Everyday we explored our building surroundings on the Côte d'Azur and on our first full day we decided to take a short boat ride to the island of Île Saint-Honorat, the second largest of the Lérins Islands and about a mile off shore of Cannes. The boat ride was stunning and I've added my vlog to this post so you can see just how beautiful it was.
Île Saint-Honorat has a really fascinating history that dates back as early as the 5th century and even today the island is home to a community of monks. The island was uninhabited until Saint Honoratus founded a monastery around the year 410. Honoratus had intended to live alone on the island, but found himself joined by disciples who later formed a monastic community around him. By the year 427 it had become an immense monastery and provided three bishops for the See of Arles: Honoratus himself, followed later by Hilarius and Cesarius in the 5th and 6th centuries.
Over the following centuries, monastic life on the island was interrupted on several occasions by raids, mostly attributable to Saracens. Sadly, around the year 732 much of the community, including the abbot, Saint Porcarius, were killed on the island by invaders. However, legend has it that many of the monks escaped because Porcarius had been warned of the attack by an angel and had sent them to safety (I'd love this to be true).
Much later on in history, in medieval times, the island became a very popular place of pilgrimage. This was encouraged by the writings of Raymond Féraud; a monk who composed a mythological life of Honoratus. Over the years, the monastery continued to suffer from Spanish and Genoese attacks and as a result, the number of monks dwindled to four and eventually dis-established in 1787. In more recent times, under the Revolution, the island became the property of the state, and was sold to a very wealthy actress, Mademoiselle de Sainval, who lived there for 20 years. In 1859, however, the island was bought by the Bishop of Fréjus, who sought to re-establish a religious community there. Ten years later, a Cistercian community was established, which has remained there ever since.
I absolutely loved hearing the fascinating history about this tranquil spot which has fought so much over the years as so many of these Islands have. The French Riviera is such a hub of activity, with a thriving and bustling atmosphere, so to explore somewhere as peaceful as this was just lovely. The views around of were breathtaking and although I couldn't take photos of the monastery it was a true beauty spot.
If you are ever visiting Cannes and want a morning or afternoon trip away from the town I couldn't recommend a visit to Île Saint-Honorat more. Have any of you been at all? For more information about the island head here.