The Cordouan lighthouse
CAP ROYAL owes its name to the Cordouan lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in Europe.
A lighthouse steeped in history…
The mouth of the Gironde estuary has always had a bleak reputation. The perilous nature of this area led it to be known as a marine cemetery. Since ancient times, however, hermits traditionally lit fires for the sailors and prayed for their souls on the island of Cordouan…
Several edifices were built in the sea at the current location of Cordouan, before being recorded in any historical documents.
“La Tour aux Anglais”
A light tower was built around the year 1360, known as the “Tour aux Anglais”. The Black Prince (Edward Prince of Wales), head of the English armies who were occupying Guyenne at the time, ordered that the mouth of the Gironde be made secure. The original Cordouan lighthouse was therefore built, a 16 metre high polygonal tower with a platform from which a hermit was responsible for burning a nocturnal fire. The original lighthouse has evolved over the centuries to become the lighthouse we know today.
“Versailles of the sea”
It was classed as a historical monument in 1862, at the same time as the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, and is now listed as a Historical Monument. It is also a candidate for entry into the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2017.
The Cordouan lighthouse is one of a kind and its grand architecture has seen it become known as the “Versailles of the Sea”.
It was therefore known as the “King of Lighthouses” and the “Lighthouse of Kings”.