Lighthouses of France: Charente-Maritime

This page includes lighthouses of the west coast of France in the département of Charente-Maritime. Located in the historic region of Saintonge, this coast lies between the Loire and the Gironde and faces the Bay of Biscay (also known in France as the Golfe de Gascogne), the arm of the Atlantic between the peninsulas of Brittany and Spain. Unlike the rocky and deeply-indented coast to the north, this is a relatively low, sandy coast. The historic port and naval base of La Rochelle is an important destination for shipping in this area. The southern end of the region borders the north side of the Gironde estuary, which leads to the major port of Bordeaux.

The French word for a lighthouse, phare, is often reserved for the larger coastal lighthouses; a smaller light or harbor light is called a feu (literally "fire," but here meaning "light"). The front light of a range (alignement) is the feu antérieur and the rear light is the feu postérieur.

Aids to navigation in France were regulated for many years by the Bureau des Phares et Balises. This venerable agency has been absorbed as the office of Maritime Signalization (Signalisation Maritime) within Ecology, Infrastructure and Energy Ministry (Ministère de l'Écologie, du Développement Durable, et de l'Énergie). However, many of the lights are actually operated by the transport ministries or port authorities of the departmental governments.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from volume D of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 113.

General Sources
Phares d'Europe
A portion of a large, well known site maintained by Robert Guyomard and Carceller.
Phares de France
Another large and well known site, this one by Jean-Christophe Fichou.
Ministère de la Culture - Phares
Historical data on more than 180 French lighthouses, with photos of most of them.
Phares et Balises: Silhouettes
Photos and information posted by M. Mocquant.
Phareland, le Site des Phares de France
This comprehensive site has good photos and information about the major lighthouses.
Lighthouses in Charente-Maritime
Photos available from Wikimedia.
Leuchttürme.net - La Vendée, Charente-Maritime
Photos and notes by Malte Werning.
Phares et feux des Charentes
Historic postcard views posted by Michel Forand.
Lighthouses in France
Aerial photos posted by Marinas.com.
Online List of Lights - France - Atlantic Coast
Photos by various photographers posted by Alexander Trabas; many of the photos of Charente lighthouses were contributed by Arno Siering.
Société Nationale pour le Patrimoine des Phares et Balises (S.N.P.B.)
The French national lighthouse preservation organization.
Französische Leuchttürme
Historic photos and postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.


Phare de Chassiron, Île d'Oléron, May 2005
Flickr Creative Commons photo
by Arnaud Malon

Gironde Estuary Lighthouses (see also Aquitaine)

Note: The Gironde is a broad estuary, the lower course of the combined Garonne and Dordogne Rivers. 65 km (38 mi) long and 3–11 km (2–7 mi) wide, the estuary leads to the port of Bordeaux.
Saint-Fort-sur-Gironde Beacon
[Fanal de Beaumont]
Date unknown. Approx. 9 m (30 ft) round strongly conical stone tower, painted white. Wikimedia has a closeup photo, a panoramic view is available, and Bing has a satellite view. All sources agree that this tower is of ancient origin, possibly Roman. Some sources claim that fires were lit at its apex, but this seems impossible; more likely it was always a daybeacon. According to some sources it was a phare à fumeé (a smoke signal); during the daytime a fire was lit inside and the smoke helped guide vessels. It appears that the tower has been restored recently. Located on a bluff above the village of Beaumont, near St.-Romain-sur-Gironde. Site open, tower closed.

Saint-Georges-de-Didonne Lighthouses
* [Suzac ("Phare aux Lapins") (feu antérieur)]
Station established 1860. Inactive since 1969. Huelse has a postcard view of the original lighthouse, which carried the front light of the St.-Georges-de-Didonne range, and Forand has a postcard view of the Fresnel lens. This lighthouse was destroyed in World War II; it was replaced by a wooden beacon. In 1957 the range light was replaced by a directional light on a tall square skeletal tower. This tower has been demolished, but a keeper's house survives. Google has a satellite view of the area, but the location of the house is not known. Located on a promontory in the Forêt de Suzac, about 2.5 km (1.5 mi) southeast of St.-Georges-de-Didonne. Site open. ARLHS FRA-333.
*** Saint-Georges-de-Didonne (feu postérieur) (Pointe de Vallières) (2)
1901 (station established 1860). Inactive since 1969. 29 m (95 ft) square masonry tower with lantern and gallery. The lighthouse was orginally painted white, but most of the paint has peeled off the stones. A photo is at right, Olivier Capel has a 2008 photo, a second photo is available, French Wikipedia has a page for the lighthouse, the town of Royan's historical museum also has a page, Huelse has a historic postcard view, Google has a distant street view, and Bing has a satellite view. This was the rear light of a downstream (westbound) range guiding ships toward the port of Royan. Its present use is not known. Located on the Pointe de Vallières, a promontory in St.-Georges-de-Didonne, about 5 km (3 mi) southeast of Royan. Site open, tower open in July and August and by prior arrangement at other times. ARLHS FRA-476.

