A small natural paradise just outside Cannes.Älgbert Elgson
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The Îles de Lérins are a small group of islands on the Côte d’Azur, near the city of Cannes. The Saint-Honorat with the “Abbaye de Lérins” monastery is the second largest island and a car-free green oasis.
The trail of history
The island of Saint-Honorat was already known as Lerina in Roman times. At the beginning of the fifth century, Honoratus von Arles founded the Lérins Abbey (Abbaye de Lérins) based on the model of the countries he had previously visited, Egypt and Syria. Within a short period of time, many joined monasticism, and many bishops such as Caesarius of Arles or Patrick of Ireland were trained the following centuries. In the years that followed, cruel raids by pirates or the Saracens repeatedly disturbed the monastic calm, and despite the construction of a fortification in 1073 with a four-meter-high entrance, these could not always be successfully warded off. The many attacks finally led to the dissolution of the monastery in 1787.
The island was owned by a wealthy actress for some time until the Bishop of Frejus bought it back and had the destroyed monastery buildings rebuilt. Already 10 years later, in 1869, Cistercian monks moved in again from the Sénanque Abbey in Provence.
The monks living in the monastery today follow the rules of St. Benedict and spend most of their time working and praying.
The Île Saint-Honorat is about 1.5 kilometers long and only 600 meters wide at its widest point. A large part of the island area is covered by the monastery, the rest of the island is covered by wild vegetation and an island tour is possible within two hours. Along the circular route you always have a wonderful view of the Côte d’Azur and pine trees, cacti and other plant species can be admired. Animal lovers will also get their money’s worth on the island, because the Lérins Islands are known for their special animal species.
Viticulture has been practiced in the gardens of the monastery since the Middle Ages and the monks have also been producing liqueurs since the 19th century. The herbal liqueur Lérina is particularly famous and can be purchased as well as all other products on the island.
To this day, parts of large furnace systems built to combat wooden ships can still be seen on both ends of the island. With the help of fire, cannonballs were heated in it to achieve more effective damage. The fortress tower in the southeastern part of the island has been preserved and can be visited. From the top you have a wonderful view of the entire island and the sea.
Seven chapels have also been preserved in different condition. Two artillery bunkers commemorating the Second World War and the German occupation still serve to protect Cannes and the surrounding area from an Allied invasion.
It can get very hot on the island in summer, but there is no problem finding shade due to the many trees. There is also a restaurant and a small shop where the products of the monastery can be bought.
How to get there?
The Île Saint-Honorat can be reached by ferry from Cannes. The cost of a trip for an adult is around € 15. There are some parking garages in Cannes, but they quickly get crowded during peak season or at certain events. So either get up early, hope for luck or travel by public transport. Trains run several times a day between Cannes and Nice, and even Paris is only a little over five hours away by train.
A nice little island away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Even more untouched is the large sister island of Sainte-Marguerite, as the monks on Saint-Honorat cultivate a large part of the island. In addition to your bathing suit, we recommend that you bring drinks and a snack yourself, as there are many nice places and the restaurant and small shop there are rather expensive and crowded.