Architecture of France... Marais Poitevin

The 18th-century gates on the Canal de la Banche still work perfectly. Below, plans drawn up in 1700 for a lock gate

For centuries, man has battled with the encroaching sea to make the most of the rich soil of the Marais Poitevin. It is the second largest wetland in France after the Camargue, and the fifth largest in Europe.

It extends across three departments, the Vendée, Deux-Sèvres and Charente-Maritime, and is divided into three areas: the wet marsh – also known as France’s Green Venice – the coastal zone, and the agricultural dry zone.

Officials in the Vendée are drawing up an inventory of all its heritage sites and their work has revealed many architectural features linked to the draining of the land, including the canal systems, dykes and several canal gates which have been used since the Middle Ages.

This early system still functions, even though the area has been in constant danger from natural forces or war, and the drainage system has been repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt.

The department’s chief heritage officer, Yannis Suire, knows the region well as some ...

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