Rochefort, Charente-Maritime

Rochefort, Charente-Maritime

French commune
canton=Chief town of 13 cantons
maire=Bernard Grasset
intercomm= Pays Rochefortais
alt moy=5 m
alt mini=0 m
alt maxi=29 m

Rochefort is a commune in western France, a seaport on the Atlantic Ocean. It is a sub-prefecture of the Charente-Maritime "département".


In December 1665 Rochefort was chosen by Jean-Baptiste Colbert as a place of "refuge, defense and supply" for the French navy. Its military harbour was fortified by Louis XIV's commissary of fortifications Vauban. Between 1666-1669 the king had the "Corderie Royale" (then the longest building in Europe) constructed to make cordage for French ships of war. The making of cordage ceased in 1867, and in 1926 the arsenal of Rochefort was closed. The building was burned by occupation forces in 1944 and left abandoned for twenty years. Today it has been restored for municipal and tourist purposes. Another infrastructure of early Rochefort from 1766 was its "bagne", a high-security penal colony involving hard labour. "Bagnes" were then common fixtures in military harbours and naval bases, such as Toulon or Brest, because they provided free labour.

Off Rochefort, from the island of Île-d'Aix where he had spent several days hoping to flee to America, Napoleon Bonaparte surrendered to Captain F. L. Maitland aboard HMS "Bellerophon", on July 17, 1815, ending the "Hundred Days".

Rochefort is a notable example of 17th-century "ville nouvelle" or new town, which means its design and building resulted from a political decree. The reason for building Rochefort was to a large extent that royal power could hardly depend on rebellious Protestant La Rochelle, which Cardinal Richelieu had to besiege a few decades earlier. Well into the 20th century, Rochefort remained primarily a garrison town. The tourist industry, which had long existed due to the town's spa, gained emphasis in the 1990s.


The town gained some fleeting fame with Jacques Demy's musical movie "Les demoiselles de Rochefort" ("The Young Girls of Rochefort") (1967), starring Catherine Deneuve, her slightly elder sister Françoise Dorléac, Gene Kelly and George Chakiris (Bernardo from West Side Story).

It is home to a unique style of bridge called a Transporter bridge, (built 1900) named "Pont transbordeur de Rochefort". []


Rochefort was the birthplace of:
* Charles Rigault de Genouilly (1807-1873), French admiral, conqueror of Vietnam.
* Pierre Loti (1850-1923), author. His house has been turned into a museum
* Pauline Réage, pseudonym of Anne Desclos (1907-1998), author
* Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908–1961), philosopher

Town Twinning

*flagicon|England Burton upon Trent, East Staffordshire, England
*flagicon|Spain Torrelavega, Cantabria, Spain
*flagicon|Germany Papenburg, Lower Saxony, Germany

Points of interest

* Conservatoire du Bégonia, the world's largest begonia collection
* Palmyre Zoo
* "L'Hermione", a replica of a 1779 frigate being built in the town

External links

* [ Town council website]

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