Royan Lighthouses
* Royan Jetée du Sud (3)
1954 (station established 1899). Active; focal plane 11 m (36 ft); two red flashes every 10 s. 10 m (33 ft) round cylindical masonry tower with a gallery on top and a circular balcony at the watch room level; the light is displayed from a small lantern on the balcony, not at the top of the tower. The tower has a red brick band at the base; the rest of the tower is painted white. Guyomard and Carceller have good photos of this rather unusual lighthouse, another photo is available, Trabas has a closeup photo by Siering, Forand has a historic photo, and Bing has a satellite view. Forand also has a postcard view of the original lighthouse and a photo of the temporary tower employed after World War II. Located at the end of the breakwater mole enclosing the harbor of Royan. Excellent view from ferries crossing the Gironde from Royan to Pointe de Grave on the south shore. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-464; Admiralty D1304; NGA 1536.
Phare de Vallières
Pointe de Vallières Light, St.-Georges-de-Didonne, July 2010
Wikimedia Creative Commons photo by Cobber17
* Saint-Pierre (feu postérieur) (4)
1962 (station established 1873). Active; focal plane 61 m (200 ft); quick-flashing red light, intensified on the range line. Circular watch room with the light on a short mast, mounted atop a tall vase-shaped water tower. Water tower is gray; watch room and light structure painted red. Trabas has Siering's photo, Google has a street view, and Bing has a satellite view. Huelse has a postcard view of the original lighthouse, a 35 m (115 ft) square masonry tower. The tower was destroyed by German troops in 1944. A temporary post light (1948) was replaced by a more permanent structure in 1960, but only two years later a shift in the channel forced the removal of the light to the top of the water tower. Located on the Rue de Clouzit, on a hill on the north side of Royan, 1.8 km (1.1 mi) northeast of the front lighthouse (next entry). Site open, tower closed. Admiralty D1312.1; NGA 1512.
* Le Chay (feu antérieur) (5)
1960 (station established 1873). Active; focal plane 33 m (108 ft); quick-flashing red light, intensified on the range line. 15 m (49 ft) round cylindrical tower with lantern and gallery; the light is displayed through a square window of the lantern room. Tower painted white, lantern and gallery red. Trabas has Siering's photo, Guyomard and Carceller have good photos, Huelse has a postcard view, Google has a street view, and Bing has a satellite view. The Chay range guides ships into the Gironde through the Passe du Sud channel, used mostly by fishing boats and smaller vessels. An unlit tower was built in 1772. Huelse has a postcard view of the second (1873) tower. The 1873 lighthouse had to be abandoned in 1897 when the bearing of the channel changed; Forand has a postcard view of the replacement lighthouse. During World War II, German troops heavily damaged the tower, and a British air raid finished it off. A temporary post light was used until the present tower was built. Located on the Rue du Phare du Chay in Royan. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-582; Admiralty D1312; NGA 1508.

Saint-Palais-sur-Mer Lighthouses
* Terre-Nègre (St.-Palais-sur-Mer) (feu antérieur) (2)
1856 (station established 1807?). Active; focal plane 39 m (128 ft); white, red, or green light, depending on direction, occulting three times every 12 s. 27 m (89 ft) round masonry tower with lantern and gallery, rising from the center of a 1-story keeper's house complex. Tower painted white with a vertical red stripe facing the range line on the upper third of the tower; lantern and gallery painted red. Trabas has Siering's photo (also seen at right), Arnaud Malon has a good photo, a third photo is available, Huelse has a historic postcard view, Google has a street view, and Bing has a satellite view. The history of this station is not clear. According to Fichou's account, the first tower here was built in 1772, but it was apparently not lit. Guyomard and Carceller agree with J.W. Vaur that the first light was in 1807; Fichou does not mention this. Vaur and Guyomard and Carceller also date the present tower to 1838, which seems unlikely. Fichou says the 1772 tower was raised in height and fitted with a 4th order lantern in 1838, and the present lighthouse was built in 1856. From 1852 to 1902 this was the rear light of a range, with La Falaise as the front light. Since 1960 it has served as a front light of a range with the rear light on the Palmyre tower (next entry). Located close to the D25 highway on the west side of Saint-Palais-sur-Mer. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-503; Admiralty D1294.1; NGA 1496.
Feu de Terre-Nègre
Terre-Nègre Light, Saint-Palais-sur-Mer, 2011
photo copyright Arno Siering; used by permission
* La Palmyre (feu postérieur) (4)
1960 (station established 1870 but inactive 1895-1932). Active; focal plane 57 m (187 ft). 36 m (118 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower, unpainted, topped by a platform and a large communications antenna. This tower carries two rear range lights. The upstream (eastbound) Palmyre range light is quick-flashing white, intensified on the range line; the downstream (westbound) Terre-Nègre range light is continuous red, also intensified on the range line. Trabas has Siering's photo, and Google has a satellite view. Fichou discusses the complex history of this station, which required several drastic changes to respond to shifts in the deepwater channel of the Gironde. Huelse has a postcard view of the original lighthouse, a cast iron tripod tower. Although it was deactivated in 1895, this interesting tower stood until it was destroyed by German troops in 1944. The lighthouse is built near the center of the Parc de Loisirs, a large park on the north bank of the Gironde just west of St.-Palais-sur-Mer. This location is 2 km (1.2 mi) west of the front range. Located off the D25 highway about 6.5 km (4 mi) west of La Palmyre and 5 km (3 mi) northwest of Saint-Palais-sur-Mer. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-381; Admiralty D1294; NGA 1492.
La Palmyre feu antérieur (4?)
1979. Active; focal plane 21 m (69 ft); white light, 2 s on, 2 s off, intensified on the range line; also a passing light (2 quick white flashes every 5 s) at a focal plane of 10 m (33 ft). 27 m (88 ft) skeletal structure mounted on a square platform supported by piles. Entire structure painted white. A good photo is available, Trabas has Siering's photo, and Google has a satellite view. Fichou discusses the complex history of this range, which required several drastic changes to respond to shifts in the deepwater channel of the Gironde. Located about 800 m (1/2 mi) offshore and 4 km (2.5 mi) northwest of Saint-Palais-sur-Mer. Admiralty D1293.9; NGA 1488.

