Today in Transportation History – 1887: The Old Lady Is Lit

La Vieille lighthouse on the northwest coast of France was first lit. The stone tower is specifically located on a rock known as Gorlebella (meaning “farthest rock” in the Breton language) at the commune of Plogoff. (That commune is the department of Finistère, an administrative division of France’s Brittany region; Finistère is the Breton phrase for “end of the world.”) The lighthouse was built to help guide mariners making their way through the Raz de Sein, a stretch of water between the Isle of Sein and the westernmost point of Plogoff. LaVeille is situated in one of the most dangerous areas off the coast of France and in one of the nation’s remotest sections.

For more than a century after it began operations, the lighthouse was customarily inhabited and operated by two keepers at a time. La Vieille was one of the last French lighthouses to be automated, finally undergoing that process in 1995.

Along with serving as a major navigational aid, La Vieille has left a cultural imprint that goes well beyond Gorlebella. A case in point involves “Le Gardien du Feu” (The Guardian of Fire), a 1900 novel written by acclaimed Breton folklorist Anatole Le Braz that takes place at the lighthouse. In addition, French postage stamps depicting La Vieille were issued in 1946 and 2003.

For more information about La Vieille lighthouse, please check out

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