Saint-Martin-de-Ré is a commune in the Charente-Maritime department in southwestern France.
It is one of the 10 communes located on the Île de Ré.
Saint-Martin-de-Ré has extensive fortifications, reflecting the strategic importance of the Île de Ré. During the Wars of Religion in the 1620s, Cardinal Richelieu ordered that the island be fortified as a counterweight to the Protestant nearby city of La Rochelle on the French mainland. This included a citadel at Saint Martin. After La Rochelle had been subdued, Saint-Martin's fortification were largely demolished to remove its potential threat to royal power.
In 1627, an English invasion force under the command of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham attacked the island in order to relieve the Siege of La Rochelle. After three months of combats in the Siege of Saint-Martin-de-Ré against the French under Marshal Toiras, the Duke was forced to withdraw in defeat.
Later, in the 1670s, the French engineer, Vauban was commissioned to review and overhaul the island's defences and, as a result, Saint Martin was enclosed by extensive and modern walls and embankments. This was done in three major phases ending in 1702 and the end result was an enclosed town capable of housing the island's population for a long siege.
Prison to the penal colonies
Between 1873 and 1938, the prison in Saint-Martin de Re kept prisoners before they were shipped to the penal colonies in French Guiana or New Caledonia. See penal colonies on Re Island (French).
The population of the commune has remained remarkably steady since 1800, although it was considerably larger during the French Revolution and dipped below 2000 from the 1920s to the 1940s.
The commune is the third-largest town on the island. With La Flotte, it forms a small urban area with 5531 inhabitants in 2008, which places it as the 11th-largest metropolitan area in Charente-Maritime and the largest on the island.
- Nicolas Baudin, sailor and explorer
- Ernest Cognac Museum
- Communes of the Charente-Maritime department
- Saint-Martin-de-Ré Tourism Office
- Île de Ré and Ernest Cognacq museums
- Vauban fortifications
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