Maritime Rochefort

Rochefort was founded by Colbert in 1666 as a new city. Colbert wanted to make it the biggest maritime arsenal and in the process develop the sea power of France. The whole complex was fortified only four years later.

The Arsenal At Rochefort

Porte du Soleil RochefortOriginally the Arsenal district was built into separate sectors on the banks of the Charente River. In fact the sectors still exist today and they are interspersed with slipways for launches and dry-dock entrances. After 1830 the entrance was via the famous Porte du Soleil (photo right) which was built in the form of a triumphal arch with heavily carved seafaring emblems on the side facing the town. At the time the arsenal contained four refitting basins including La Vieille Forme, the oldest masonry dry-dock in the world dating from 1669.

The whole arsenal district also housed forges, sawmills, a boiler making shop, rope makers and also a works producing the barrels for gunpowder. There was even a workshop for carving figureheads for decorating poops and prows.

Corderie Royale

Corderie Royale RochefortThis is the Royal rope works built by Colbert in 1666 and completed in 1669 by royal decree of Louis XIV. In the 17th century it was one of the largest factories of this type in the whole of Europe. The rigging for all the great warships of the time right up until the revolution would be made here and this goes some way to explaining the extraordinary length of this building which has 500 doors and windows. The people of Rochefort like to put forward the idea that the rope works was in fact the first vessel to be built by the naval dockyard – the reason being that it is in fact floating on drained marshland! In fact the 374 m long building was constructed on a platform of oak beams to compensate for the marshy terrain.

The rope factory continued it’s rope manufacturing activities until Around the mid-1800s when the development of  steel cables and steam power rendered the factory obsolete. On a visit to the factory today, you can discover how to tie sailors knots and much more about the ropemaking process. The building you see today was severely damaged during the Second World War but has had an extensive restoration. The building now has a blue slate mansard roof with pediment dormers and the rear facade is reinforced by elegant scroll buttresses. As a whole, the building is a classic example of 17th century industrial architecture and well worth a visit.

Opening hours
Open every day. (Annual closure on December 25th and in January):
– From 10am to 7pm from April to June and in September
– From 10am to 8pm in July and August
– 10.30am to 12.30pm and from 2pm to 5.30pm from October to March.
More information at:

Contact details: Corderie Royale, Centre International de la Mer, Rue Jean-Baptiste Audebert, ROCHEFORT
Tél. : +33 (0) 5 46 87 01 90