Some statistics :
Height 68 metres
Light range, approximately 40 km
Tower, cone-shaped with specially hewn stones
311 steps to reach the
Stone belt, circular bastion, 41 metres in diameter and 8,30
metres in height, which protects the building from the ocean
Stone jetty, 260 metres long to allow food and materials to be
brought to the lighthouse, approachable at low tide.
The lighthouse of
Cordouan was superbly restored some years ago and it is open to
visitors during the summer.
Organised boat trips from Royan and from the La Pointe de
Organised boat trips from Royan and from the La Pointe de Grave,
allow you to sail up to the lighthouse and there are also
excursions for visitors to land and visit the lighthouse. The crossing lasts
approximately half an hour, and when you land on the Island of
Cordouan you have to paddle barefoot for the last few metres.
Landing is possible only when the tide is low enough to reach
the sandbank that surrounds the rocky island on which the
lighthouse is built.
The visits are dependent on co-efficients and on schedules of
All this can seem a little complicated but these constraints
should not make you give up. A visit to Cordouan is a worthwhile
and unforgettable experience !
We recommend that you enquire about schedules with both
companies based in the harbour of Royan. During the peak season,
you can book your seat.
Phone . 05 46 05 30 93
Phone . 05 46 06 42 36
From the Pointe de Grave, Le
La Bohême II
Phone . 05 56 09 62 93 or 06 09 73 30 84
The trip lasts
approximately four hours, which leaves enough time to visit the
lighthouse and to enjoy the endlessly stretching sandbank, the
pervading peace and the incomparable light on the ocean.
Please, do not rush to the entrance of the lighthouse, instead,
make your own way along the sandbank, take advantage of the
pleasure of being in the sea and take time to look at the
reflection of the lighthouse from all angles in the puddles left
by the low tide.
Practical details, please, don't forget to take drinks and a
picnic because there's nothing available there to eat or drink.
to the Lighthouse of Cordouan
The King of
Lighthouses, the Lighthouse of Kings
Leaving the jetty, the platform of the circular bastion is
reached by going through a postern and up some steps.
On the first floor, one passes through a door which leads to the
hallway from which the stairs rise up to the lantern.
At each floor, it is possible to listen to a recorded commentary
which makes the visit more enjoyable.
Arriving at the room on the first floor, here is an extract from
what the recorded commentary invites us to discover:
"In the four corners
of this room, doors lead off to smaller rooms which were
used by the guards until 1790.
To the right, on entering, you will notice a door surmounted by
a beautiful feminine head, finely sculptured in the stone.
On both sides of the room, you can see two fountains in the form
of lions heads and made of bronze.
All the rainwater which
streams on to the lighthouse is returned into these fountains
and then stored beneath your feet.
This fresh water is
vital for the lighthouse keepers who stay day and night in the
lighthouse all the year round.
Every lighthouse keeper spends on average, half of the year in
the lighthouse and the other half off-duty.
The lighthouse keepers
have to tend the light during the night and day and take care of
such things as the generators which produce the electricity for
They are alternately, painters, glaziers,
carpenters, masons, electricians, mechanics, and every morning,
they send the weather report to the service of the "Phares et
Balises" based at Le Verdon-sur-Mer to inform sailors of the
Let's begin now climbing the 311 steps that lead to the top."
Do not be put off by
the impressive number of steps. Unlike other lighthouses, where
the stairs are endless, narrow and close against the wall, the
stairs of Cordouan are of the ornamental style with landings on
each floor allowing a break in the climb to the top, giving one
time to discover the treasures of the building.
Take time to look out through each window to see the lunar
landscape which spreads out below, as far as the eye can see.
the apartments of the King
2nd Floor: the Chapel
3rd Floor: the room of the Girondins
4th and 5th Floors: landings
Between 5th and 6th: The Watch Room
6th Floor: the lantern
The King’s appartment
The idea of the
lighthouse serving as a royal place of residence had been taken
into account by Louis de Foix when planning the building but in
fact, no king ever stayed in the lighthouse of Cordouan.
The room, arched and
paved with black and white marble, is decorated with the
monogram LMT of Louis XIV and Marie-Thérèse.
In the centre of the
room, an opening reminds one curiously that this is a lighthouse.
It is the central well by which the lighthouse keepers once
brought up the fuel necessary for the functioning of the lantern.
The chapel of Notre
The chapel is the most
impressive room, and the most unusual of the lighthouse.
surmounted by a vault with eight richly decorated bays.
Let's resume the text
of the comments made on this floor:
"The chapel Notre Dame
de Cordouan is the last room dating from the 17th
Century. Stained glass windows were produced by the famous
glassworker Lobin, in 1855.
He also restored the stained glass
windows of Notre-Dame de Paris.
