A History of the Charente


France is the birthplace of Romanesque art and nowhere boasts greater proof of this credential than The Charente.

For a long time the Poitou-Charente offered respite for weary pilgrims on their way to Spain and beyond. The region is also something of a cultural battle ground, having been dominated, in turn by the Romans, Visigoths and Franks. And it was in Poitiers that Charles Martel put an end to the expansion of the Muslims northwards in 732.

Such a volatile past has, naturally left its mark on the region’s artistic and evidence of it can be seen everywhere you turn. Romanesque architecture reached its peak in this region, with inspiration drawn from its Latin ancestry and enchanted myths.

Take a close look at the stones and walls of various churches, monuments and dwellings and you may well be confronted with carvings of beasts, dragons and other creatures of Charantaise legend.

Names and Places

You may notice, or have noticed that many of the place names in the region follow a linguistic pattern. Cognac, Blanzac, Nonac, Juignac...you can see where this is going.

Places ending in –ac can be traced back to small Roman communities and wealthy families. They were originally the smallest scale subdivision of the land and later larger scale communities.

The derivation can be traced back to the Latin suffix iacus, meaning area or place. The prefix, therefore is a derivation of the name of the family who owned the land.

It might be a little interesting titbit to share with your fellow expats…

Dodging Taxes

Any of you who may be coming over for reasons of tax evasion will be happy to know that you're in good company, as the Charente played host to a party of tax dodgers!

This bridge in Montmoreau used to mark the border between the Charente and the Dordogne.

At the time it was necessary to pay a tax to transport Cognac from one side to the other. However, that was only if you were seen to be moving the goods.

By rolling the barrels through the bridge, they were able to sneak the Cognac over into the Dordogne and the tax man was none the wiser.