The Cordouan lighthouse is not a lighthouse like the others.
A few kilometers out to sea, in the middle of the Gironde Estuary, it embodies the creative genius of men and the great phases in the history of lighthouses.
The Cordouan lighthouse has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a “cultural property”.
To justify its Outstanding Universal Value, the application was based on 2 of the 10 selection criteria set by UNESCO, to demonstrate the unique and universal character of this lighthouse.
A masterpiece of human creative genius
The Cordouan lighthouse is a true architectural masterpiece built in the open sea. It was conceived both as a maritime signalling structure and as a monument worthy of the ancient Wonders of the World. This technical feat testifies to the ingenuity of men to erect a building of the highest artistic ambition in an inhospitable maritime environment.
An eminent example of a type of construction that illustrates significant periods in human history
From the mythical lighthouse of Alexandria to the most advanced technical and technological innovations, Cordouan is the lighthouse of all eras. It is the only lighthouse to have been built with the ambition of taking the place of the mythical Alexandria lighthouse, which served as a guide for sailors as much as it symbolized the city and the dynasty that built it.
The lighthouse also bears witness to the renewal of coastal lighting. It responds both to the development of maritime trade and the desire to symbolically mark the borders.
The monumental “aura” of Cordouan was such that it quickly became a privileged laboratory for French engineers. In the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, science and engineering accompanied the development of lighthouse construction. Augustin Fresnel tested his stepped lens (the Fresnel lens), used today by most lighthouses in the world, for the first time.