Ile Saint Honorat

Ile Saint Honorat – home of the Abbaye de Lérins

View of Abbaye de Lérins on Ile St Honorat taken from the top of the ancient defensive fortification.

The buildings (above) of the current-day St. Honorat monastery (Abbaye de Lérins) were constructed in the second half of the 19th century.  The Roman Catholic Cistercian order of monks, living here today, mark the near continuous habitation of Ile St. Honorat by monks since the 5th century.  This order of monks has taken a vow of silence.

Ile St. Honorat is located just off the coast of Cannes in the French Riviera.

If you are lucky enough to be in the vicinity of Cannes, consider taking a day trip to this lovely island.  It is just a mile offshore (a 15 minute ferry ride) from Cannes if you are not already on a boat.  You will enjoy scenic walks that take you by the beautiful rugged coastline, vineyards and olive groves managed by the Cistercian monks who produce wine, honey, and olive oil, and remarkably well preserved ancient buildings that offer a visual history spanning 1600 years.  There is no charge.  You will not be disappointed.

Margaret and Burt beneath a living tree that has withstood the ages
along with the Abbaye de Lérins on Ile St. Honorat.

We have sailed by, anchored by, bathed by, and visited Ile St Honorat numerous times;  both last year (2017) and this year (2018).  George and I have enjoyed visits on our own, with our daughters, sons-in law, grandchildren, and most recently with my sister, Margaret and her husband, Burt during their first visit to France.

The original monastery on Ile St. Honorat was founded by St Honoratus in 410 A.D..  St Honoratus’s intent was to establish a hermitage, but he was soon joined by disciples.  This monastery, that grew to as many as 427 monks, fell victim to piracy and other sources of violence.  This prompted the construction of a fortified building begun in the 11th and completed in the 13th centuries.

Defensive monastery built between the 11th and 13th centuries
Beautifully constructed arched ceilings and passageways of the
ancient monastery
View from top of the ancient monastery
What remains of the exterior walls of this portion of the
ancient monastery offers insights into how the original
structure and existing vaulted ceilings were constructed

During the Franco-Spanish wars (17th century) the island was taken by the Spanish.  The monks were expelled, only to return a couple of years later when the island was retaken by the French.

Over the subsequent century, the monastery remained victim to attacks.  The inhabitants fell to as few as four and the monastery was closed in 1787.

Following the French Revolution (1789-1799), Ile St Honorat, became a property of the state and was sold to a private owner.  It was subsequently purchased by a bishop who established the Roman Catholic Cistercian order of monks that inhabits the monastery to this day.  This order has taken a vow of silence.

There are a number of chapels and other structures on the island.  From our own experience, we found it challenging to match all buildings to specific time periods and/or functions.  We did not take advantage of group tours, but would recommend doing so if you would like greater details.

The monastery accepts guests who seek accommodation for spiritual retreat.

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