The church of Ste-Catherine of La Flotte en Ré.
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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 hammers.

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 around 1620.

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 disappearance.

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 Louisbourg, Acadia).

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.