La Palmyre (Les Mathes) Lighthouse
**** Pointe de la Coubre (4)
1905 (station established 1830). Active; focal plane 64 m (210 ft); two white flashes every 10 s; also at 42 m (138 ft) a continuous red or white light, depending on direction. 65 m (213 ft) round reinforced concrete tower, tapered at the base, with lantern and gallery; 1st order Fresnel lens. Gallery and upper third of the tower painted red, lower 2/3 white; the lantern dome is black. A photo is at right, a good closeup photo is available, Trabas has a photo by Siering, French Wikipedia has a page for the station, and Google has a satellite view and a distant street view. Huelse has a postcard view showing the 1860 and 1895 lighthouses. This light station guards the entrance to the Gironde and serves along with the Cordouan light (see the Aquitaine page) as a landfall light for Bordeaux. The site is subject to rapid beach erosion. The 1830 lighthouse was abandoned in 1860 when it was about to fall in the sea; it was replaced by a square pyramidal skeletal tower that was regarded as a temporary light. In 1895 a 53 m (174 ft) stone tower was placed in service, but it was built much too close to the water and was quickly endangered. The present lighthouse was built 1.5 km (1 mi) from the shore and just in time; the 1895 lighthouse collapsed into the surf in May 1907. Forand has historic postcard views of the 1895 lighthouse just before and after its collapse, and of the 1905 lighthouse during its construction. A 1920 view shows the tower with a black or red vertical stripe. Erosion has brought the shore to less than 200 m (650 ft) of the present lighthouse, as seen in the aerial photos posted by Marinas.com. It may have to be moved, a project that would eclipse the famous 1999 relocation of the Cape Hatteras Light (see the North Carolina page). Located off the D25 coastal highway about 4 km (2.5 mi) west of La Palmyre. Site open, tower open for climbing. ARLHS FRA-133; Admiralty D1290; NGA 1476.
Phare de la Coubre
Pointe de la Coubre Light, La Palmyre, August 2006
Flickr Creative Commons photo
by ggallezot

La Tremblade Daybeacon
* [Tour du Gardour (2)]
1952 (station established 1873). 12 m (39 ft) square steel skeletal tower carrying a vertically slatted daymark in the shape of the letter T. A 2011 photo is available, Jean Pierre Poujol also has a photo, French Wikipedia has an article with a photo, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. This well known beacon marks the highest point of the Charente coast. Forand has a historic postcard view of the original robust stone beacon. This tower was blown up by German troops in 1945. In 2011, area residents were alarmed when port authorities applied for a permit to demolish the 1952 beacon as being unnecessary in the GPS age. Following public protests, the authorities have now agreed to restore and preserve the tower. Located on a hilltop in the Forêt de la Coubre, just off the D25 highway, about 2.5 km (1.5 mi) from the coast in La Tremblade. Site open, tower closed.

Île d'Oléron Lighthouses

Note: The Île d'Oléron is the largest of the islands of France's Atlantic coast, about 34 km (21 mi) long and as much as 12 km (7.5 mi) wide. The island is connected to the mainland by a bridge on the D26 highway.
La Cotinière Lighthouse
* La Cotinière
1899. Active; focal plane 11 m (36 ft); red light occulting once every 4 s. 11 m (36 ft) round cylindrical masonry tower with lantern and gallery, painted white; lantern and gallery painted red. Trabas has Siering's photo, Werning has a fine photo, Pierre Maura has a closeup, Michel Chanaud has a closeup photo, Guyomard and Carceller also have photos, Forand has a historic postcard view, Google has a street view across the harbor, and Bing has a satellite view. La Cotinière is a port in the center of the southwest side of the island. Located at the elbow of the Grand Jetée on the west side of the harbor. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-252; Admiralty D1286; NGA 1456.

