Finding shapes in the clouds, strange noises in your house at night from the monster under the bed, the Virgin Mary appearing on a piece of toast; some things aren’t always as they seem– like the cliffs on the coast of Brittany near Saint-Malo. There’s this one that looks like it has a bunch of faces carved into it. Oh wait … it does!
One of the greatest examples (if not the only) of outsider art in nature, the Rochers Sculptés de Rothéneuf was created at the turn of the 20th century by the abbot Adolphe Fouré with only a basic chisel and hammer. Known as “the hermit of Rothéneuf,” he was left mute at 55 years old due to a stroke. Left without a voice, sculpting the cliff became his new form of expression.
The sculptures were originally painted, but time and the sea have worn away their color and detail. The figures are slowly fading to become one with the rock once again.
You can still find about 300 figures that depict the local folklore of the Rothéneufs, a powerful family from the 16th century. Originally fishermen, they eventually became smugglers and pirates that dominated the channel. They reigned for years until one of the French revolutions when their supporters revolted.
The rocks twist into dukes, pirates, saints and mythical creatures. Some of the tales are fantastic legends, some are historical facts, and the rest… well, no one is really sure.
The story goes that during the final battle, the carnage attracted sea monsters to this very cliff. Above is an example of the sea monsters from the imagination of Adolphe Fouré.
Here, Monsieur de Rothéneuf accuses his wife of infidelity. I hope he got eaten by a sea monster.
There’s even a chapel carved into the cliff, la Chapelle de Saint Budoc. It’s surrounded by ladies in waiting, gentlemen, lost souls and… gnomes.
Lucifer looks out to the sea.
A “sea-calf,” a seal-like creature found in the deep ocean and said to be the Rothéneufs favorite dish.
Stop at the incredible sculpted rocks on to your next road trip to Brittany:
Plage du Val – Chemin des rochers sculptés, Rothéneuf, 35400 St-Malo / You can reach them by phone at: 02 99 56 23 95 or 06 68 98 23 95 / One entry ticket is 2.50€, free for children under ten / Open June 1st to September 30th from 9am to 7pm. Open all other times of the year from 10am-12pm and 2pm-6pm. Closed on Wednesdays and public holidays.