The church of Ste-Catherine of La Flotte en Ré.
The origin of the La Flotte en Ré parish church dates back very far.
At first, it was probably a simple chapel for the lords of Mauléon
whose castle was a hundred meters north and was in place in the twelve
century. It is likely that the base of the steeple and the adjoining
bays dates back to that period. However, there were few inhabitants at
the time and the cistercienne abbey monks of St-Laurent at 2
kilometers to the east and those of St-Martin, 3 kilometers to the
west were sufficient for the religious needs of the population.
After different wars, specially the 100 years war (1340-1453), the
small town of La Flotte was looted many times along with the
St-Laurent abbey. The church probably suffered from this. From the
gothic period on, it was enlarged on many occasions. The south gate
dates back to the second half of the 15th century; It is however, very
difficult to know the exact location of the buildings at that time
because they suffered quite a bit during the years.
In fact, during the religious wars (1560-1595), the Île de Ré was at
the center of the conflicts and under the control of either Catholics
or Protestants. The church of La Flotte was at that center in 1575,
but when, in 1598, king Henry the 4th brought back a religious peace,
the church was repossessed by the people and transformed as a parish.
Up until then, it had been a subsidiary of the St-Martin parish whose
parish priest made efforts to delay this transformation in order not
to lose these parishioners and tithe revenues.
Because of the wars going on, like the siege of La Rochelle in 1622
and the extended occupation of the island by the protestants, the
parish was not effectively separated from St-Martin until 1640.
The buildings had probably suffered quite a bit from the invasion by
Englishmen of Île de Ré. (July to November 1727). We can find traces
of repairs and of the baptism of a bell in 1632. However, the gothic
arches and all the statues had disappeared under the reformist's
As the population was expanding, the church was enlarged in 1741.
Three small chapels were then subsidiaries of the La Flotte parish but
the St-Laurent of Châtelliers monastery was already in ruins since
The French revolution (1789-1793) seized the ornaments and the
furniture but did not damage the buildings which were given back to
the Catholic cult a bit before the 1801 concordat.
The front entrance dates back to the restoration (1815-1824). The
clock was installed in the church tower around 1840. The repairs to
the arch are recent. The south wall, besides its gate from the 15th
century with its primitive paving made of lauzes, shows, inside, a
small niche made of stones from the same period, and, outside, traces
of braces now missing. In any case, a very irregular layout, the lack
of uprightness, the different length of naves and the lack of a steady
curve of the roof proves many different repairs. The ceiling was
redone, lower then the former gothic arches before their
The church interior does not show any sculptures, stained glass or
paintings prior to 1800 except for a few small paintings of the 17th
century that demonstrate the popular enthusiasm and the maritime
traditions. Two schooner models and a painting of "Marie-Thérèse"
(given by captain Louis Houin de La Flotte on April the 4th, 1753,
after having been rescued from a shipwreck upon a return from
An inscription behind the master altar, (stating: God's year 1893,
given by M. Girard), gives good clues as to the age of the interior
decoration, the throne, the path of the cross and the stained glass.
They would date back to the end of the 19th century and give clues of
the tastes then popular. Their very recent restorations, financed by
the La Flotte municipality appear to be a success
There are debris of tombstones in the southern path and the parish
records, kept at city hall, mention that there has been many noble
burials inside the church or of scollars at the foot of the master
altar. Furthermore, it is probable that in the past, the parish
cemetery was beside the church. There are no more traces of it and the
actual cemetery goes back to Louis-Philippe.