Saint-Malo, the city of corsairs, is protected by the most extraordinary maritime fortifications, designed by Sebastien Vauban, Louix XIV's royal architect, at the end of the 17th century. These "ships of stone" have inspired the imagination of some of the great authors of French literature.
Sebastien Vauban and the maritime fortifications
There are many outposts around Saint-Malo, built to defend the kingdom of from English and Dutch invasion. Louis XIV entrusted Sébastien Vauban with the protection of the French coasts. The works of civil engineering were carried out by Ludovic Garangeau, appointed "chief engineer and director of the fortifications of Saint-Malo". The citadels built on rocks, extending out into the sea, testifying to the genius of the engineers of the sun king.
The Fort National, at the foot of the ramparts
On the Islet rock, the Fort Royal stands, built in 1689 by Garangeau, according to the plans of Sebastien Vauban, Louix XIV's royal architect. It protected the ramparts of the Corsair City, and can be visited by foot at low tide. If you see the French flag hoisted on the fort, it means it is open to visitors!
The fort of Petit-Bé
More discreet, the Fort of Petit-Bé, nestled behind the island of Grand-Bé, was completed in 1707, after the death of Sebastien Vauban. It has been restored by a local man, passionate about maritime fortifications. Access by foot or by boat depending on the tides. Visits are possible throughout the year.
La Conchée fort, off Saint-Malo
Further out to sea, four kilometres from the shore, facing the large beach of Rochebonne, is the fort of Conche. This 65-meter-long and 32-meter-wide 'ship of stone' had a garrison of 200 men. Since 1989, it has belonged to La Compagnie du Fort Conche, which has already restored more than 80% of the building. because of the difficulty getting to and from the fort, it is open to the public on only two days a year, for the Heritage Days festival. Otherwise, enjoy a virtual tour of the Fort de la Conchée on the monument's website.
Some legendary explorers have come from Saint-Malo, such as Jacques Cartier, the "discoverer of Canada" or Commander Charcot, who explored Antarctica.
Jacques Cartier is the most famous French sailor of the Renaissance. The "discoverer of Canada", born in Saint-Malo in 1491 was the son of local fishermen. He began his career as a sailor and then as a master pilot before being promoted to captain by King François I, who entrusted him with two missions - to explore the Northwest Passage to Asia, and to find new lands rich in gold and other treasures and install a French trading colony. It was on this journey that he approached the shores of Newfoundland in 1534 marking the beginning in the colonisation of "New France."
Jean-Baptiste Charcot, doctor and explorer of the polar zones, left his mark on the history of Saint-Malo, sailing from the Corsair City on expeditions to Antarctica. In 1903 he built Le Français, a three-masted schooner, 98 feet long, in Saint-Malo, and mounted the first French expedition to Antarctica. The scientific discoveries he made were remarkable, including 1,000 kilometres of rugged coastline and 75 observation boxes for the National Museum of Natural History.
Skippers and sailors of modern times
Some sailors famous in their sporting world have chosen Saint-Malo and the Baie du Mont-Michel as their home port, for example Gilles Lamiré, trimaran skipper and Thibault Vauchel-Camus.
ome well-known names in the French sailing community were born in Saint-Malo, including the Escoffier family, and the leaders of the Energy Observer, expedition, Victorien Errussard and Jérome Delafosse.
Servane Escoffier started the competition with her father Bob, and became famous during her two Route du Rhum races. In 2010, she came in 2nd place behind the winner Franck Cammas.
The literature of Saint-Malo
Chateaubriand, the romantic
The birthplace of Chateaubriand, where he was born in 1768, is today a three-star hotel, the Hôtel de France. You can admire the portrait of Chateaubriand painted by Anne-Louis Girodet, at the Museum of History.
The most important work of this writer and politician, born in Saint-Malo is, without question, the Mémoires d'outre-tombe (Memoirs from Before the Grave). The first books recount his childhood in the Breton nobility in Saint-Malo.
Chateaubriand had asked to be buried on the island of Grand-Bé, and you can visit his final resting place near the cliff. It is classified as a historical monument.
The writer Olivier Adam came from the Paris region to settle in Saint-Malo for a decade with his partner and two children, a time he writes about in Des Vents Contraires published in 2009.
The Étonnants Voyageurs Festival
The "Étonnants Voyageurs" Book and Film Festival was created in 1990 in Saint-Malo. It brings together 200 to 300 writers each year and attracts more than 60,000 visitors.
Meetings, debates, readings, documentary films, fiction workshops and exhibitions contribute to the liveliness of the event. The festival takes place during 3 days in May, in different venues around the Corsair City.