A few kilometers past St. Malo, along France’s heralded Emerald Coast, exists a vastly unknown, nearly secretive little adventure most unlike any other. A whimsical, almost magical place that’s sure to entertain, sure to insight thought. It is an experience most certainly worthy of the short drive beyond St. Malo, in this northwest corner of France.
What is this place? It’s Les Rochers Sculptes of Rotheneuf. Also known as the Rock Sculptures of Rotheneuf, or the Rock Sculptures of Abbe Foure, these divine seaside sculptures carved into granite cliffs may not be the easiest to navigate to, but as they say, getting there is half the adventure. Prepare to be amazed!
Legends Of The Rotheneuf Rock Sculptures
The Rock Sculptures of Rotheneuf were carved by Abbe Adolphe-Julien Foure in the late 19th century. He began this lifetime of work shortly after he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed, and without hearing or speech. He was only 30 years old! Feeling isolated from the world, he retreated to the seaside cliffs along France’s Emerald Coast, where he found his inspiration, his purpose in life.
That inspiration was the powerful Rotheneuf family who lived along these very same cliffs and trolled the surrounding waters between the 15th and 18th centuries. That purpose was to tell the stories and legends of this infamous family of fishermen and sailors turned pirates and smugglers, through his carvings.
The Rotheneuf family created a coastal dynasty built upon fishing, piracy, and smuggling. They became a family of wealth, a family often feared. For over a century, members of the Rotheneuf family ruled this coastal region with sheer dominance and a healthy dose of fear, establishing their own laws for all to abide by. Until that fateful moment in time when everything – and everyone – turned against them.
Legends say that during the last battle between the Rotheneuf family and those intent on destroying them, a huge storm broke upon the battlefield. Waves crashed into shore and gathered the dead onto the nearby beach. Then, monstrous sea creatures rose up from the sea to feast upon the fallen. Thus was the grizzly ending of the Rotheneuf family and their supreme control over the region.
Over 300 carvings depict the lives and legendary tales of the infamous Rotheneuf family. Representing fishermen and sailors, pirates and smugglers, epic and mythical monsters, each carving intertwines with others to tell the tales that surround the Rotheneuf family.
It took Abbe Foure 25 years to carve these magnificent, almost mythical, sometimes grotesque, often bizarre faces and figures into the granite cliffs overlooking the Atlantic ocean. His only assistant throughout the years was an elderly man. An astounding feat!
Rotheneuf Rock Sculptures – An Adventure for Everyone
Whether 5 years old, or 85 years old, Rotheneuf’s Rock Sculpures are both entertaining and enlightening. Visitors to this relatively unknown gem along France’s Emerald Coast can explore history and see legends come to life.
Kids, and the kids at heart, will find these whimsical carvings enchanting in a grotesque kind of way. Walk down to the beach below, and look up upon the works of this master carver. Imagine what it must have been like to be partially paralyzed, yet somehow able to climb up and down the cliff, carving tools in hand.
Purchase the guide booklet available at the entrance. It will be an invaluable resource in telling the story of the Rotheneuf Rock Sculptures. Read about different family members, then search for them among the carvings. Great fun for the whole family!
Getting To Les Rochers Sculptes of Rotheneuf
Le Rochers Sculptes Rotheneuf is a short yet beautiful drive heading northeast of St. Malo. The entrance is along the coastal headlands between Le Val and Le Havre beaches. Look for Rue de l’Abbe Foure to indicate your turn into the Rock Sculptures. The official map address is Chemin des Rochers Sculptes, 35400 Saint-Malo, France.
You will know you are close when you see Le Benetin restaurant, a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 2014 award winning restaurant, and a great place to stop for lunch and to further enjoy the dramatic views of the Emerald Coast.
The Rock Sculptures are open daily, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. There is a nominal entrance fee, payable at the gate. Because Rotheneuf does not actively promote the Rock Sculptures, it’s not likely to be crowded, either in the parking lot nor along the sculptures themselves.
Have You Been To The Rotheneuf Rock Sculptures?
This little gem of an historical site should not be missed. It was most certainly a highlight of our day in the Saint Malo area, and quite possibly might be yours. And to think that a deaf, partially paralyzed man did all this work. Just, wow!
How about you? Did you enjoy this photo-montage of a most unique destination?
Have you been to the Rock Sculptures of Rotheneuf? Did you think it was worth the drive from Saint Malo? Are the Rock Sculptures now on your destination “wish list” for future travel? Do share!
Map to The Rock Sculptures of Rotheneuf: