Chateauneuf-les-Martigues, Bouches-du-Rhône, France

Châteauneuf-les-Martigues is a French commune located in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône, in the region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.Châteauneuf-les-Martigues is located in the south of the department, on the south coast of the Etang de Berre.

Nestled in a natural setting between the limestone rocks of the Massif de la Nerthe and the banks of the Etang de Berre, Châteauneuf-les-Martigues covers more than 3000 hectares. It offers visitors a great diversity of natural environments: hills, lake areas, beaches. It benefits from an exceptional flora and fauna among which certain species are protected, as well as privileged places of relaxation. A welcoming land since its origins, it has never ceased to reinvent itself and today takes on a new dimension through the diversity of its population and the development of its infrastructures. Since 2001, Châteauneuf-les-Martigues has been twinned with the Italian town of Valmadrera located in the province of Lecco, in Lombardy, near Lake Como.

The territory of Châteauneuf-les-Martigues has been inhabited for more than 8,500 years. The site of the Font-aux-Pigeons rock shelter was discovered in 1899 by Joseph Répelin. The archaeological excavations carried out by Max Escalon de Fonton and Jean Courtin have brought to light a particular civilization of the Mesolithic: the Castelnovien (7500 to 6000 years BC) which is defined, among other things, by a particular size of the flint. The site of the Fortin du saut (habitat dating from the Campaniforme) was also the subject of archaeological excavations carried out by Robin Furestier in 2002. The rich material discovered on these exceptional sites is visible at the Museum of Friends of Vetus Castrum.

At the VII th millennium BC. AD, men from the Mesolithic period had settled in rock shelters and in particular the one today called the Grand Abri de la Font-aux-Pigeons, discovered in 1899. The town also has several protohistoric sites, such as the Fortin-du-Saut site, the Camp de Laure site and the Fourques oppidum.

Between 900 and 500 BC. various tribes of Celto-Ligurian origin occupy the periphery of the pond of Berre. One of them settles on the rocky plateau dominating the south of the current village where an oppidum is built. Subsequently, the Romans occupied the town (around 125 AD). Many vestiges attest to this occupation, such as coffered sarcophagi, coins and fibulae (ancestors of pins). There are also strong presumptions about the presence of a Roman “villae” near these finds.

The Middle Age
From the 11th century until the French Revolution, many seigneuries succeeded one another in Châteauneuf-les-Martigues. This succession has led to an alternation of troubled periods and prosperity. The territory of Châteauneuf-les-Martigues stretched from the Etang de Berre to the sea, passing through the localities of Gignac-la-Nerthe, Carry-le-Rouet, Sausset-les-Pins, Rove and d’Ensuès-la-Redonne. The first feudal castle was built around the year 1000 on the slopes of Castellas. Its round tower served as a lookout post. Commonly called “the foot”, it becomes the emblem of the village. The last vestiges of this building were destroyed in 1972 during the construction of the highway.

In feudal times, Châteauneuf is known by its castle, Castrum Novum, mentioned from the xi th century. The village developed at its foot. Its Occitan name, Castèunòu dau Martegue, recalls its belonging to the category of medieval Castelnaus.

A second Renaissance-style castle was then built below the first. Its ruins were visible until the end of the 19th century. The last castle built in the town at the beginning of the 17th century, the Hôtel de Caumont, belonging to the Seytres-Caumont family, is now the property of the City. It houses the Museum of Vetus Friends of Castrum.

Ownership of the counts of Baux at the end of xiii th century, land and lordship of Châteauneuf-les-Martigues passed to the Queen Jeanne, Countess of Provence, in 1373, to Charles of Anjou in 1452 to François de Luxembourg in 1481. in the xviii th century, the last lords of Châteauneuf belonged to the family of Seytres-Vaucluse-Caumont.

French Revolution
The French Revolution marks a turning point in the history of Châteauneuf-les-Martigues: the end of the seigneury and the election of a mayor. The election of Jean Guichet put an end to seigneurial prerogatives.

