Cézembre is an island in the Ille-et-Vilaine département of France, near Saint-Malo. The island is uninhabited, with a surface area of approximately 18 hectares (44 acres), a length of 750 metres, and a width of 300 metres.
The island features a fine sandy beach facing Saint-Malo on the south, and a steep and rocky coast around the rest of the island. As elsewhere in northern Brittany, the tidal range is among the highest in the world. Until the seventeenth century it was possible to reach the island at low tide on foot from St-Malo.
The island's beach is popular in summer with visitors arriving by yacht or motorboat and there are infrequent excursions from St-Malo, although landing is not possible except at high tide. A small restaurant serves lunches and prebooking is essential.
Cézembre was inhabited by a number of hermits over the centuries, and featured a monastery for a time. There were also five small chapels. Vauban fortified the island at the end of the seventeenth century, and it was used thereafter as a place of quarantine.
During World War I, the Belgian Army installed a disciplinary company on Cézembre. During World War II, the Germans and Italians strengthened the island's fortifications as part of the Atlantic Wall. The Normandy campaign in the summer of 1944 saw the German-Italian garrison heavily bombarded by land artillery, naval artillery, and air strikes, including some of the first uses of napalm bombs. The island's garrison eventually surrendered to elements of the U.S. 83rd Infantry Division on 2 September 1944.
As a result of this intense Allied bombardment, Cézembre's landscape is barren and pitted, although natural vegetation is returning. The island has not yet been completely demined, and for this reason most of the island other than the beach constitutes a zone interdite (prohibited zone), with a barbed-wire fence and warning notices.
- More information on the island of Cézembre (French)
- Page on Cézembre from the Regional Council of Brittany (French)