Port St Louis is situated at the mouth of the River Blavet and the port and the city of Lorient on the opposite bank of the river are all about trade.
The Citadelle, the fort at the mouth of the River Blavet, was originally built at the end of the 16C to safeguard Hennebont, ten miles up the river, and to safeguard trade on the river. In 1664 the site was renamed Port Saint Louis, after Louis XIII of France, and became the base of the East India Company. As in previous centuries the fort gave good defence, this time for the newly established town of Lorient which was suitable for ship-building.
The National Marine Museum in the Fort is dedicated to rescue at sea. The Captains of the Lifeboats were fine-looking men, highly decorated, and it was humbling to see the photographs and paintings of local people turning out in frighteningly stormy weather.
Also in the fort is the Museum of the East India Company which has a fascinating display of the goods which were imported into France by the Company ships, but also evidence of the slave trade. (In the 18C c.43,000 slaves were deported from Lorient.)
The strategic importance of the area was again evidenced in the 20C when a major German U-boat base was established in Lorient as part of the Atlantic Wall. We could see the bunkers from the fort but there was no time to visit on this occasion.
Another lovely day in Brittany exploring history on the River Blavet at Hennebont on market day and in Port St Louis – I can recommend this agenda if you are in the area!