Day Tripping: Rothéneuf’s Rock Sculptures

Angry Husband and Cheating Wife

France is freezing right now but that’s no reason not to get out for a quick trip if you’re nicely bundled up!  If you’re visiting Saint Malo and want to see some original artwork head over to Rothéneuf.  Rothéneuf is only 5km from Intra-Muros (Saint-Malo’s walled city) and makes a quick side trip.  Come and admire Abbé Fouré’s rock sculptures!

Abbé Fouré (1839-1910) was a French priest and “naif” artist.  After a stroke left him partially paralyzed, mute and deaf at 55, Fouré ceased active parish work and retreated to Rothéneuf.  There he devoted his life to prayer and carving.  Living as a quasi-hermit, Fouré turned to sculpture and carved the granite cliffs of Rothéneuf into over 300 different statues.  Working for over 25 years, Fouré created his own testament.  Today the rochers sculptés de Rothéneuf as they are known in French let you can see the entire world through his eyes.  Angry husbands and cheating wives (see above–I can’t help but laugh), sea dragons, angels, animals and even Lucifer himself emerge from the granite.   You reach the sculptures via steps carved into the cliff.  The sculptures are “rough” like the sea and have been battered by the elements since their creation.  (Do not expect to see a Michelangelo here!)  Erosion has already claimed several of Abbé Fouré’s creations.  Fouré also carved a number of wood sculptures, however, the majority were lost in a fire.

Sea Monster with the Last of the Rothéneuf Family

The Abbé also took care to carve the story of the Rothéneuf family into stone.  The Rothéneuf family, for whom the area is named,  were a prominent local buccaneer family from the 15th-18th century.  Not all of the family came to a happy ending–Fouré carved the last of the family being devoured by a sea monster.  Laura and Elise loved climbing among the sculptures and pointing out the ones that caught their attention.  You don’t need to spend a lot of time here to appreciate Fouré’s oeuvre.  If you’re looking for a nice way to end your afternoon or a short visit to start your evening, the sculptures are a good choice.  Admission is 2.50€.  Even if you come to the sculptures by hiking the free coastal paths, the person manning the admission booth will insist that you pay to continue for the stretch that includes the sculptures.  There is a small free parking lot near the sculptures for those coming by car.  The site is open from 9-20:00 during the summer and from 10-17:30 the rest of the year.    You can also buy a booklet at the entrance which gives additional information on each of the statues and what it represents.  As half the fun is trying to decide what everything is, there’s really no need to buy it unless you’re looking for a souvenir and your cameras batteries are dead!

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One Response to Day Tripping: Rothéneuf’s Rock Sculptures

  1. Françoise Genty says:

    A very good comment on your visit to the Rochers sculptés. I will just add some info about the work of the Abbé and his life. He really worked on those rocks 13 to 15 years, not 25 as it has been wrongly claimed for years by the owner of the rocks who ask people to pay for the visit. The Hermit of Rothéneuf was priest during 31 years, then he retired in Rothéneuf in 1894 when he started to carve the rocks. He had difficulties hearing after a stroke but could well have conversations with journalists who came from England to talk with him. The story carved in the rocks picture a family who never existed apart in the Abbé’s mind, but he used them to illustrate some facts happening at the time. An association has been working since 2010 to find information on his life and on his work. They are actually working to protect the site. If you are interested, look for them as a big exhibition will take place in Brest soon. They have a BLOG and are on facebook too

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