Throughout the 19th century, the town lived to the rhythm of the seasons, divided between agricultural activities and fishing. The wars unfortunately did not spare the town and the commemorative monuments bear witness to this painful past.

Present day
The Marseille engineer Henri Fabre carried out the first flight in a seaplane on March 28, 1910: 6 kilometers above the Berre pond between La Mède and Martigues.

In the twentieth century, the territory experienced developments and the industrialization of the banks of the Etang de Berre led to profound changes gradually transforming the town: installation of Cinzano and the Compagnie Française de Raffinerie, construction of the canal from Marseille to the Rhône, railway line, Marignane airport, construction of the A 55 motorway.

A privileged gateway for tourists to their vacation spot and a practical service area for residents, the tourism point is an essential player in our city. Since 1 st January 2017, the competence of tourism was transferred to the Metropolitan Aix-Marseille Provence. Since then, a tourism information point has been opened at the Jean-Claude Izzo cultural center. As a place of information and advice, it is in regular contact with local tourism stakeholders in order to reference and identify accommodation, restaurants, places of leisure, events.

Historical heritage

The Sainte-Cécile chapel
The Sainte-Cécile chapel, which gives its name to the district which surrounds it, is the oldest building in the city. It dates from the 8th century and the excavations as well as the various hypotheses put forward could lead us to think that it was built on the passage of a Roman road. Probably built on the site of an ancient pagan monument, it has been altered several times. Restored in 1975, it housed many vestiges of the medieval period. Its bell, placed in the steeple of the chapel, is the oldest in the parish (1671). It was formerly in the bell tower of the parish church of the old village located on the slopes of Castellas and was classified as a historical monument on February 14, 1946. Surrounded by pleasant gardens,

The Black Madonna and the orientation table
Blessed on August 19, 1860 and baptized “Notre Dame du Castellas” in 1963, it owes its nickname of “Black Virgin” because of its blackish hue due to oxidation. Erected on the “Mamelon of the forbidden mill”, it would be a copy of “Notre Dame de Fourvière”. Reversed by the wind in May 1867, it was rebuilt in 1868. Lightning struck it several times, the most recent of which was on July 30, 1999. At the feet of this great lady, you will find an orientation table which allows you to locate the points. highlights of the region and admire the panorama around the pond of Berre.

The bread oven
Baking bread under the Ancien Régime being a seigneurial privilege, the inhabitants had to, to use the seigneur’s oven which was in the place of the forge, pay a fee, which was abolished during the Revolution. On the terrier books, we note the presence of many ovens in the town. Today, one of them is still in the parking lot of the old oven. Renovated in 2001, it belonged to the first bakery in the city, built between 1840 and 1870 and demolished in 1999. The bread was baked there over a wood fire and in the summer, for the sake of economy, the inhabitants of the village went there. cook their big dishes (stew…).

The Henri-Fabre monument
On March 28, 1910, the famous inventor Henri Fabre took off from the Etang de Berre with the first seaplane, nicknamed “the duck”, and landed there. The next day, after a first unsuccessful attempt, he made a six-kilometer flight from La Mède to the Ferrières bridge in Martigues. In tribute to this great moment in the history of aeronautics, the “Henri-Fabre” monument, sculpted by Ary Bitter, was created. Commonly called “The Eagle” or “The Albatross”, it was erected overhanging the place where the seaplane took off, then inaugurated on June 18, 1936. On March 27, 2010, a commemorative plaque was installed on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the 1st seaplane flight.

The war memorial
Sculpted by Marius Maln and inaugurated in 1923, the war memorial located on Place Bellot honors the victims of the wars of 1914-1918, 1939-1945 as well as the soldiers who died in Indochina and Algeria.

The Erasme Guichet monument
Inaugurated in 1911, this monument pays tribute to Erasme Guichet (1859-1910) general councilor of the canton who allowed water to be installed in the town in the form of a fountain, as well as electricity.

