Since May 16, 2023, part of the Vallières lighthouse garden is closed to the public because of the risk of the cliff collapsing, by municipal decree. There visit of the lighthouse is always possible, during its opening hours.
Spotlight on the Vallières lighthouse in Saint-Georges-de-Didonne
Built at the very beginning of the XNUMXth century, the Vallières lighthouse stands more than 30 meters high. It thus dominates the port of Saint-Georges-de-Didonne and overlooks the Gironde estuary.
To begin with, in 1860 they built two flagship houses in the town of Saint-Georges de Didonne. The first is on the limestone cliff of Vallières, a rocky cape which adjoins the Grande Conche beach. As for the second, it is located at the level of the tip of Suzac. It is nicknamed "the rabbit lighthouse". With the Grave lighthouse in Verdon-sur-Mer (on the other side of the mouth), their alignment allows ships to use the Gironde estuary and orient themselves in the Saintonge channel avoiding the sandy bank of Siaux (current bank of Saint-Georges).
Perched on the side of a cliff, it overlooks the mouth of the Gironde estuary.
Fullerenes Gironde pilots, responsible for guiding ships coming from the sea to go up the estuary at that time, asked for the amplification of the lights in 1897. The lighthouse of Suzac therefore received a larger lens. However, that of Vallières, too low, must be raised 29 meters above the ground.
We then decide to erect a new lighthouse whose work began in 1900. 8 to 16 workers were involved in the project, including 1 site manager, 5 stonemasons, 3 masons and 7 labourers. The monument, designed by the engineer Alexandre and built by the contractor Brunet, is finally finished in 1901. .
The Vallières lighthouse gets a square tower
Of classical architecture, this four-storey sentinel, firmly established on the edge of the cliff, is square with a base built in blue granite imported from the Nantes region. His tower of 25 meters high is made from freestone extracted from the quarries of Crazannes and rubble stone from Saujon. A copper dome, a weather vane and a lightning rod complete it. In fact, its height reaches 35,88 meters in total.
Four vertical windows pierce each of the east and west sides of the tower. It is accessed by a door framed by a pediment and pilasters. Inside these thick walls, a spiral staircase winds up to the summit platform crowned with a cornice and an openwork stone balustrade. A 7-meter lantern is fitted there. Its fire was lit for the first time on November 25, 1901 and electricity was commissioned there in 1947.
Lights out in 1969
Like any stone heritage, the Saint-Georges-de-Didonne lighthouse mixes his little stories with the big one. Unlike the old lighthouse, the building escaped total destruction during the bombings that crushed Royan in 1945. But the gray freestones of its north facade, still marked by the impact of shells, retain the indelible mark of this deluge of fire.
After the Second World War, the port of Verdon developed and maritime navigation changed. The alignment of the fire of Saint-Georges is no longer necessary. The lighthouse was definitively extinguished in 1969 but remained guarded until 1980. It was not until 1986 that it became possible for the general public to visit it. After climbing the 144 steps from the tower, you can admire one of the most beautiful panoramas over theGironde estuary. The town of Saint-Georges-de-Didonne became the owner of the lighthouse in 2004. It is classified as Historic Monuments the 23 October 2012.
Video length: 57 seconds
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