The town hall in Saint-Maixent-l'Ecole
|Canton||ChSaint-Maixent-l'École-1 and Saint-Maixent-l'École-2|
|• Mayor (2001–2008)||Léopold Moreau|
|Area1||5.22 km2 (2.02 sq mi)|
|• Density||1,500/km2 (3,900/sq mi)|
|INSEE/Postal code||79270 / 79400|
|Elevation||52–115 m (171–377 ft)
(avg. 74 m or 243 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.
Residents are known as Saint-Maixentais. Total population is approximately 6,000 (2012) and includes a small population of British expatriates.
Saint-Maixent-l'École is located in the Haut Val de Sèvre area of western France, about 15 miles (24 km) from Niort and 40 miles (64 km) from La Rochelle. The town sits in a fertile and sheltered south-facing valley through which meanders a branch of the River Sevre.
It enjoys a pleasant microclimate – often being between 2 °C and 5 °C warmer than the surrounding hilltops – and sits in a predominantly rural landscape. The town is close to the autoroute networks and is well served by its own station, known to SNCF as 'St. Maixent Deux Sèvres'. SNCF-TGV and RER local trains run to Angoulême, Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Lille, Montauban, Niort, Paris, Poitiers and Tours
The town was founded in 459 by the Oratorian monk Agapit, who was joined in 480 by Adjutor who took the name Maixent. Initially, the city was known as Saint-Saturnin. During the 6th and 7th centuries the city prospered. Later, during the Wars of Religion, St. Maixent was often cast into the role of 'border town' between the Protestant strongholds around La Rochelle to the west and Catholic France to the East.
Many of the town buildings date from 15th century through to the early 19th century. The town is home to a fine abbey which dominates the skyline. The abbey crypt houses the tombs of St. Maixent and St. Leger. Limestone for building was excavated from an extensive network of (what have become) vaulted cellars. These often extend down for two (in one case seven) levels below ground and may be very large. Oldest secular premises in the town is the ancient Pharmacy on Rue Anatole France which has been undergoing a slow but dedicated restoration/excavation of its many hidden features. The facade bears the inscription 'HIC VALE SANTE'. (Here is Health).
Rue Chalon, the pedestrianised main shopping street was extensively rebuilt during the 18th century under the supervision of Count Blossac, Intendant of the Generalitat of Poitou. The entrance to Rue Chalon is signified by an elegant masonry arch (Porte Chalon)and the street beyond presents a pleasantly uniform facade of handsome period buildings with shops, bars and restaurants facing onto the street. The far end of Rue Chalon terminates with a prospect of the Abbey. A charming relic of 'Old France' stands on this corner, a former Cordonnerie (shoe repairers) which has survived untouched by modernisation of its street facade or shop-fittings for almost 100 years. Built in the 18th century upon the site of the Abbey Seminary, the extensive 12th-century cellarage below the shop was (probably) originally created by masons seeking the fine pale-coloured limestone from which the Abbey was constructed.
Rue Churay, just off this street has small public garden which contains the war memorial, and is regularly the site of ceremonies of remembrance dedicated to the dead of the many wars that France has been involved in. Attended by the town band these affairs also offer an opportunity to see soldiers studying at St. Maixent's famous 'Ecole de l'Armee' in full dress. While unremarkable from the outside, one of the houses opposite the war memorial has a virtually intact lace-maker's house dating from the 12th to 14th centuries in a courtyard at the rear. This unusual survivor from the period when Poitou lace was famous throughout Europe has the large north-light window with stone window-seat typical of its kind.
The main agricultural produce of the region around the town includes maize, sunflowers for seed oil, flax, tobacco and wine. Sugar Beet and Charente Melons also feature prominently. The town lies halfway between the Loire Valley and Bordeaux, in close proximity to the Cognac region. There are several speciality goats-milk cheeses produced in the area. The area is home to companies producing agricultural commodities, such as animal feed and vegetable oils
One of the mainstays of the local economy is the presence of the French Army NCO training school, which runs regular courses for all branches of the Army. There are extensive barracks,some parts dating back to the revolution, also 'married quarters' in the form of modern apartments scattered throughout the town.
There is a thriving Saturday market on the main street, a Food Hall on the market square, as well as branches of the usual supermarket chains and a small and rather quaint cinema (L'Hermitage), which sadly closed in 2012. 2014 has seen the opening of an new cultural centre, the 'Agapit' which hosts musical and theatrical performances.
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