Saint-Dénis d'Oléron Lighthouses
*** Chassiron (2)
1836 (station established 1685). Active; focal plane 50 m (164 ft); white flash every 10 s. 46 m (151 ft) round stone tower with lantern and gallery, rising from the center of a circular 2-story keeper's house. Lighthouse painted with black and white horizontal bands; the lantern is black and the keeper's house is white. Arnaud Malon's photo is at the top of the page, Werning has an excellent photo, Trabas has Siering's photo, Google has a street view, and Bing has a satellite view. The first lighthouse at this historic station was a 27 m (89 ft) brick tower built by François de Ferry and designed to display two open fires, one above the other. The present lighthouse carries a historic hexagonal Fresnel lens, one of the oldest 1st order lenses in use. Huelse has a historic postcard view of the lighthouse before the black and white daymark was added. The lighthouse was staffed until 1999; since then the grounds and building have been managed by the town of St.-Denis-d'Oléron. Located at the northwestern tip of the Île d'Oléron, at the end of the D734 highway about 3 km (2 mi) west of St.-Denis-d'Oléron. Site open, tower open daily but the schedule varies with the season. ARLHS FRA-235; Admiralty D1270; NGA 1420.
La Cotinière Light
La Cotinière Light, La Cotinière, April 2012
Wikimedia Creative Commons photo
by Dimimis
Rocher d'Antioche (2)
1925 (station established 1858). Active; focal plane 20 m (66 ft); quick-flashing white light. 27 m (89 ft) round stone tower with lantern and gallery, painted yellow with a black baand at the top. Werning has a good photo, a 2008 photo is available, Trabas has Siering's view from shore, Forand has a historic postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. This was the last traditional waveswept tower built on the French coast; it replaced an inadequate skeletal beacon shown in a postcard view posted by Huelse. Located on a rocky reef about 2.5 km (1.5 mi) northeast of the Pointe de Chassiron. Accessible only by boat in dangerous seas. Site and tower closed. ARLHS FRA-508; Admiralty D1272; NGA 1416.

Château d'Oléron Lighthouses
Tourelle Juliard (Juliar)
1911 (tower built 1845). Active; focal plane 12 m (39 ft); three quick flashes every 10 s, white or green depending on direction. 21 m (69 ft) round tower with gallery and a modern solar-powered lantern, topped by a diamond-shaped daymarker on a short mast. Tower painted black with a single broad yellow band just below the gallery. Marc Houliez has a 2009 photo, another photo is available (1/5 the way down the page), Trabas has Siering's distant view, Forand has a historic postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. When the tower was lit, in 1911, it was substantially modified by increasing its height and building an expanded concrete base around the original stone foundation. Located on a reef (exposed at low tide) about 3.25 km (2 mi) northeast of Château d'Oléron. Accessible only by boat; there's a distant view from shore. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-652; Admiralty D1277; NGA 1428.
** Château d'Oléron (feu postérieur)
1862. Active; focal plane 24 m (79 ft); quick-flashing red light. 18 m (59 ft) round masonry tower with lantern and gallery. Tower painted white, lantern and gallery red. The keeper's house is in use as a tourist visitor center. Werning's photo is at right, Trabas has Siering's photo, another photo is available, Huelse has a historic postcard view, Google has a street view, and Bing has a satellite view. This lighthouse is built adjacent to the Château d'Oléron, a fortress built in the late 16th and early 17th centuries at the eastern point of the island, about 2.5 km (1.5 mi) north of the bridge from the mainland. Located at the end of the Allée du Phare in Château d'Oléron. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-647; Admiralty D1278.1; NGA 1436.
[Chateau d'Oléron feu antérieur (2)]
Date unknown (station established 1862). Active; focal plane 11 m (36 ft); quick-flashing red light. Light mounted atop a round, drum-shaped enclosure, painted white. A red daymark panel stands behind the light. Trabas has Siering's photo, another photo is available, Google has a street view, and Bing has a satellite view. This light replaced a lantern on a short tower, seen in a postcard view and a second view posted by Huelse. Located on the south side of the fort. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty D1278; NGA 1432.
Phare du Château d'Oléron
Château d'Oléron Light, Île d'Oléron
photo copyright Malte Werning; used by permission

