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Rochefort, Charente-Maritime

Coordinates: 45°56′32″N 0°57′32″W / 45.9421°N 0.9588°W / 45.9421; -0.9588
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Port in Rochefort
Port in Rochefort
Coat of arms of Rochefort
Location of Rochefort
Rochefort is located in France
Rochefort is located in Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Coordinates: 45°56′32″N 0°57′32″W / 45.9421°N 0.9588°W / 45.9421; -0.9588
IntercommunalityCA Rochefort Océan
 • Mayor (2020–2026) Hervé Blanché[1]
21.95 km2 (8.47 sq mi)
 • Density1,100/km2 (2,700/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
17299 /17300
Elevation0–29 m (0–95 ft)
(avg. 5 m or 16 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

Rochefort (French pronunciation: [ʁɔʃfɔʁ] ; Occitan: Ròchafòrt), unofficially Rochefort-sur-Mer (French pronunciation: [ʁɔʃfɔʁ syʁ mɛʁ]; Occitan: Ròchafòrt de Mar) for disambiguation, is a city and commune in Southwestern France, a port on the Charente estuary. It is a subprefecture of the Charente-Maritime department, located in the administrative region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine (before 2015: Poitou-Charentes).


Rochefort lies on the river Charente, close to its outflow into the Atlantic Ocean. It is about 30 km southeast of La Rochelle. Rochefort station has rail connections to La Rochelle, Nantes and Bordeaux.


In December 1665, Rochefort was chosen by Jean-Baptiste Colbert as a place of "refuge, defence and supply" for the French Navy. The Arsenal de Rochefort served as a naval base and dockyard until it closed in 1926.

In September 1757, Rochefort was the target of an ambitious British raid during the Seven Years' War.

Rochefort (centre-right) seen from Spot Satellite

Another infrastructure of early Rochefort from 1766 was its bagne, a high-security penal colony involving hard labour. Bagnes were then common fixtures in military harbors and naval bases, such as Toulon or Brest, because they provided free labor. During the Jacobin period of the French Revolution (1790–95), over 800 Roman Catholic priests and other clergy who refused to take the anti-Papal oath of the "Civil Constitution of the Clergy" were put aboard a fleet of prison ships in Rochefort harbour, where most died due to inhumane conditions.

Off Rochefort, from the island of Île-d'Aix where he had spent several days hoping to flee to America, Napoleon Bonaparte surrendered to Captain F. L. Maitland aboard HMS Bellerophon, on 17 July 1815, ending the "Hundred Days".

Rochefort is a notable example of 17th-century "ville nouvelle" or new town, which means its design and building resulted from a political decree. The reason for building Rochefort was to a large extent that royal power could hardly depend on rebellious Protestant La Rochelle, which Cardinal Richelieu had to besiege a few decades earlier. Well into the 20th century, Rochefort remained primarily a garrison town. The tourist industry, which had long existed due to the town's spa, gained emphasis in the 1990s.


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1793 20,874—    
1800 15,000−4.61%
1806 14,615−0.43%
1821 12,389−1.10%
1831 14,040+1.26%
1836 15,441+1.92%
1841 20,077+5.39%
1846 21,738+1.60%
1851 24,330+2.28%
1856 28,998+3.57%
1861 30,212+0.82%
1866 30,151−0.04%
1872 28,299−1.05%
1876 27,012−1.16%
1881 27,854+0.62%
1886 31,256+2.33%
1891 33,334+1.30%
1896 34,392+0.63%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1901 36,458+1.17%
1906 36,694+0.13%
1911 35,019−0.93%
1921 29,473−1.71%
1926 28,275−0.83%
1931 26,452−1.32%
1936 29,482+2.19%
1946 29,472−0.00%
1954 30,858+0.58%
1962 28,648−0.92%
1968 29,226+0.33%
1975 28,155−0.53%
1982 26,167−1.04%
1990 25,561−0.29%
1999 25,797+0.10%
2009 25,317−0.19%
2014 24,300−0.82%
2020 23,410−0.62%
Source: EHESS[3] and INSEE (1968-2020)[4]


Rochefort arsenal, in 1690

Noteworthy buildings of the original naval establishment include:

  • a hospital, incorporating a School of Naval Medicine (now a museum)
  • the Arsenal with a monumental gateway and the National Navy Museum (Musée National de la Marine)
  • the Rope Factory (corderie), at over 370 metres long for centuries the longest manufacturing building in the world
  • three dry docks (radoubs) for shipbuilding and repair
  • a cannon foundry (not open to the public)

Other sights include:

  • a rare transporter bridge (pont transbordeur), consisting of a high level bridge containing a transport mechanism from which a ferry platform is suspended. This bridge, the Rochefort-Martrou Transporter Bridge, built in 1900, is the only remaining one in France and one of only eight still in service world-wide
  • the municipal theatre (la Coupe d'Or)
  • the railway station
  • Saint-Louis church
  • Pierre Loti's house (closed indefinitely pending completion of renovation work)
  • Museums of Naval Aeronautics, old-time trades (Commerces d'Autrefois), and local archaeology (la Vieille Paroisse)
  • Conservatoire du Bégonia, the world's largest begonia collection
  • L'Hermione, a replica of a 1779 frigate completed in the town in 2014

Notable inhabitants[edit]

Pierre Loti, 1892

Rochefort was the birthplace of:

International relations[edit]

Rochefort is twinned with:[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Répertoire national des élus: les maires". data.gouv.fr, Plateforme ouverte des données publiques françaises (in French). 2 December 2020.
  2. ^ "Populations légales 2021". The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. 28 December 2023.
  3. ^ Des villages de Cassini aux communes d'aujourd'hui: Commune data sheet Rochefort, EHESS (in French).
  4. ^ Population en historique depuis 1968, INSEE
  5. ^ Gosse, Edmund William (1911). "Loti, Pierre" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 17 (11th ed.). pp. 19–20.
  6. ^ "Comité de Jumelage de Rochefort". rochefort.comite-jumelage.fr (in French). Comité de Jumelage de Rochefort. Retrieved 20 November 2019.

Movies: "Les Demoiselles De Rochefort" 1967 - Jacques Demy

External links[edit]