1892: A New Lighthouse’s Future is Assured on the Brittany Coast

December 9, 1892

A large amount of money was unexpectedly made available for the funding of a new lighthouse in northwestern France. The disbursement of this money for a lighthouse was one of the provisions in the will of a noblewoman who had died two months earlier at the age of 77. Adélaïde-Louise Davout, Marquise de Blocqueville, was the last surviving child of one of France’s most celebrated military figures. Louis-Nicolas Davout (1770-1823) had served under Napoléon Bonaparte as one of his generals. A stern disciplinarian who became known as “The Iron Marshal,” Davout played a vital role in Napoléon’s triumph over the Austrian Army during the Battle of Eckmühl in 1809. This French victory earned Davout the title “Prince d’Eckmühl.”

Adélaïde-Louise Davout, in bequeathing funds for the construction of a lighthouse in the commune of Penmarc’h (located on a peninsula that marks the northern limit of the Bay of Biscay), stipulated that the new structure had to be named the Phare d’Eckmühl (Enckmühl Lighthouse) as a tribute to her father.

The lighthouse in question was specifically planned to replace one that had been built in Penmarc’h in 1835. It was decided by the French government in 1882 to modernize all of the lighthouses along the country’s western coastline. For the lighthouse in Penmarc’h, this meant increasing its focal height to 197 feet (60 meters). After engineers concluded that the longtime structure was not strong enough to support such an extension, plans were made to build a new lighthouse at that location instead. Adélaïde-Louise Davout’s bequest made the construction of this lighthouse entirely possible.

The Phare d’Eckmühl was completed and inaugurated in 1897. With a total height of 213 feet (65 meters), this lighthouse is one of the tallest in the world. The Phare d’Eckmühl remains in service today, and its light is visible for 60 nautical miles (111 kilometers). In addition, the lighthouse is open to the public. Visitors need to climb 307 steps – 227 stone steps, followed by an iron staircase – in order to reach the top of the structure.

For more information on the Phare d’Eckmühl, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phare_d%27Eckmühl.

Additional information on this lighthouse and others in northwestern France is available at http://www.ibiblio.org/lighthouse/fns2.htm.

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