SAINTES, a town of western France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Charente-Infeiieure, 47 m. S.E. of La Rochelle by the railway from Nantes to Bordeaux. Pop. (1906), town, 13,744; commune, 19,025. Saintes is pleasantly situated on the left bank of the Charente, which separates it from its suburb of Les Dames. It is of interest for its Roman remains, of which the best preserved is the triumphal arch of Germanicus, dating from the reign of Tiberius. This formerly stood on a Roman bridge destroyed in 1843, when it was removed and reconstructed on the right bank of the river. Ruins of baths and of an amphitheatre are also to be seen. The amphitheatre, larger than that of Nlmes, and in area surpassed only by the Coliseum, dates probably from the close of the 1st or the beginning of the 2nd century and was capable of holding 20,000 spectators. A Roman building known as the Capitol was destroyed after the capture of the town from the English by Charles of Alenfon, brother of Philip of Valois, in 1330, and its site is occupied by a hospital. Saintes was a bishop's see till 1790; the cathedral of St Peter, built in the first half of the 12th century, was rebuilt in the 15th century, and again after it had been almost destroyed by the Huguenots in 1 568. The interior has now an unattractive appearance. The tower (isth century) is 236 ft. high. The church of St Eutropius (founded at the close of the 6th century, rebuilt in the nth, and had its nave destroyed in the Wars of Religion) stands above a very interesting well-lighted crypt the largest in France after that of Chartres adorned with richly sculptured capitals and containing the tomb of St Eutropius (4th or 5th century). The fine stone spire dates from the 15th century. Notre-Dame, a splendid example of the architecture of the nth and 12th centuries, with a noble clocktower, is no longer devoted to religious purposes. The old h&tel de ville (16th and 18th centuries) contains a library, and the present h6tel de ville a museum. Bernard Palissy, the porcelainmaker, has a statue in the town, where he lived from 1542 to 1562. Small vessels ascend the river as far as Saintes, which carries on trade in grain, brandy and wine, has iron foundries, works of the state railway, and manufactures earthenware, tiles, etc.
Saintes (Mediolanum or Mediolanium) , the capital of the Santones, was a flourishing; town before Caesar's conquest of Gaul ; in the middle ages it was capital of the Saintonge. Christianity was introduced by St Eutropius, its first bishop, in the middle of the 3rd century. Charlemagne rebuilt its cathedral. The Normans burned the town in 845 and 854. Richard Coeur de Lion fortified himself within its walls against his father Henry II., who captured it after a destructive siege. In 124^2 St Louis defeated the English under its walls and was received into the town. It was not, however, till the reign of Charles V. that Saintes was permanentjy recovered from the English. The Protestants did great damage during the Wars of Religion.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)