The Lérins Islands (in French: les Îles de Lérins, pronounced: [lɛz‿il də leʁɛ̃]) are a group of four Mediterranean islands off the French Riviera, near Cannes. The two largest islands in this group are the Île Sainte-Marguerite and the Île Saint-Honorat. The smaller Îlot Saint-Ferréol and Îlot de la Tradelière are uninhabited. Administratively, the islands belong to the commune of Cannes.
The islands are first known to have been inhabited during Roman times.
The Île de Saint-Honorat bears the name of the founder of the monastery of Lérins, Saint Honoratus. It was founded around the year 410. It is in this monastery that Saint Porcarius lived and probably was killed during an invasion by Saracens. According to tradition, Saint Patrick, patron of Ireland, studied there in the fifth century.
A fortified monastery was built between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries. In 1047 the islands were raided by Muslim Andalusi pirates. The monastic community today lives in a monastery built during the nineteenth century.
In 1707 the Lérins were occupied by the English navy, under the command of Sir Cloudesley Shovell. This was done in order to block the military port of Toulon to help the army of Victor Amadeus II Duke of Savoy and his cousin Eugene besiege that city.
Ile St Marguerite (St Marguerite Island)
It only takes a 15-minute boat ride from Cannes to get there, but it took The Man in the Iron Mask 11 years to leave this tiny, forested island. The mysterious individual was believed to be of noble blood, but his identity has never been proven. His cell can be visited in the Fort of St Marguerite, now renamed the Musée de la Mer (Museum of the Sea). This museum also houses archaeological discoveries from shipwrecks off the coast of the island, including Roman and Saracen ceramics. There is a regular boat service from the mainland. Guided tours in English are available in summer.
Musée de la Mer Ile Ste Marguerite
Ile St Honorat (St Honorat Island)
Cistercian monks are the only inhabitants of the smaller, southern St Honorat Island. Monks have inhabited the island more or less continuously since AD410 and, at the height of their powers, owned Cannes, Mougins and Vallauris, plus Seborga, en Italie. Medieval vestiges remain in the stark church, which is open to the public, and in the ruins of the 11th-century monastery on the sea’s edge. The monks divide their time between prayer and producing red and white wines, honey, lavender oil and Lérina, a herbal liqueur. Although closed to the general public, the monastery welcomes guests for week-long retreats. The monks also run the only boat trips to the island, with departures from Cannes jetée Edouard.
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