Pays de la Loire Section
Sallertaine - A former island among the salt marshes
Sallertaine, in the Baie de Bourgneuf
Sallertaine is nestled in the heart of the Marais Breton-Vendéen, a vast natural wetland situated in the Baie de Bourgneuf.
The first traces of occupation date back 6500 years.
At that time, Sallertaine was one of the many islands that once peaked out from the sea that covered the region.
Excavations carried out in 2008-09 brought to light the foundations of a small Gallo-Roman town on the hilltop.
Numerous fragments of pottery, coming from Southern France and recovered on the site, also show that the inhabitants of Sallertaine maintained commercial exchanges with distant regions.
Sadly they deserted their thriving little town at the fall of the Roman empire (late 5th century).
However, during the time they lived in Sallertaine, the Romans and their descendants built the first dykes and irrigation canals and developed the salt marshes.
Sallertaine bears in its name the memory of this era:
Sal is Latin for salt, and artana, a Greek word that described a lifting tool.
We indeed know that the Romans hoisted the salt from the marshes up the hill to the town.
The nearby limestone quarries were exploited in the early 11th century in order to build the Abbey of Sallertaine.
The monks further developed the exploitation and trade of salt, thus generating wealth for their abbey and the community that developed around it.
Sadly, the abbey was demolished at the French Revolution and the remaining vestiges pulled down in the late 19th century.
Church of Saint-Martin, the only vestige of the Abbey of Sallertaine
Saint-Martin de Sallertaine Church is the only remaining building of the abbey.
It is also considered a masterpiece of Romanesque Angevin architecture and art.
The vault of the transept is indeed pure 'Plantagenêt', a style recognizable for the Romanesque dome - unique in the region – that caps it.
The church also boasts a magnificent four-arch Romanesque door and the interior walls still bear numerous vestiges of original frescoes.
Built in the 11th century and modified in the 12th century, it has been disused since 1910.
Notre-Dame de Sallertaine is a classified Historical Monument.
Department of Vendée
Coordinates: Lat 46.860885 - Long -1.956710