Rochefort and La Rochelle Lighthouses

Charente Estuary Lighthouses
Note: The Charente estuary leads to the town of Rochefort; it is navigable only by smaller vessels.
* Port-des-Barques Feu Antérieur
1869. Active; focal plane 5 m (16 ft); green light, 2 s on, 2 s off. 6 m (20 ft) square masonry tower, painted white. No lantern; the light is displayed through a rectangular second-floor window. Werning has a photo, Trabas has Siering's photo, Google has a closeup street view, and Bing has a satellite view. Located on the south bank of the Charente, on the Boulevard de la Charente east of the Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Port-des-Barques. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-415; Admiralty D1264; NGA 1408.
* Port-des-Barques Feu Postérieur
1869. Active; focal plane 13 m (43 ft); green light, 2 s on, 2 s off. 16 m (52 ft) square masonry tower with a pyramidal roof. No lantern; the light is displayed through a rectangular second-floor window. Tower painted white with one black horizontal band on the front face. Trabas has Siering's closeup photo, Werning has a photo, another photo is available, Forand has a historic postcard view, Google has a street view, and Bing has a satellite view. Located on the Rue du Phare on the east side of Port-des-Barques. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-416; Admiralty D1264.1; NGA 1412.
* Soumard (Soumare) Feu Postérieur (2)
1948 (station established 1869). Active; focal plane 21 m (69 ft); quick-flashing red light, intensified on the range line. 23 m (75 ft) square concrete tower with a concrete watch room and a small modern lantern. Tower painted white; lantern, watch room, and a short horizontal bar at the top of the tower painted red. Werning has a good photo, Trabas has a closeup by Siering, Google has a very distant street view, and Bing has a satellite view. This range guides ships into the mouth of the Rivière Charente. The original lighthouse was destroyed by German troops in August 1944. Located on the north side of the Charente entrance, about 3 km (2 mi) southeast of Fouras. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-645; Admiralty D1257.1; NGA 1404.
* Soumard (Soumare) Feu Antérieur (2)
1948 (station established 1869). Active; focal plane 8 m (26 ft); quick-flashing red light, intensified on the range line. 9 m (29 ft) square concrete tower with a small modern lantern. Tower painted white; lantern and a short horizontal bar at the top of the tower painted red. Trabas has Siering's photo, Thierry Llansades also has a photo, Werning has a good photo taken from the rear of the lighthouse, and Bing has a satellite view. The original lighthouse was destroyed by German troops in August 1944. Located on the north side of the Charente entrance, 600 m (0.37 mi) west of the front light. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-644; Admiralty D1257; NGA 1400.

Île d'Aix Lighthouses
Fort Boyard
Date unknown. Active; focal plane unknown; nine quick white flashes every 15 s. Light mounted on a square platform on the south side of a historic fort. A photo of the platform and an excellent photo of the fort are available, and Google has a satellite view. Fort Boyard is located on a shoal halfway between the Île d'Oléron and the Île d'Aix. Construction was begin under Napolean in 1804, but most of the construction was done between 1837 and 1857. By the time the fort was completed it was obsolete militarily; it was used briefly as a prison in the 1870s. Located about 3.2 km (2 mi) southwest of the Île d'Aix. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. ARLHS FRA-287; Admiralty D1256.3; NGA 1385.
* Île d'Aix (3)
1889 (station established 1821). Active; focal plane 24 m (79 ft); flash every 5 s, white or red depending on direction. 17 m (56 ft) round tower with lantern and gallery. Tower painted white; lantern, gallery, and top of tower painted red. In 1906 a twin tower was built 15 m (49 ft) to the west northwest. This tower has a gallery but no lantern; instead it carries a curved red screen that creates a narrow red sector. Both towers are built on the ruins of a ancient fort. Jacques Froissant's photo is at right, another good photo is available, Trabas has Siering's distant view, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. The lighthouse was restored in a €300,000 project in 2013, repairing cracks in the masonry and replacing the optical system. A local preservation group, Sauvons le Phare, pushed the government to make this investment. The Île d'Aix is a crescent-shaped island, 3 km (2 mi) long and nowhere more than 700 m (0.45 mi) wide, about 3 km (2 mi) west of Fouras in the Pertuis d'Antioche. During the Middle Ages the island played a role in the struggles between England and France over control of neighboring coast of Saintonge. Today the island has a permanent population of less than 200. The island is accessible year-round by passenger ferry from Fouras; in the summer there is also ferry service from La Rochelle and Oléron. Bicycles are the usual mode of transportation on the island. The lighthouse is located on the walls of a fortress at the southern tip of the island. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-069; Admiralty D1256; NGA 1384.

Île d'Aix Light, Île d'Aix, August 2005
Flickr Creative Commons photo
by Jacques Froissant

