The church of Sainte-Maxime at night
|Area1||81.61 km2 (31.51 sq mi)|
|• Density||170/km2 (430/sq mi)|
|INSEE/Postal code||83115 / 83120|
|Elevation||0–532 m (0–1,745 ft)|
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
Sainte-Maxime (pronounced: [sɛ̃t maksim]; Provençal: Santa Maxima) is a commune and city in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. I.e. on the French Riviera (Côte d'Azur) in southeastern France 90 km (56 mi) from Nice and 130 km (81 mi) from Marseille.
The small town is south facing at the northern shore of the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. In the north the Massif des Maures mountain range protects it from cold winds of the Mistral. Sainte Maxime was founded around 1000 AD by the Monks from the Lérins Islands outside Cannes. They built a monastery and named the village after one of the Saints of their order - Maxime. Fishing was the mainstay for the inhabitants but during the early 19th century increasing amounts of lumber, cork, olive oil and wine was shipped to Marseilles and to Italy. The village grew and in the 20th century it started to attract artists, poets and writers who enjoyed the climate, the beautiful surroundings and the azure blue water. In front of the old town you find the characteristic tower - La Tour Carrée - build by the monks in the early 16th century to protect the village from invaders. With an addition of a battery of cannons and with the Tour du Portalet in Saint Tropez the whole bay was protected. As late as in the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon ordered a restoration of the battery while also adding cannons on the Lérins Islands. The tower is now a museum.
On August 15, 1944, the beach of Sainte Maxime was at the centre of Operation Dragoon, the invasion and liberation of the Southern France during World War II. "Attack Force Delta", based around the 45th Division, landed at Sainte Maxime. There was a lively "house to house" fighting before the Germans were decimated and eventually gave up. By the foot of the Harbour pier and by the beach La Garonette (far east in the commune) there are memorials at the respective landing places honoring the US troops. At the Garonette beach, but formally in Les Issambres, (Roquebrune-sur-Argens commune) the sailing centre is named La Batterie as it was the location of a German artillery battery.
Nowadays tourism is the largest source of revenue for Sainte Maxime but the city is very much "alive" all year round with 13 519 inhabitants (2007). There is the old town with shops, markets, restaurants, bars and cafés opposite the harbour. On the pier there are marine shops and an upscale restaurant. Here you also find a fast boat transportation with Les Bateaux Verts to Les Issambres, St Tropez and Port Grimaud. There is a shoreline promenade with parks, pine trees, boulodrome Prince Bertil, the tourist office and the city beaches. Also a Casino with its own piece of white sand.
In addition to the city beaches there are the Blue Flag supervised ones. On the west side The Croisette - with a sailing school. On the east side of the town La Nartelle, La Plage des Eléphants and La Garonette (also called Val D'Esquieres) who all provides water-skiing and Jet-ski activities. In addition there are several smaller beaches that are not supervised. All ending up to 10 km of public accessible shoreline.
There are 8 golf courses within 30 minutes radius by car.
Jean de Brunhoff, the author of the Babar books, lived in Sainte-Maxime for some time and it was here the first book was created. One of the beaches – La Plage des Eléphants – is named after the famous blue elephant.
The Swedish Royal Family (of the Bernadotte dynasty) owns a villa - Mirage - in the central area of the city. It was originally acquired by the Swedish Prince Bertil in 1946 as a second home for him and his - at that time - unofficial life partner Lilian Davies (later Princess Lilian, Duchess of Halland). The central and ocean facing boulodrome in Sainte Maxime is named after the Prince as he was a regular player appreciating the uncomplicated and warm reception of the village locals.
Raoul Nordling was the Swedish consul in Paris 1944 that made great efforts to save Paris and its citizens during the late phase of the Second World War. He persuaded General Choltitz to disobey Hitler's orders to destroy the French capital and many lives were saved before General Eisenhover approved General Leclerc and de Gaulle to re-enter the city. Norling had a house in Sainte-Maxime Le Mas du Gay Savoir and was also named an honorary citizen. Part of the road to Grimaud is named after him.
Léon Gaumont was a French inventor, engineer, and industrialist who was a pioneer of the motion picture industry. Léon Gaumont often stayed in Sainte Maxime where he owned a castle - Les Tourelles - built circa 1883. This residence served as a backdrop for several films including Judex conducted in 1916 by Louis Feuillade that was shot in part in Sainte-Maxime. The castle – with new buildings – is now a holiday resort. Léon Gaumont died in Sainte-Maxime 1946.
Paul Géraldy or Paul Lefevre (1885–1983) was a French poet and playwright. He had a house in Sainte Maxime named Toi et moi (You and me) which took its name from his second book (which was his breakthrough). The house is located east of the village above the Madrague beach and now split into apartments.
Victor Margueritte (1866–1942) was a French Novelist and a frequent guest in Sainte-Maxime, Around 1920, he bought and developed a large property - La Madrague - which stretched from the sea and climbed to the top of the Colline Meinier magnificently facing south. The writer lived in his tower with his wife until 1938.
Michel Constantin (1924–2003) was a French movie actor. He was a frequent guest in Sainte-Maxime where he owned a villa at Beauvallon.
Sainte-Maxime is twinned with:
- Ministère des travaux publics (1899). Ports maritimes de la France. France: Imprimerie nationale. p. 895.
- Wiltse, Charles M. (1965). "Chapter X: The Invasion of Southern France". United States Army in World War II. The Medical Department. Medical Service in the Mediterranean and Minor Theaters. Washington, D.C.: Office Of The Chief of Military History. p. 379. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II 11.
- "HM King Carl XVI Gustaf - Interests". Sveriges Kungahus. 2014. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
- "1944: Paris is liberated as Germans surrender". BBC News (London: BBC). 2014. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
- Vincendeau, Ginette. The companion to French cinema.
- "Les Tourelles of today". lestourelles.fr (in French). 2014. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
- Vigato, Jean-Claude. L'architecture régionaliste: France, 1890-1950. Institut français d'architecture. p. 171.
- INSEE Official French Statistics
- The summary historic information is obtained from the village museum La Tour Carrée and from official Tourist Office documentation.
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