Situated at the heart of the former naval dockyard of Colbert at Rochefort, the Corderie Royale (the former royal rope-making factory) stretches for 374 metres along the banks of the Charente. A heritage site for culture (CCR) since 1985, it is also home to the International Sea Centre, with a project based on maritime history and navigation.
THE HERITAGE SITE
The Corderie Royale is located 25km from the sea, on the banks of the Charente and at the heart of Colbert’s former maritime arsenal. This huge industrial complex was established by the State in 1666 to build and maintain a fleet of military warships, and was closed down in 1927. The Corderie was the first workshop on the site, constructed between 1666 and 1669 by the architect Blondel, and for two centuries made all the fleet’s ropes. It is a rare example of pre-industrial architecture, and was gradually rendered obselete by the development of new naval technology. It ceased manufacturing at the end of the second Empire, and was badly damaged by fire in 1944. It was purchased by the town and rebuilt between 1976-1988, and today houses several administrative offices, the town’s library, the International Sea Centre and the cultural centre.
THE CULTURAL PROJECT
With its exploration of man’s adventures at sea, the Corderie Royale’s project takes a social sciences approach and supports creative work linked to maritime culture. Its activities have been expanded thanks to cultural tourism and increased visitor engagement. It has attained a level of economic autonomy with its retail activities (such as a specialist bookshop, gift shop and restaurant) and provision of services.
The Corderie Royale was also involved in a large-scale creative project on the maritime theme – the construction of a replica of General Lafayette’s famous 18th-century frigate Hermione. La Corderie is today engaged in a project of regional economic and cultural development which involves the whole of the arsenal complex.
In an area of 300m2, the Corderie Royale presents a series of exhibitions on a variety of maritime themes such as biographies of navigators and writers, technological history and marine mythology. The International Sea Centre (CIM) also puts on artistic events such as exhibitions of contemporary art and poetic installations. The exhibitions may be the subject of a CIM co-publication or a CIM publication in the collection ‘Les Cahiers de la Corderie’. The exhibitions are brought to life throughout the year through concerts, workshops, projections (sometimes outdoors), presentations by artists, symposiums, study days, festivals etc. Each year, specialist conferences accompany each subject.
A LOCAL AND REGIONAL PRESENCE
On a regional level, the International Sea Centre works with a variety of cultural stakeholders: public and private museums, theatres, artistic centres, media libraries, archives, navigation organisations etc. Its specialism links it more directly with those working in the coastal maritime sector (museums, heritage centres, aquariums etc). On a national level, the International Sea Centre works closely with centres for scientific and technical culture (AMCSTI), it is a member of Cluster Maritime Français, and houses the French section of the International Guild of Knot Tyers.