La Rochelle Lighthouses
Pointe des Minimes: Le Phare au Bout du Monde (replica)
2000 (replica of 1884 lighthouse). Active; focal plane 8 m (26 ft); three flashes every 15 s, white or green depending on direction. 15 m (49 ft) 1-story octagonal wood keeper's house with a pyramidal roof, mounted on pilings. The light is mounted on the railing of the house. A photo and another closeup are available, Trabas has Siering's photo, Google has a distant street view from the shore, and Bing has a satellite view. During a three-month stay on the Isla de los Estados, northeast of Cape Horn, French adventurer André Bronner rediscovered the foundation ruins of an 1884 Argentine lighthouse, the Faro de San Juan de Salvamento, which was the inspiration for the Jules Verne novel Le Phare au Bout du Monde (The Lighthouse at the End of the World). Bronner organized the Association du Phare au Bout du Monde to reconstruct this lighthouse, and, with the help of the Argentine Navy, this was accomplished in 1998. In 2000, as a Millennium project, a second replica was built off the Pointe des Minimes on the south side of the entrance to La Rochelle. Accessible only by boat; good views from shore at the end of the Allée la Fortune. ARLHS FRA-601; Admiralty D1253; NGA 1360.
Tourelle Richelieu (2)
1955 (tower built 1915; station established 1863). Active; focal plane 10 m (33 ft); red flash every 4 s. 17 m (56 ft) round concrete tower with gallery but no lantern, painted bright red. Trabas has Siering's photo, Werning has a good closeup photo, and Bing has an aerial view. The Digue de Richelieu is a dam, exposed at low tide, built by Cardinal Richelieu during his successful siege of the city in 1627-28, during the wars of the Reformation. The dam constricts the entrance to the harbor to a width of about 100 m (110 yd). The north side of the entrance was long marked by a succession of wooden daybeacons. The original Tourelle Richelieu, a round stone tower, replaced these beacons in 1863, but it was destroyed when a fishing trawler ran it over on 21 January 1914. Huelse has a postcard view of the old tower, and Forand has a second postcard view that shows a fog bell on the tower. The present tower was modified in 1955 to include an octagonal room at the top housing a radiobeacon and fog signal (neither of which remains in use today). Located in the center of the harbor about 1.6 km (1 mi) west of the downtown quay. The best view is probably from the west jetty of the Port Des Minimes (next entry). ARLHS FRA-518; Admiralty D1250; NGA 1380.
* Port des Minimes Jetée de l'Ouest (Digue de Lazaret)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 17 m (56 ft); green flash every 6 s. 9 m (30 ft) round cylindrical tower with the light at the top, painted white with a green band at the top. Arno Siering's photo is at right, Trabas has a photo, Werning has a closeup photo, another photo is available, and Bing has an aerial view. Located on the west jetty of the Port des Minimes, a modern facility about 2.5 km (1.5 mi) southwest of the inner harbor of La Rochelle, off the end of the Quai de Lazaret. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-656; Admiralty D1254; NGA 1381.
* Port des Minimes Jetée de l'Est (Digue du Bout Blanc)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 6 m (20 ft); two red flashes every 6 s. 5 m (16 ft) round cylindrical equipment shelter with the light at the top, painted white with a red band at the top. Trabas has Siering's photo, and Bing has an aerial view. Located on the east jetty of the Port des Minimes. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty D1254.2; NGA 1382.
* La Rochelle Feu Antérieur
1852. Active; focal plane 15 m (49 ft); quick-flashing white light, visible only on or close to the range line, synchronized with the rear light. 14 m (46 ft) round cylindrical masonry tower with lantern and gallery. Tower painted white with three short horizontal red bars facing the range line; lantern painted red. Trabas has Siering's photo (also seen at right), Werning has a good closeup, Erik Coolen has another closeup photo, Huelse has a historic postcard view of the harbor showing both lights, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. This range guides ships into the historic inner harbor of La Rochelle. The red and white bands were added in 1955. Located on the Rue de l'Armide on the west side of the inner harbor. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-803; Admiralty D1251; NGA 1364.
La Rochelle Feu Antérieur
La Rochelle Feu Antérieur, La Rochelle, 2011
photo copyright Arno Siering; used by permission
* La Rochelle Feu Postérieur
1852. Active; focal plane 25 m (82 ft); quick-flashing white light, synchronized with the front light. 22 m (75 ft) octagonal cylindrical masonry tower rising through the front of a 2-1/2 story keeper's house. Tower painted white, lantern and gallery green. Werning's photo is at right, Trabas has Siering's photo, Erik Coolen has a closeup photo of the lantern, Forand has a historic postcard view, Huelse has a second historic postcard view of the harbor showing both lights, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. This slender lighthouse rises straight out of the city's historic waterfront. Locally it is called the phare blanc (white lighthouse). Located on the Quai Valin, at the east end of the inner harbor. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-340; Admiralty D1251.1; NGA 1368.
*** Tour de la Lanterne
1468. Inactive since 1627. 55 m (180 ft) medieval fortified stone tower; the lower 25 m (82 ft) is round cylindrical and the upper 30 m (98 ft) is an ornate octagonal spire. A 2012 photo is available, Forand has a historic postcard view, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. This is one of France's oldest lighthouses; lights were displayed here until Richelieu's siege. The tower was restored in 1910-14 and is a tourist attraction today. Located on the north side of the inner harbor. Site open; tower open daily.