It is interesting to note that the lighthouse of Cordouan was
classified a "Monument Historique" in 1862, at the same time as
Notre-Dame de Paris.
All around the room, badges framed by clusters of grapes recall
the regional coats of arms.
Those surmounted by the royal crown
are dedicated to Henry III and Henry IV. The ceiling is coffered,
directly cut into the stone and painted.
On March 2nd, 1584, in
the presence of the Marshal de Matignon and of Michel de
Montaigne, the order of the lighthouse of Cordouan was bestowed
on Louis de Foix, engineer-architect whose bust surmounts the
Louis de Foix dedicated all his fortune to the construction of
the lighthouse and died in 1602 before seeing it completed.
son succeeded him but ruined, he passed the task on to the works
foreman Beuscher, who finally completed the work in 1611 ; in
fact, 27 years after the signing of the contract.
Masses are still
celebrated in the lighthouse on special occasions such as
religious days or at baptisms or marriages. On leaving, take a
look at the impressive fonts.
Next stage, the room
of the "Girondins"
The room of the
"The room of the
Girondins", the first room constructed by the raising of the
tower under the direction in 1789 of the engineer Teulère.
This extra height of
the tower, gained by keeping the three lower levels, doubled the
height of the lighthouse and made it more visible to navigators.
To avoid weighing down
the foundations, Teulère decided to build a fine stone wall
strengthened by a stairway in the form of a vault at the
periphery to enforce the rigidity of the tower.
of this stair-vault with the floors at the various upper levels,
gives a remarkable appearance in the form of a heart, which can
be seen by looking upwards.
In the centre of the
vault-ceiling conjunction, a copper plaque commemorates these
It is possible to have
an idea of the difficulty of the construction work when one
realises that most of the stones make up the entire thickness of
the tower and are assembled in such a precise fashion that it is
impossible to slide the blade of a knife between the joints.
will also be interested to see all the sculptured pieces of
copper hardware which date from 1789.
For any further information, don't hesitate to ask the
As a reward for the
ascent, from the platform of the lantern there is a magnificent
view over the estuary of the Gironde, the Pointe de Grave and Le
Verdon-sur-Mer, the coast of Gironde, Soulac-sur-Mer,
L'Amélie-les-Bains, the coast of Charente- Maritime, from
Saint-Georges-de-Didonne to the forest of La Coubre.
A bit of history
The lighthouse of
Cordouan is the most unique of all the lighthouses. Unique in its isolation, it is built on a rocky island which is revealed
at low tide. Unique in its conception, because it was designed
for the functions of lighthouse, royal place of residence and
Many people tried to
characterise it by calling it the Dean of Lighthouses, the
Oldest Lighthouse in Europe, Versailles of the Sea, the King of
Lighthouses, the Lighthouse of Kings, …In 1862, it was one of
the first two French monuments, together with Notre-Dame de
Paris, to be classified "Monument Historique".
History tells us that
the name of Cordouan, in the Middle Ages, would have been
connected to Cordoba, further to the business connections
between the Moors of Cordoba and Bordeaux. A first tower would
have been built to guide the vessels. Then, the Black Prince
ordered a lighthouse to be built. At that time, in 1362, the
King of England, Edward III had grouped together all his
possessions in the Southwest in the vast Principality of
Aquitaine and had entrusted it to his eldest son, the Prince of
Wales, called the Black Prince.
Two Centuries later,
this 14th century tower was in poor condition and
during the reign of Henry III, it was decided to build a new
In 1581, the project was entrusted to the engineer Louis de Foix
and the works began in 1584. The project planned a tower with
In 1593, Henry IV who succeeded Henry III, approved a new
project, a room on the ground floor, the
appartment on the first floor, the chapel on the top floor.
Two hundred workers were on the construction site. The works
were finished in 1611, twenty seven years after they were begun.
The building was strengthened and restored during the reign of
In 1788 and 1789, the lighthouse was heightened by the engineer
Teulère, which changed it to its present shape. The three upper
floors were built in the style of Louis XVI whose sobriety
contrasts with the richness of the first floors.
In 1823, the first lens device with a revolving system,
developed by A.Fresnel, was first tried out at Cordouan.
In the19th Century, the light worked with
liquid petroleum gas. In 1950, the lighthouse was
electrified thanks to the installation of two generators.
If you wish, you can
The Association for the Protection of the Lighthouse of Cordouan
Office of Tourism of Le Verdon-sur-Mer
Rue François Le Breton
33123 Le Verdon-sur-Mer
Phone 05 56 09 61 78
You can also visit
The Museum of the Lighthouse of Cordouan
Situated in the municipality of Le Verdon-sur-Mer, near the
Pointe de Grave, the Lighthouse of Grave incorporated for some
years the museum of the Lighthouse of Cordouan.