The parish church of Sainte-Cécile
Built in the 19th century, the church was completed in 1853, and the bell tower in 1855. Following bad weather and the destruction of part of the bell tower, it will be rebuilt and will regain its initial shape in 1868.

The Church of Our Lady of the Pond
Church located in La Mède, it was built with planks during World War II. In 1957, the owner of the Compagnie Française de Raffinage called on an architect who gave La Mede a new chapel with modern lines.

Architectural heritage
In the town is the rock shelter of Font-des-Pigeons, a site occupied since the Mesolithic (6000 BC) until the Bronze Age (c. 1800 BC. J.-C.), and namesake of a cultural facies of prehistory called Castelnovian. The association that manages the site has created a museum in the former residence of Seytres-Caumont
The western half of the Bolmon pond and the Jaï lido are located in the town, separated from the rest of the territory by the Marseille-Rhône canal. The Bolmon and Jaï site has been protected by the Coastal Conservatory and the Bolmon and Jaï Intercommunal Syndicate (SIBOJAI) for 20 years. It includes the marshes located to the south of the canal, and in particular the ornithological reserve of Barlatier.
Commemorative monument in honor of Henri Fabre, who flew the world’s first seaplane.
Jean-Claude-Izzo cultural center.
The Sainte-Cécile chapel is the oldest religious building in the territory of the municipality. Probably built on the site of a pagan monument, it dates back to the viii th century.
The parish church of Sainte-Cécile, neo-Gothic style, consecrated in 1853. Wrought iron bell tower; inside a pulpit carved wood, two tables: martyrdom of Saint Denis (Anonymous, xviii th century), St. Cecilia musician.
The modern Notre-Dame-de-l’Étang chapel in La Mède.
The statue of the Black Madonna, on its promontory (orientation table).
The “Three Brothers”, a group of rocks emerging from the water of the Etang de Berre, near the cove of La Mède.
The Saut and Valtrède valleys, in the Nerthe chain, to the south of the town. Limestone landscapes presenting curiosities (cave, rock faces, pierced rock, needles), but also traces of past agricultural, forest and pastoral activity.
Above the current town of Châteauneuf-les-Martigues is a large limestone rock formed in the Lower Cretaceous (146 ma to 100 ma AD) 100 meters long and 17 meters high. This rock sheltered between 6500 and 2500 before our era (Castelnovien) the first inhabitants of the commune. This site is the oldest around the Berre pond, it was discovered in 1899 by J. Repelin (geologist). The people lived by hunting animals as well as fishing and harvesting fruit. Archaeologists have carried out numerous excavations. Among the remains, were found the remains of fishing tools (in particular the charred remains of a trap). There are few remains of bone tools because these are rare at this time, it is mainly stones that are used.

Natural spaces
Châteauneuf-les-Martigues benefits from an exceptional natural setting. Surrounded by the Berre and Bolmon ponds to the north and by the Nerthe chain to the south, it offers visitors a wide variety of sites to discover.

In order to discover the natural heritage, the city offers family walks. These trails have been subject to specific improvements. Thus, explanatory panels were put up and an important work of markup and communication (leaflets, digital terminals) was carried out.

Jaï beach on the banks of the Etang de Berre
Located on the dune cordon, the Jaï beach stretches for 6.5 km between Châteauneuf-les-Martigues and Marignane. Beach of sand, pebbles and shells, it is accessible all year round to visitors. Leisure activities are practiced there, as well as line and shore fishing thanks to an exceptional deposit of cockles and clams. A zone arranged over two kilometers allows a quality bathing in complete safety during the summer period.

The beach has the quality label for bathing water. The quality of the water at Jaï beach is excellent according to the criteria of the “Bathing water quality approach” certification. This site is a beach area where unspoiled nature allows you to rediscover the richness of the flora and fauna.