La Pallice Lighthouses
Note: La Pallice is the modern port of La Rochelle, located on the northwest side of the city. Late in World War II, the German officers ordered to destroy the port refused to do so, leaving it as the only intact port of France. As a result, humanitarian relief and Marshall Plan shipments poured through this one port for several years in the immediate postwar period.
La Rochelle Feu Postérieur
La Rochelle Feu Postérieur, La Rochelle
photo copyright Malte Werning; used by permission
Le Lavardin
1888. Active; focal plane 14 m (46 ft); two flashes every 6 s, white or green depending on direction. 21 m (69 ft) round stone tower with gallery. Werning has a good photo, Trabas has a distant view, and Google has a satellite view. Huelse has a postcard view showing the lighthouse sometime after 1925. The original lantern was removed in that year and replaced with an acetylene-powered light. That apparatus was replaced in 1977 by a wind-powered light. This lighthouse and the Pointe de Chauveau lighthouse (see above) flank the approach to the harbor of La Pallice. Located about 1.5 km (1 mi) southwest of Chef-de-Baie, La Pallice. Accessible only by boat; there are distant views from shore. Site and tower closed. ARLHS FRA-646; Admiralty D1243; NGA 1352.
La Pallice (Jetée du Nord)
1891. Active; focal plane 10 m (33 ft); red light occulting twice every 6 s. 11 m (36 ft) round stone tower with lantern and gallery. Tower painted white, lantern and gallery red. Trabas has a good photo, Werning has a distant view, a 2008 closeup is available, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. An identical tower built at the same time on the south mole was demolished sometime after 1980 and replaced by a concrete post light. Located at the end of the north mole of La Rochelle's traditional harbor. Site and tower closed. ARLHS FRA-112; Admiralty D1245; NGA 1344.
#La Pallice Môle d'Escale (2)
Date unknown (recent). Active; focal plane 33 m (108 ft); quick-flashing light, white, red, or green depending on direction. 23 m (85 ft) square cylindrical skeletal tower, painted white. The tower is on the left in a 2006 photo and at the rear in a 2008 photo, and Google has a satellite view. Originally the light was on a square concrete tower rising from a multistory industrial and office building. French Wikipedia has a small photo, and Forand has a historic postcard view, but a 2009 photo shows this building being demolished. The mole was built in the 1930s and completed just before the outbreak of World War II; the light probably dates from shortly after the war. Located on the breakwater mole and wharf enclosing the north side of the extended harbor of La Pallice. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-275; Admiralty D1244; NGA 1328.

Île de Ré Lighthouses

Note: The Île de Ré is a low, sandy island about 25 km (15 mi) long, lying east to west just off the coast near La Rochelle. Joined to the mainland by a bridge on the D735 highway, the island is a very popular tourist destination.
Sainte-Marie-de-Ré Lighthouses
Pointe de Chauveau
1842. Active; focal plane 27 m (89 ft); white or red light, depending on direction, occulting three times every 12 s. 31 m (102 ft) round stone tower with lantern and gallery. Tower painted white; lantern, galley, and topmost section of tower painted red. Werning's photo is at right, Trabas has a photo, Bruno Chenevière has a 2008 photo, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a good satellite view. This lighthouse and its neighbor Le Lavardin (off La Pallice) are two of the first French lighthouses to be built in the open sea; both guard the approach to La Pallice and La Rochelle. Located about 1.2 km (3/4 mi) off the southeastern point of the Île de Ré. Good views from shore; with good timing it is possible to walk to the lighthouse at low tide. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-009; Admiralty D1238; NGA 1324.
Chanchardon
1919. Active; focal plane 15 m (49 ft); flash every 4 s, white or red depending on direction. 20 m (66 ft) octagonal granite tower with gallery; the original lantern was replaced in 1969 by a wind-powered light. NGA describes the tower as black with a white base. Trabas has a distant view, and Google has a distant satellite view. This lighthouse guides ships into the Pertuis d'Antioche, the sound between the Île de Ré and the Île d'Oléron. Located about 6 km (3.75 mi) off the south coast of the Île de Ré, between La-Courard-sur-Mer and Ars-en-Ré. Accessible only by boat; there are distant views from shore. Site and tower closed. ARLHS FRA-233; Admiralty D1240; NGA 1316.

