A slice of history

Over the centuries Mortagne has benefited from its geographic location. Its position above and below an imposing line of cliffs with its port situated at the mid-point of a key trade route between northern and southern Europe allowed the village to flourish. At one time a Mauri colony was set up in the area. The name Mortagne is derived from the Latin Mauretania, itself named after the Mauri tribe who lived on the northern coast of the Mediterranean from whence the Moors came. The Mauretania of Roman times is this not to be confused with present-day Mauretania which is situated on the Atlantic coast of the Sahara.

In the 2nd century AD, Mortagne was discovered by the Bishop of Limoges (Saint Martial) who settled here in the caves of the chalk cliffs. These caves were later occupied, developed and used by monks between the 4th and 10th centuries. Today you can visit the Ermitage Saint Martial and see what was to become one of the first places of Christian worship in the immediate area.

Mortagne was later the seat of a powerful overlord who lived in the chateau stronghold overlooking the estuary from the top of the cliff. The authority of the overlord was reinforced by canons of the Order of Saint Augustine who oversaw nine parishes.

During the Hundred Years War the chateau endured numerous sieges. In 1378 the young prince, Yvan des Galles, who fought side-by-side with the French king to protect the chateau, was assassinated by the English.

In 1407, Lord François Montberon freed Mortagne from the English and the village was given the title of principality.

In 1580, Protestants seized Mortagne and destroyed the Priory and part of the Romanesque church. In 1622 Louis XIII came to support military operations to relieve the Principality of Mortagne. Armand Jean-Duplessis, Cardinal de Richelieu and minister of Louis XIII became Prince of Mortagne from 1624 to 1642.

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You will find a complete document on the regional site dedicated to the inventory of its heritage :




The dock, the construction of which was begun in the XVIIIth century, was enlarged in 1906 by the Marine Nationale. After having sheltered the sailing ships of the navy, it received up until 1914 military vessels (anti-torpedo, submarines …). This dock equally welcomed fishing boats and cargo boats, assuring regular commerce with Great Britain. The 1940 defeat put an end to commercial exchange with England as well as to sailing across the Gironde.

In order to reactivate port activities, the commune instigated the restructuring and refitting of the dock as well as the canal, all to the benefit of professional fishermen based in Mortagne and to yachtsmen.



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