The Bolmon pond and Le Barlatier-Patafloux
Châteauneuf-les-Martigues is bordered by two ponds, the Etang de Berre and the Etang de Bolmon. The two communicate through bordigues (small canals that cross the Jaï).

Classified Natura 2000, the Bolmon pond and its peripheral marshes represent the largest (800 hectares) and most diverse area on the banks of the Berre pond.

The flora is also very rich in the heart of the wetland. You can meet salicornia, reed beds and orchids. All of these landscapes have earned Barlatier the nickname “little Camargue”. In order to discover the flora and fauna while safeguarding them, observatories have been set up on the edge of the Bolmon and a discovery trail has been laid out.

The hill and wooded areas
Châteauneuf-les-Martigues has the privilege of having a forest area of great wealth. This hill is full of enchanting sites sheltering rocky escarpments and valleys such as those of Valtrède and Saut. The latter is particularly popular with climbing enthusiasts. These forest areas extend over more than 1883 hectares and are traversed by landscaped trails, regularly maintained and bordered by numerous species representative of Mediterranean flora (broom, pine, oak, thyme, rosemary, cistus, myrtle, etc.).

The Rocks of the Three Brothers
From the top of the Jaï bridge, the “Rochers des Trois Frères” emerge at the end of the cove of La Mède. Alexandre Dumas immortalized them in his work “Le Midi de la France”. Today, only two remain, the third having been destroyed at the beginning of the 20th century, during the digging of the canal from Marseille to the Rhône.

The Fort of Saut
Discovered at the beginning of the 20th century, this habitat was occupied between 2500 to 1800 BC A true natural keep, the Fortin du Saut is a very steep rocky outcrop overlooking the Berre pond.

The caves
During their walks, nature lovers can discover numerous caves and shelters such as the Figuier, Desboussadou, Abeilles and Peïre Vincent caves as well as the Sicard cave. As for the Fig tree cave, it was carved out of the limestone by an underground torrent that existed 5 million years ago. Traces of fossil currents are visible on both sides of the wall. A legend says that this cave connects Châteauneuf-les-Martigues to La Mède.

The Shelter of Font Pigeon
Located to the south of the current village, this rock shelter served as a dwelling from 7500 BC, which makes it one of the oldest known prehistoric sites around the pond of Berre. Discovered in 1899 by Joseph Répelin, it was the subject of archaeological excavations carried out by Max Escalon de Fonton and Jean Courtin. They brought to light a particular civilization of the Mesolithic: the Castelnovian (7500 to 6000 years BC) which is defined, among other things, by a particular size of the flint.

Culture heritage

The market
Every Friday morning in the city center around the town hall, on Place Bellot, Place des Résistants and Place du 8 Mai, more than twenty exhibitors are installed from 8 a.m. to serve you until 12:30 p.m. Good humor and sweet smells invade the streets. Three to four early vegetables including an organic, an organic baker-artisan, a cheese maker who sells the Rove bush, a rotisserie, a pizzaiolo, an Asian caterer, a paella merchant, an olive merchant, a fishmonger and a butcher are the food shops present on a weekly basis. Most of the merchants are local, the sale is direct and it is a good way to stock up on fresh, quality produce.

Six ready-to-wear shops, a shoe merchant, a haberdashery and a florist complete the range of services for residents. The list of these businesses may change over time. Parking lots are nearby

Events and festivities
“Festival under the pines” (music, voice and humor), every year in July for 28 years. In 2014, Roland Magdane, Michel Jonasz, Pascal Obispo, among others.
The gazelle cross: a cross organized every year, in October, for young people in elementary school and in kindergarten.
Family sports weekend, at the Jaï equestrian center, in conjunction with the Bouches-du-Rhône departmental Olympic sports committee.
“Arts en fête” exhibition-competition, in October, open to all artistic techniques.
American Fair: Festival of American culture which is organized every year in June.
Food Truck Festival.