Centre International de la Mer at Rochefort – our marine heritage
The sea and its relationship with humans is always fascinating, always mysterious. The Centre International de la Mer, based at the Corderie Royale at Rochefort, aims to explore and explain some of those mysteries.
First of all, it has to said that the international sea centre is set in wonderful surroundings. This is the Corderie Royale (the Royal ropeworks) , which once upon a time was the place where ropes were made for the country (very important for ships' rigging!)., and which was built in 1669 on the orders of King Louis XIV and his minister Colbert. This purpose explains the distinctive long, thin shape of the building – it stretches for 374 metres - the southern part of which the Centre International de la Mer occupies.
The international sea centre was established in 1985 and houses both permanent and temporary exhibitions, as much information as you could want to know about rope-making and rigging, and a specialist maritime library. Themes have included the story of fishing, the great writers on the sea – especially the peerless Joseph Conrad – and the reconstruction work on the nearby Hermione project.
The big exhibition until the end of 2011 is called La Mer à l'Encre – a fascinating history of three centuries of maritime navigational maps from the beginning of the 16th to the end of the 18th century. This was a period when the accuracy of a map was literally a matter of life or death.
One of the centrepieces of the exhibition is a collection of 29 maps drawn up under the orders of Colbert in the 17th century and which was an atlas of the coastlines of Europe. The other is a video where the viewer finds him or herself of the bridge of a ship caught in a debate between a cartographer and their calculations and a worried ship's captain who has to deal with the real obstacles ahead...
The centre also holds occasional workshops, for example, on tying knots. Check out the Centre International de la Mer website for more details. There is also a shop to buy souvenirs, books and CDs, and a restaurant called Les Longitudes.
The Centre International de la Mer is open all-year round except for about six weeks at the beginning of the year.
February 11 to March 31 and October to December: 10am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 5.30pm
April to June, and September: 10am to 7pm
NB depending on school holidays in some years it does open for one or two days in January too.
Audio guides in English are available.
Children under 6 – free
Young person (aged 6-15) €5
The International sea centre works closely with the nearby Hermione replica construction project and joint tickets are available.
Children under 6 – free
Young person (aged 6-15) €9
Adult € 16
La Corderie Royale Centre International de la Mer
Rue Audebert BP 50 108
Tel : 05 46 87 01 90
Les Longitudes restaurant
Tel: 05 46 87 56 15.
Main photo: S. Roussillon/CIM.