L’Île-d’Yeu — A small island with an eventful past
Travel from Neolithic times to today, through the Middle Ages and the 19th century — all possible within a 23.32 km² area. The island is located 10 km off the Vendée coast.
Several dolmens and menhirs attests to the life of the island of Yeu 3,000 BC. In the 6th century the island was christianised by Irish monks from Bangor, County Down. Their monastery, dedicated to Saint-Hilaire, was destroyed by the Vikings in the 9th century. In the 10th century a new monastery was established dedicated it to Saint-Etienne. This order also built the Saint-Sauveur Romanesque church in the 11th-12th centuries, which still stands.
During the Hundred Years War, the lords of the island fortified the island and constructed an impressive defensive castle — its ruins is well worth a visit. The defence efforts did not prevent the English from conquering the island in 1355 and it remained under English control for 37 years.
The fort of Pierre-Levée, a former state prison and barracks, is an example of classic 19th century military architecture, it is also where the French national hero Philippe Pétain was held, he died in prison in 1951 and is buried on the island.
In the 18th century the island was frequently used as a “rest stop” by sailors making their way on the trade route between Bordeaux and northern France, consequently many of the islanders were involved in the trade. By the beginning of the 19th century fishing took over as a the main commercial activity and has remained an important source of income for the island’s roughly 5,000 inhabitants. Visit the lively harbour town of Port Joinville to experience this living-heritage.
Discover this little pearl, not only rich in history but in natural beauty. The best way to get around is by bike. The island can be reached by ferry as well as helicopter.
Photo 1 By Zenit3m [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons, image cropped; ; Photo 2 By Dyak44[CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons, image cropped; Photo 3 By Astrée [CC BY-SA 2.0 fr], via Wikimedia Commons; image cropped