almost Queen of France!
Françoise d'Aubigné was born in a former prison of Niort (5 rue du Pont) where her father was locked up. She lived her childhood in poverty in Mursayclose to Niort. Following the death of her husband, the poet Paul Scarron, she became the governess of Louis XIV's bastards. The king offers her the Marquisate of Maintenon and married her at night in 1683. She founded the institution of Saint-Cyr educating poor girls from the provincial nobility.
Jacques de Liniers (Niort, 1753-Cabeza de Tigre, 1810), adventurer from Niort and Argentine hero
Page of the Grand Master of the Order of Malta at the age of 12, then officer in the French cavalry, before serving in the famous Spanish Armada, Jacques de Liniers became a senior officer in 7 years by boldly seizing several British ships. But it was at Buenos Aires that he meets fame with two wins He had a resounding success against the English troops seeking Spanish possessions in the United States. His military qualities as well as his charisma and human qualities made him the idol and viceroy of a vast and rich country, the Rio de la Plata includes the territories that today belong to the Argentina, l'Uruguay, on Paraguay, the Bolivia, on Chile and the Brazil.
But, remained loyal to the King of Spain, he was shot by Argentine independence fighters on 26 August 1810. Since 1862, his ashes have been buried next to Christopher Columbus in the Navy Pantheon in Cadiz, where a monument is erected by the Argentinians with the following inscription "Last hero of the old country, the first martyr of the new homeland. À Niorthis bust has been enthroned since 1910 at the corner of Rue Alsace-Lorraine and Rue de la Villette. Bernard d'Agesci.
Augustin Bernard alias Bernard d'Agesci (Niort, 1756-Niort, 1829), 1st curator of the Niort Museum
This designer, painter and sculptor, grand prix de Rome, is the result of an old a nationally renowned family from Niort. At the age of 23, he joined the Académie de Paris where he became friends with David. During his seven-year stay in Italy, he is the resident at the Villa Medici in Rome and at the Bologna School of Painting. Then it returns to Paris. But the revolutionary unrest forced him to return to Niort where he was in charge of the municipal library. In 1792, he founded the departmental revolutionary museum (which now bears his surname) and a free drawing school in 1804. He added d'Agesci to his name to make it more Italian and had the Tuscan-inspired Villa Rose built in Niort, rue Alsace-Lorraine.
Pierre-Théophile Segrétain (Niort, 1798-Niort, 1864), 1st architect of the Deux-Sèvres Historic Monuments
It is departmental architect of the Deux-Sèvres at 26 years of age, then the 1st architect of historical monuments of the department and finally diocesan architect. His friend, Prosper Mérimée, 2nd Inspector General of Historic Monuments, has a poor opinion of NiortIn his report written in 1840, he says: My dear President, where shall I begin my lamentations of Jeremiah? and the same year, from Bordeaux, to a friend: Niort, that ugly hole... But the prolix Segrétain sweeps aside these criticisms by signing the prefecture, the prison, the courts, the St. Andrew's churches and St-Hilaire... Similarly, it builds or restores thirty churches, castles, public and private buildings, aqueducts and bridges in Deux-Sèvres. Exhausted, he died at his work table of a lightning apoplexy!
The teacher Ernest Pérochon (Courlay, 1885-Niort, 1942), Goncourt Prize 1920
In 1920, this rural schoolteacher receives the Goncourt Prize for his novel Nêne. Ernest Pérochon then decided to leave teaching and settled permanently in Niort (25 avenue de Limoges) and produces 25 novels, of which 7 books reading for children, translated into ten languages including Serbian and Japanese ! Its name was even given to the Centre for contemporary photographic art in Niort "The Villa Perochon.
Edmond Proust (Chenay, 1894-Niort, 1956), father of mutualism in Niort
His predestined name comes from preux. Rural teacher by profession, Protestant of faith and a Freemason by conviction, In 1934, together with Jean Lauroua, he founded MAIF, the first historical mutual insurance company in Niort, whose motto is "One for all, all for one. In 1940, captain of the 32nd Infantry Regiment, he was made prisoner and interned in Nuremberg. Liberated in 1941, he joined the Resistance and in 1943 became the departmental leader of the Secret Army. Clandestine, he takes the pseudonym of Colonel Chaumette, commanded the Free French Forces and liberated Niort on 5 September 1944. In 1947, he created CAMIF, which was the third mail order company.
Henri-Georges Clouzot (Niort, 1907-Paris, 1977), the French Hitchcock
Born into a family of booksellers, printers and publishers in Niort since 1834, this screenwriter and director of film noir is the author of works of art as "Quai des Orfèvres". or "The wage of fear winning the 3 supreme festival awards in Europe (the Gran Prix de Cannes - formerly known as the Palme d'Or, the Golden Lion in Venice and the Golden Bear in Berlin). In 1954, he shot "Les Diaboliques", a crime film starring Simone Signoret and Véra Clouzot, his Brazilian-born wife. Ambient views of NiortThe film was shot by the director's stage manager and was used transparently in some scenes. In 2017, the Cinémathèque française paid a national tribute to the local boy at the Cannes Festival and the Lyon Lumière Festival It is also honoured in the Niortais, notably during the Regards Noirs festival in 2017 and 2018. In this context, a commemorative plaque was placed on 20 November 2017 - the day of his birth - on his birthplace at 22 rue Victor Hugo where he spent his first fifteen years.
The painter-sculptor Richard Texier (Niort, 1955-), brewer of the world's matter
Richard Texier is a contemporary artist born in Niort in 1955. He is known for his abstract style and his way of merging painting and sculpture. His work is exhibited in galleries and museums. museums in France and abroadHe has also completed several public commissions, including a monumental sculpture of 5 canvases for the town of La Rochelle. Richard Texier is very attached to his home town and has worked with the Bernard d'Agesci Museum of Niort for a retrospective exhibition in 2017. Visitors were able to discover more than 60 of the artist's works, some of which date back to his early days in the 1980s. His contribution to the contemporary art scene and his attachment to Niort make him an outstanding artist. Richard Texier an important figure in the city and its culture.
Mathias Enard (Niort, 1972-), Goncourt Prize 2015
Specialist in Arabic and Persian cultures and languages, doctor at the CNRS and translator, he is the author of several award-winning novels: "La perfection du tir" (2003), "Remonter l'Orénoque" (2005, adapted for the cinema in 2012 under the title "A cœur ouvert" with Juliette Binoche and Edgar Ramirez), "Zone" (2008), characterised by a single sentence of 500 pages, which brings him to the forefront, "Parle-leur de batailles, de rois et d'éléphants" (2010), "Rue des Voleurs" (2012). In 2015, he was brought to the top with the Goncourt Prize for Boussole, an encyclopaedia of oriental culture in the form of a love novel according to Bernard Pivot. In 2020, he published the novel "Le Banquet annuel de la confrérie des Fossoyeurs", the history of France through the destiny of Niort and the Poitevin Marshes, a thesis on rural life in the 21st century.