The Corderie Royale belongs to french naval history. Built in the XVII century, this industrial and historical building had known moments of glory during 150 years, and was a part of the greatest military arsenal of France. Then, burnt at the end of the second world war, it was nearly destroyed. The renaissance is due to passionnate men 30 years after.
A stunning building
On river bank Charente, built on an unstable place, the Corderie Royale is laid down on a raft made of oak pieces, deeply pressed on marshy ground. This explains the building could have a slant shape nowadays, even if it’s perfectly safe !
The Corderie Royale and the boat basins were part of the Arsenal, wanted by Colbert, Minister of King Louis XIV, in order to built war vessels, in a safe place, far from english cannons. Here, for 250 years, more than 350 vessels have been built, armed and maintained. Some of the greatest military and scientific expeditions set off from here.
A rope making factory
The ropes were one of the important pieces on a vessel. The largest ones needed 100 kms of ropes !Each rope of 195 meters long had to be built all in one piece : 270 meters were necessary to braid the rope,that explains the dimension of the building. On north end, raw material was stored and on south end, the rope was tarred to be wear resistant.
Le “jardin des Retours”
The garden of returns has been created after the restoration of the building. As many botanic expeditions came back to Rochefort in the past time, with plenty of unknown and never-seen-before plants, Rochefort owns nowdays famous green houses and particulary an academy of begonia. Alongside the Corderie Royale, willows,hazelnut trees, rub shoulders with magnolias, tulips and many others trees and plants are witnesses of this glorious past.
The Hermione freedom’s frigate
The most famous ship l’Hermione, symbol of french-american friendship has been built in this Arsenal. Moreover, the young major general La Fayette boarded the Hermione on 1780, to fight alongside the American insurgents who were struggling for their independence. 18 months later, the American insurgents, whom La Fayette had joined, won decisive victories, first in Chesapeake Bay, then in Yorktown, with the support of French troops led by Rochambeau and de Grasse.
“From the first moment I heard the name of America, I loved it; from the instant I knew it struggled for freedom, I was consumed with the desire to shed my blood for her I will count the days I got the chance to serve it, everywhere and anytime, among the happiest days of my life.” La Fayette
In July 1997, the Hermione-La Fayette association embarked for a tremendous challenge : the reconstruction of the Hermione frigate. In 2015 the new fregate sailed to Boston, Yorktown and New York to celebrate this part of the history. You can visit the Hermione and know more about it if you come to Rochefort.
And to know more on Rochefort Arsenal, L’hermione, I suggest you to make a stop at the nice Librairie Maritime in the Corderie Royale. If you are fond of sailing books, adventure books, adventurer book-writer, sea-protection, sailing… this bookstore is for you !