Centre International de la Mer Rochefort

 Corderie Royale entrée du site med_rounded_corners

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.

Did you know?

Rope factory Rochefort

The Corderie Royale was designed by well-known architect and engineer of his time François Blondel, sometimes known as ‘the great Blondel’. To overcome the problem of a wet clay site the ropeworks were built on a vast grill of oak timber. The limestone used for the building came from Crazannes, further up the River Charente. In 1944 the occupying Germans torched the building when they left, and the building remained a wreck for two decades. But thanks to the maritime prefect of Rochefort Admiral Dupont it was classified as an historic monument in 1967 and eventually fully restored.

The big exhibition until the end of 2011, for example, was 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 was 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…

Another recent exhibition, La Promesse d’une île, was devoted to the fascinating story of how and why the Pacific Islands became populated. The exhibition for 2014, meanwhile, Des embruns dans les bulles, looks at the story of the sea through the eyes of comic strip artists. Details of the latest exhibitions can be found at the centre’s website.

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.

Practical information:

Opening hours:
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
July-August: 10am-8pm
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
Adult €9
Check website below for latest ticket prices

The International sea centre works closely with the nearby Hermione replica construction project and joint tickets are available.
These cost:
Children under 6 – free
Young person (aged 6-15) €9
Adult € 16
Check website below for latest ticket prices

Contact details:
La Corderie Royale Centre International de la Mer
Rue Audebert BP 50 108
17303 Rochefort
Tel : 05 46 87 01 90
Website: www.corderie-royale.com

Les Longitudes restaurant
Tel: 05 46 87 56 15.

See also:

Main photo: S. Roussillon/CIM.