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The history of the biggest ship yard (l'arsenal in French) in the kingdom of Louis XIV begins in 1661.
It is the year when the rising star in the king's government Jean-Baptiste Colbert suggest to the young king the building of a great navy commensurate with the great kingdom.
A powerfull navy needs a big ship yard. In 1665 the decision is taken to built the arsenal in Rochefort region - the town did not exist but owes its existence to the ship yard - the fief of the ...cousin of Jean-Baptiste named Colbert de Terron, who is put in charge with what would be called today the purchasing department of the entreprise!
The arsenal project is handed to the architect Francois Blondel, the Great Blondel!, who creates the plans for the "Corderie" - the rope manufacturing shop - and to Louis Nicolas de Clerville - another great engineer of the time - for the rest of the buildings and shops of the yard!
To accommodate the muddy soil of the Charente banks Blondel had to employ techniques used by the Dutch people on their polders like digging deep holes and filling them with wood before placing the foundation on this prepared ground.
The first stone of the Corderie is put in 1666 and the construction is finished in 1669. In fact the first ships to sail from the Arsenal were finished in 1670. The Corderie building is a 374m long stone superstructure that rests on a 14,000 cubic meter wooden boat foundation. The spinning of the hemp and the rope twisting required the whole extent of the building. The Corderie manufactured the ropes for the French navy for two centuries. Since 1967 the building is listed as Historic Monument by the French Ministry of Culture.
Since 1997 the Arsenal knows again the fervour - its true on a smaller scale - of ship building, for a team of enthusiasts are creating an exact replica of "La Hermione" the frigate that on the 10th of March 1780 started its voyage towards revolutionary America having on its board the young Marquis of La Fayette. The frigate is scheduled for its first voyage towards US in 2012. A foot note regarding the Arsenal in 1688 another cousin of Colbert, Michel Begon is named as the Royal Navy Intendent in Rochefort. He gave his name to the …Begonia flower that he brought back from his travel in America. Michel Begon is interred in Saint-Louis Church of Rochefort not far from the Arsenal.
L’Hermione – The Frigate of Liberty
April to June and September: 10 AM - 7 PM
July - August: 9 AM - 7 PM
Closed 25th December and in January