They were prestigious as well as defensive works that have guarded the entrance to the harbour since the late 19th century.
They were crucial in protecting the city in case of hostile landing. Louis XIII kept them when he had the fortifications destroyed after the siege of La Rochelle.
With time the towers were put to different uses. Firstly, they were lodgings for ‘captains’ who were to watch vessel movements in the harbour and levy the fees and charges they had to pay. Then, during the Protestant era, the blue and white flag – the city’s colours – flew on the Chaîne Tower. The coffin of François d’Andelot who had died in Saintes, was left there from 1569 to 1579, as well as that of René II de Rohan (from 1586 to 1599), Catherine de Parthenay’s husband who died in La Rochelle.
After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, the Saint Nicolas Tower was used as a prison for ‘stubborn’ Protestants. Jean Migault, who had tried to escape from France, Nicolas, Sieur de Voutron et de Coureilles, who could not be forced to recant despite the presence of Dragons in his house, and also the owners of the Vaugouin and Pampin dwellings accused of hiding would-be fleeing religionists, were jailed there for various periods of time.
Progress in the tour
Return to the route
Catherine de Parthenay (1554-1631)
Staunch supporter of the defence of the city of La Rochelle against Richelieu in 1627-1628, she was a staunch Huguenot and likewise a poet, a playwright and a mathematician.
Fourth war of Religion and Saint Bartholomew (1572-1573)
8 August 1570: Edict of Saint-Germain
Spring 1572: escalation of repression in the Netherlands Gaspard de Coligny returned to the Court
18 August 1572: Wedding of Henri de Navarre with Marguerite de Valois
22 August 1572: Attempt on Gaspard de Coligny’s life
24-28 August 1572: Saint Bartholomew massacre – Death of Gaspard de Coligny
“Saint Bartholomew Season” spread to provinces for several months – between 10,000 and 20,000 died.
Renewed fighting in the South. Siege of Sommières
March 1573: Siege of Sancerre
10 May 1573: Election of Duke Henri d’Anjou to the throne in Poland
March-August 1573: Siege of La Rochelle by Duke Henri d’Anjou
11 July 1573: Edict of Boulogne
The House of Protestantism in Poitou
Since 1987, The House of Protestantism in Poitou, in the Inter-regional Park of the Marais Poitevin, has been a useful source of information abut the history of protestantism in Poitou and its effect on the economy and culture of the area.
Poitiers et sa région
Mémoire et patrimoine en Loire-Atlantique
Le département de Loire-Atlantique fait partie aujourd’hui de la région Pays de la Loire mais, au XVIe siècle, Nantes était la capitale de la Bretagne et la résidence des ducs de Bretagne. C’est là que fut signé l’Édit de Nantes en 1598.
A walk through Protestant La Rochelle
As early as 1546, La Rochelle was one of the major cities in the kingdom won over to the Reformation.
La Rochelle had been an economic and maritime power since the 12th century, and did business with all the Protestant Northern states, namely England, the Netherlands and the Hanseatic cities.
In 1628, La Rochelle was taken by Louis XIII’s troops which ended Protestant supremacy of the city.
Upon the revocation in 1685 the inhabitants left the city massively. In 1802 there were only a thousand Protestants left.
The Protestant memory is still very present in La Rochelle, see the Rochelais museum and the tour around the city.