Rotheneuf Carved Rocks

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Vive la Joie

The Rotheneuf Carved Rocks are located a few kilometers east of St-Malo and are one of the best kept secrets of the Côte d’Emeraude – Emerald Coast.

A whole section of granite cliff was carved in the 19th century by the Abbé Fouré.

He patiently carved every rock located between two section of the headland known as Paradise Chasm and Hell or Death Jump Chasm.

The Abbé Fouré was also known as the Hermit.

He spent the last 25 years of his life carving the history and legend of the Rotheneuf, a powerful local family of fishermen turned pirates and smugglers who in the 16th century had established their rallying point on the headlands and coves located below the village.

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Rotheneuf and his family

The Rotheneuf ruled over the coastal region and imposed their law to all those who ventured into their territory.

Many outlaws and rogues attracted by the lure of money rallied them.

They formed a veritable army and scoured the waters of the Channel, seizing ships and their booty.

The Rotheneuf became wealthy, powerful and feared.

The Rotheneuf Carved Rocks tell the legend of the family and all their men who for a century ruled over this coastal area.

Each rock was carved in their image, and their names have entered the legend.

Here is their story…

Rotheneuf Carved Rocks – The Rotheneuf Clan

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A family quarrel… Rotheneuf confronting his unfaithful wife…

The most famous member of the clan was Durand also known as Gargantua, the commander of the fleet of Rotheneuf.

His seconds were known as La Bigne, La Haie, Benetin, Le Grand Chevreuil, le Petit Chevreuil and Rochefort.

Then came La Goule, Bas-Plat, Trois Pierres, Le Grand Pointu, le Haut Plat, the men in charge to build and repair the galleys and handle caches and warehouses where the loot was hidden.

The Abbé Fouré gave their names to some of the carved rocks that are visible at low tide only.

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Three of the Cinq Clowns with their clownish expressions…

Talented and innovating boat builders they built the Rotheneuf’ impressive fleet known as Les Flèches des Eaux (Water Arrows) in the early 17th century.

No privateer boat in St-Malo could then match the speed and ease of operation of the new galleys.

The Rotheneuf became kings of the sea!

Another high profile member of the clan was Job nicknamed Vive la Joie, the private adviser to the Rotheneuf.

There were also Arthur, Eugène, Auguste, Bernard and Jean nicknamed the Cinq Clowns (Five Clowns) for their joviality, agility and ability not only at assaulting ships but also for their talent at negotiating at the best on behalf of the Rotheneuf.

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Lucifer overlooking the sea and the Death Jump Chasm

Yves du Minhic, the cook, was known as the Guerrier Romain (Roman warrior) because of his heavy build and the helmet he wore, a trophy he brought back from one of the raids.

Jean de Caulnes was called the Egytien (Egyptian) as he had lived in Alexandria.

Multilingual but also a fine talker, he had become private adviser to Madame de Rotheneuf.

This was not necessarily to the linking of her husband!

Lucifer was a a seasoned and wily smuggler who deserted the King’s corsairs of St-Malo and enrolled as a pirate along with the Rotheneuf.

Jacques le Limeou, le Solitaire, lived alone with his dog Rip on Benetin Island, Le Grand Chevreuil et Besnard peninsulas.

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Jean de Caulnes known as the Egyptian with his devoted man-servant Manille underneath

He was in a league of his own for hunting out arms traffickers and seizing their booty on the behalf of the Rotheneuf who had established a monopoly on smuggling.

This large tribe of smugglers and outlaws was always on guard and needed watchers.

L’Ours, Le Petit Pointu, le Haut Queue and L’Oeuf were also immortalized on rocks visible at low tide.

Le Guémereux was the odd ball of the group whom everyone distrusted.

They called him the Fakir.

Croesus was the treasurer of course!

This old debauched noble had lost his fortune and moved in together with Marie-Jeanne de la Mare, a stocky little woman as wily and debauched as him.

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Detail of the chapel of Saint-Budoc overlooking the Paradise Chasm

Finally there was La Buse nicknamed Le Financier.

The sordid and twisted merchant kept his distance from the Rotheneuf Clan but supplied them with current products ranging from kitchen utensils to clothes.

This was the Clan of the Rotheneuf, pirates, outlaws and rogues who roamed the seas off the Emerald Coast.

The Abbé Fouré carved a beautiful chapel on the northern side of the cliff.

It overlooks the Paradise Chasm where the Rotheneuf Clan sought protection from St-Budoc before going to sea!

It is amusing to think how all these crooks who apparently feared neither God nor man should have been so superstitious!

Rotheneuf Carved Rocks – Story and Legend

From the 16th century onwards the Rotheneuf had established their monopoly on smuggling over most of the Emerald Coast and imposed their rule over the descendants of the Lords of Dinan and St-Malo.

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A sea-calf caught in the offing, a favourite dish of the clan

They remained rich, omnipotent, powerful and feared until the French Revolution when old grudges, feuds and jealousies accumulated over the years began to surface.

Rotheneuf and some of his men (La Haie, La Bigne, Grand Chevreuil, Petit Chevreuil and Rocheforts) joined the royalist camp along with the Chouans.

The other rogues and outlaws rallied neither the revolutionary nor the Chouans as they saw in the revolution an opportunity to make quick and easy money.

They turned against the Rotheneuf in the hope of seizing their immense fortune.

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The sea monster holding the last of the Rotheneuf in its sharp claws

This disaggregation of the clan led to the end of the dominance of Rotheneuf.

The men fought against each other, on land and sea, revolutionaries against royalists.

Those who tried to escape were butchered including women and children.

The last of Rotheneuf bravely fought until his last breath before Benetin Island and inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy camp.

A huge storm broke out during the fight and the waves carried the bodies of the dead and stacked them on the beach of La Haie, just below the rocks.

The legend has it that hideous sea monsters with sharp teeth came out of the sea and and devoured the corpses.

Thus disappeared the last of the Rotheneuf along with the coat of arms of his family.

Rotheneuf Carved Rocks – Issues

The 300 Rotheneuf Carved Rocks spread over 550m2 on the headlands which once were the rallying point of the clan tell the story and legend of the Rotheneuf.

You will discover their faces as imagined by the priest.

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The sea monster devouring the last of the Rotheneuf…

The Rotheneuf Carved Rocks are one of the best hidden secrets on the Emerald Coast.

You will find them between on the headland located between Le Val and Le Havre beaches, near Le Benetin restaurant.

The municipality of Rotheneuf has decided not to promote the Rotheneuf Carved Rocks as an excessive flow of tourists could become be highly detrimental to the condition of the site.

Tourists are of course very welcome to visit the Rotheneuf Carved Rocks.

They can stroll freely among the carved rocks in order to admire them from close, but the erosion so produced will eventually destroy the sculptures.

It will be necessary in the short-term to restrain random access to the Rotheneuf Carved Rocks and delineate paths if we want to preserve them and be able to admire them for generations to come.

Coordinates for Rotheneuf carved rocks: Lat 48.686057 – Long -1.968023

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