Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Current Size: 100%

History: a gulf

A landscape which has been sculpted by the hand of man.

XIIIth Century

The XIIIth century is the golden age of the conquest of the ancient Picton Gulf which over the years had be the Marais Poitevin that we know today. Five monasteries shaped the landscape of this immense area of marshland on the doorstep of Niort by digging out the canal “des cinq abbés” (“the canal of the 5 abbots”) and that of “le roi” (“canal of the king”), considered today as the keystone of the drainage and cleaning up of the largest wet zone in the West of France.


Given the title of Grand Master of Dykes and Canals of the Kingdom, by Henri IV, the Dutch engineer Humphrey Bradley modernised the work of the monks in 1599. This improvement was continued by Louis XIII and Louis XIV, before falling a little bit by the wayside.


In 1808, Napoleon 1er had the Sèvre Niortaise river cleaned out and widened. The river is the backbone of the marshes. This reduced flooding and improved navigation for the barges and flat boats between Niort and the ports open to the Atlantic.


Today, those who have inherited this natural monument have set themselves the challenge of safeguarding the landscapes made of channels and canals with their banks lined with pollarded ash trees.

  • English