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Cordouan candidacy

Cordouan lighthouse is not just a simple lighthouse.

A few kilometers from the sea in the Gironde Estuary, it embodies the creative genius of humankind and the main stages of the history of lighthouses.

Officially launched in 2016, the candidacy of Cordouan is the result of the combined effort of all the participants in the region in a sustainable vision that is ambitious and respectful of the monument and its environment.

Outstanding Universal Value declaration project

Cordouan lighthouse presents its candidacy to be a UNESCO world heritage site as a “cultural asset”. In order to obtain international recognition of a registration on the prestigious World heritage list, it was first necessary to draft an Outstanding Universal Value project for the monument.

In order to justify this Outstanding Universal Value, the dossier used 2 of the 10 selection criteria set by UNESCO to demonstrate the unique and universal character of this lighthouse.

Criteria I: Masterpiece of human creative genius

Cordouan lighthouse is an authentic architectural masterpiece built at sea. It was imagined both as a masterpiece of marine signaling and a monument that is worthy of the ancient Wonders of the World. This technical prowess demonstrates the ingenuity of humans in erecting an extremely ambitious building in an inhospitable marine environment.

Criteria IV:  An outstanding example of a construction which is representative of significant periods of human history

From the mythical lighthouse of Alexandria to the most cutting-edge technical and technological innovations, Cordouan is the lighthouse of all eras. It is the only lighthouse ever built with the ambition of taking the place of the mythical lighthouse of Alexandria which was a guide to sailors just as much as it symbolized the city and dynasty that built it.

The lighthouse also bears witness to the resurgence of lighting the coasts. It fulfills both marine commerce objectives and the desire to symbolically draw borders.

The monumental “aura” of Cordouan is such that it rapidly became the exclusive laboratory of French engineers. From the 17th to the 19th centuries, engineering and sciences accompanied the growth of lighthouse construction. In particular, Augustin Fresnel tested there for the first time his scaled lens (Fresnel lens) used today by the majority of lighthouses around the world.

It is a declaration which demonstrates that the asset has an outstanding cultural importance which transcends national borders and which presents a priceless character for today’s generation and future generations of humanity.

The candidacy stages in video

Episode 1 : The candidacy dossier

Episode 2 : The outstanding universal value

Episode 3 : The perimeter of the asset and the buffer zone

The candidacy step by step

The candidacy dossier is submitted by the State, represented locally by SMIDDEST with the collaboration of the Prefecture of the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, DRAC Nouvelle-Aquitaine, the Inter-regional directorate of Mer-sud Atlantique, the Department of Charente-Maritime, the Department of Gironde, the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, the association of Cordouan lighthouse and Grave.

It is long-term endeavor which requires successively completing several stages.

Stage 1: Demonstration of Outstanding Universal Value

A key element of any candidacy, this stage allowed us to justify the exceptional universal value of Cordouan lighthouse.

We used two criteria:   

  • The lighthouse is a masterpiece of creative human creative genius
  • The lighthouse is a symbol of the main stages of the history of lighthouses worldwide

Stage 2: Definition of the perimeter of the Asset and buffer zone

The second stage consists of precisely defining the perimeter of the asset. This includes the monument, the rocky plateau, the sandbars and the navigation channels.

The asset is also surrounded by a buffer zone which is an area that ensures its protection and that of its immediate environment. It is the asset’s setting.

This zone and its landscape reinforce the identity of Cordouan and thus play a role in its preservation, evaluation and interpretation. The zone extends to the banks of the outlet of the estuary:

– Right bank, from Coubre point to Nonnes beach
– Left bank, from the outer harbor of Verdon to Gurp beach
– At sea, the zone stops at the end of French territorial waters

Stage 3: Presentation of the management plan

The management plan is the 3rd and last stage of the national phase. It is a commitment for all management measures and long-term actions in order to conserve and preserve the lighthouse.

This work presented an opportunity to gather all regional participants in order to define the main objectives:

  • protect the lighthouse
  • share this outstanding monument with as many people as possible
  • better welcome tourists all the while limiting their impact
  • promote the influence of the lighthouse around the world via international collaborations

Today: final stretch

The candidacy was officially sent to the international experts of ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) on 31 January 2019. The dossier is being examined. The registration decision will be taken by the World Heritage Committee late June – July 2021.

Please be patient!

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