Sister cities of Saintes, Charente-Maritime
Saintes (French: [sɛ̃t]) is a commune located in southwestern France, in Poitou-Charente and Charente-Maritime department of which it is a sub-prefecture. Its inhabitants are called Saintaises and Saintais.
In Roman times, the city was known as Mediolanum Santonum.
Saintes is the second city in Charente-Maritime, with 26,470 inhabitants in 2008; its metropolitan area, the second urban area in the department, counts 56,598 inhabitants.
Primarily built on the left bank of the river Charente, Saintes became the capital of the province of Saintonge under the Ancien Régime; it briefly became the prefecture of the department (then called Charente-Inférieure) during the territorial reorganization of 1790, until La Rochelle took its place in 1810. Even though it was but a subprefecture, Saintes was allowed to remain the center of the judiciary life in the department. In the last third of the 19th century, Saintes was chosen as the seat of the VIIIth arrondissement of the Chemins de Fer de l'État, which enabled an era of economic and demographic growth.
Saintes remains today an important hub of transportation ; it is also the economic heart of the center of the department. Its industry counts but a few companies (electronics industry, rail repair, construction of hoists), but the city is an important commercial (with the seat of Coop Atlantique) and tertiary center (administrative functions of state, criminal court and judicial activities, banks, schools, hospital).
Because of its noteworthy gallo-roman, medieval and classical heritage, Saintes is a popular touristic destination, member of the French Towns and Lands of Art and History since 1990. It has several museums, a theater, cinemas, and organizes numerous festivals. A European center of musical research and practice is located in the Abbaye aux Dames.
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