Pointe de Chauveau Light
photo copyright Malte Werning; used by permission

Saint-Clément-des-Baleines Lighthouses
*** Les Baleines (1)
1682. Inactive since 1854. 27 m (89 ft) unpainted round stone tower with gallery, attached to a 1-story stone keeper's house. Lantern removed. J. Hache has a good photo, a closeup photo is available, the Phareland site has good photos, Marinas.com has aerial photos, and Bing has a satellite view. Huelse has a romantic postcard view of the abandoned tower a century ago; it is in much better condition today. Louis XIV's minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert ordered construction of this historic lighthouse in 1669 to guide ships to the newly established royal naval base at La Rochelle. The original light was a fish-oil lamp in a stone lantern. Following bitter complaints from mariners, this apparatus was replaced in 1736 by a stronger lamp in a cast iron lantern; the lantern seen in Huelse's view was installed in 1778. In 1949 the keeper's house became a school for lighthouse keepers; this school closed in 1970. The building was reopened as a museum in 2006. Located on the Pointe des Baleines (Point of Whales), the westernmost point of the Île de Ré. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-642.
**** Les Baleines (2)
1854 (station established 1682). Active; focal plane 53 m (174 ft); four white flashes every 15 s. 57 m (187 ft) octagonal limestone tower rising from the center of a 1-story keeper's house complex. 1st order Fresnel lens. Tower is unpainted gray stone; lantern painted red. Martin Röll's photo is at right, Werning has a fine photo, Trabas has Siering's excellent photo, the Phareland site also has good photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, Forand has a historic aerial photo, Google has a street view, and Bing has a satellite view. One of the most important French lighthouses, this magnificent tower was built by Jean-Baptiste Mady of La Rochelle. Today it is one of France's best known and most visited lighthouses. A tourist site has a nice page on the lighthouse. Located on the Pointe des Baleines (Point of Whales), the westernmost point of the Île de Ré. Site open, tower open for climbing daily year-round. ARLHS FRA-136; Admiralty D1218; NGA 1268.
Haut Banc du Nord (Les Baleineaux)
1854. Active; focal plane 23 m (75 ft); white light occulting twice every 6 s. 32 m (105 ft) round granite tower with gallery; lantern removed. The tower is unpainted stone. Trabas has a photo, Werning has a good photo, Matthieu Milliot has a photo, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. Located on a reef about 3 km (2 mi) northwest of the Pointe des Baleines. Accessible only by boat; there is a good but rather distant view from the Phare des Baleines. Site and tower closed. ARLHS FRA-002; Admiralty D1216; NGA 1260.
Phare des Baleines
1854 Grand Phare des Baleines, Île de Ré, October 2008
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Martin Röll

Ars-en-Ré Lighthouses
* Fier d'Ars Feu Antérieur (3)
1956 (station established 1875). Inactive. 5 m (16 ft) square masonry equipment room with the light mounted directly on the roof. No photo available. The active light (focal plane 5 m (17 ft); quick-flashing white light) is on a short concrete pillar. The Fier d'Ars is a narrow tidal channel linking Ars-en-Ré to the lagoon to the north. Located on the shoreline north of Ars-en-Ré. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-801; Admiralty D1223; NGA 1280.
* Fier d'Ars Feu Postérieur (1) (Trousse-Chemise)
1875. Inactive since 2007. 2-story masonry keeper's house; the light was shown from a window of a square tower at one end. The house is available for overnight accommodations. Forand has a historic postcard view, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. According to Fichou, the light had to be moved at least twice to keep up with the shifting location of the channel. Located on the north side of Ars-en-Ré. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-283; ex-Admiralty D1220.1.
* [Église Sainte-Étienne d'Ars-en-Ré]
1807. Octagonal pyramidal church steeple, upper half painted black, lower half white. A good photo and a closeup are available, Forand has a historic postcard view, Google has a street view, and Bing has a satellite view. The tall steeple, a conspicuous landmark on the low western end of the island, has carried this prominent daymark for two centuries; a view from the north shows how prominent the tower is. Located in center of the village of Ars-en-Ré. Site open, tower closed.

Saint-Martin de Ré and La Flotte Lighthouses
Les Islattes
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 13 m (43 ft); quick-flashing white light. 13 m (43 ft) round stone tower, painted white with a dark band at the top. Bruno Chenevière has a photo, Trabas has a photo, and the tower is barely visible in Google's satellite view. Located in the Pertuis Breton (Breton Sound) about 5 km (3 mi) northwest of St. Martin-de-Ré. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty D1224; NGA 1286.
* Saint-Martin-de-Ré (3)
1867 (station established 1826). Active; focal plane 18 m (59 ft); white or red light, depending on direction, occulting twice every 6 s. 13 m (43 ft) round masonry tower with lantern and gallery, painted white; lantern and gallery painted red. Werning has an excellent photo, Trabas has Siering's photo, Guyomard and Carceller have a series of photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Bing has a satellite view. The lighthouse stands near the late seventeeth century Citadelle de St.-Martin-de-Ré, one of the best preserved French fortifications of that era and a popular tourist attraction. Located in St.-Martin-de-Ré about 7 km (4 mi) west of La Flotte on the north side of the island. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-489; Admiralty D1226; NGA 1292.
* La Flotte
1849. Active; focal plane 10 m (33 ft); flash every 4 s, white or green depending on direction. 10 m (33 ft) round masonry tower with lantern and gallery, painted white; lantern and gallery painted green. Trabas has a photo (also seen at right), Guyomard and Carceller have photos, Werning also has a good photo, Huelse has a postcard view, Google has a distant street view across the harbor, and Bing has a satellite view. Located at the end of the mole at La Flotte, on the north side of the island. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS FRA-285; Admiralty D1230; NGA 1300.
La Flotte Light
La Flotte Light, La Flotte
photo copyright Arno Siering; used by permission

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Adjoining pages: North: La Vendée | South: Aquitaine

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Posted October 25, 2005. Checked and revised February 28, 2014. Lighthouses: 40. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.