Saint Honorat Island
Ile Saint Honorat - Provence Beyond
Saint Honorat, the smallest of the two Lerins Islands just off the coast of Cannes, is named after Saint Honoratus who established an abbey here in the year 410.
St Honorat is a quite, calm place to visit. There are no motor vehicules (with the exception of the occassional monastery tractor tending the vines), a rule of silence around the monastery and a rule of quiet for the island, and a limited number of visitors. Visitor limitation is controlled by the number of small ferry boats: 10 a day in the summer. [map]
A popular attraction of the island is strolling in a peaceful setting or using the small beaches and pretty little coves for sun bathing or snorkeling. The earthen roads (like forestry roads) circling and criss-crossing St Honorat are largely shaded, but are still somewhat hot and dusty during the summer months.
A "flying visit" to St Honorat would take about 3 hours, with a not-too-leisurely stroll around the entire island, a short visit to the monastery, and a quick picnic lunch. We did this once, taking the 11h00 boat out from Cannes and catching the 14h30 boat back again. For a more relaxed visit, not counting time spent swimming or sunbathing, you should take the better part of a day.
No Smoking - anywhere on the island.
No fires are allowed anywhere on the island (so no barbeques)
No loud noises allowed: no radios, no shouting, etc.
No picking flowers or plants allowed.
St Honorat Monastery
The 5th-century Lérins Abbey was founded by Saint Honoratus. Fortified in the 11th to 14th centuries, following years of Saracen invasions, and passing through various changes up to the Cistercian monastery created here in 1869.
Hot Cannonball Batteries
A cannon battery was installed on each end of the Ile St Honorat at the end of the 18th century (along with a pair on St Margurite island). Cannon range at that time was about 2000 meters.
Batterie des Républicains was built on the western end of the island in 1793, by the Chapelle de la Trinité [map], which served as the guard post.
Batterie des Brave Gens was built on the eastern end of the island in 1793, by the Chapelle Saint Caprais [map]. The Chapelle St Caprais was in ruins at that time, and the nearby Chapelle Saint Sauveur was used as the powder store.
At each of these two sites you can see the remains of a hot cannonball ovens (fours à boulets). These are stone and maconary kilns designed to heat cannonballs red-hot for a bit of added destruction for any ships they managed to hit. The kilns had a fire near the bottom. The cannonballs were inserted at the top to form a long sloping row down into the heat, and the red-hot projectiles were remove at the bottom.
History of Saint Honorat Island
Saint Honoratus settled on the island of Lerina at the end of the 4th century, and is sister moved onto the larger island of Saint Margurite. When enough followers had joined him, St Honoratus built his monastery, and that grew in importance until it became one of the most powerful in all Christendom.
Saint Algulf established a Benedictine Order in the monastery in 660 AD.
The island, along with the rest of the Mediterranean coast, suffered raids by Saracens and Genoese piates in the 8th century. Following attacks by Spaniards, and installation of military garrisons on the island, the monastery life was reduced to only four monks by 1788, and it was closed.
The Saint Honorat monastery was confiscated and sold during the French Revoluton. Around 1790, St Honorat was sold and renamed "L'Iîle Pelltier".
Seven decades later, in 1859, the monastery started life again, and in 1869, the Cistercians from the Sénanque Abbey took over the Saint Honorat monastery.