Location: South East of France, Alpes-Maritimes department, Cannes bay
Number of inhabitants:
Number of visitors:
Tourists: ~110,000 per year
Protected island: yes
Terrestrial protection status: Natura 2000
Marine protection status: Natura 2000
The island of saint-Honorat is part of the Lérins Islands archipelago, which lies in the heart of Cannes bay. It belongs to a community of monks, who maintain the monastery and cultivates the vines.
With its 40 hectares, the island of Saint-Honorat is almost six times smaller than its sister island, Sainte Marguerite. It measures 1500 m in length by 400 m in width and 3 km of shoreline. It is separated from Margaret Island by a strip of 800 meters of sea called the “Middle Plateau”. It is also bordered by two small islands, Ilot to the south and Saint-Ferréol to the east.
Since the 5th century, the island has had a monastic vocation and is the property of the Cistercian Congregation of the Immaculate Conception (CCIC). It is inhabited by 21 monks, who take care of the monastery and cultivate the vines. As a result, there are many religious buildings all around the island, including seven chapels, a 12th-13th century cloister and a 19th century abbey. In addition, a fortified monastery classified as a historical monument shows the past need of protection from the numerous and regular incursion attempts by pirates and other foreign armies. In 1794, Napoleon had two ovens to redden the cannonballs built there, also classified as historical monuments. The latter heated cannonballs to over 1,000 degrees Celsius in ten minutes, so enemy ships could quickly be set on fire in the event of an attack.
The island is currently very popular with tourists. About 70,000 people visit the island each year, including boaters, as well as retreatants, who are welcomed into the monastery. The monastic hotel industry alone totals more than 11,000 overnight stays per year.
Agricultural activities are also practiced on the island, thanks to the 8 hectares of vines cultivated by the monks. The latter produce around 35,000 bottles of wine, which supplement the production of some 12,000 bottles of liqueur. The cuvées of the island are very famous and have won numerous awards of excellence, which allow them to be offered on the menu of starred restaurants in France and internationally.
Saint-Honorat is not home to large mammals, but many animals are nevertheless present there. About fifteen species of birds frequent the island, either to nest there or in transit during migrations. Three species of lizards have been recorded, including the rarest western green lizard (Lacerta bilineata). Insects are also well represented, with around fifty species of beetles, aquatic insects and phytophagous insects, which are attracted to these natural environments and play an auxiliary role within the framework of reasoned agricultural practices. There is no invasive species on Saint Honorat, but populations of pheasants, wood pigeons, gulls and rats are to be monitored.
The trees have almost all been planted by humans. There are many trees of remarkable size and age, which have shaped the landscapes of the island over time. Among these trees, old cypresses, old oaks, centuries-old olive trees and Canary phoenix palms have an impressive height.
The protection of natural environments and the preservation of flora and fauna are essential issues for the health of the island’s ecosystems. Monitoring and combating invasive species should not be neglected, as should the protection of the coastline. The landscape and the built heritage occupy a great importance on Saint-Honorat. The remarkable buildings need to be restored so that they can be better promoted to the public, while some landscapes need to be maintained, or even rehabilitated.
In addition, issues related to landscape and agriculture are sometimes linked. For example, the reinforcement of wooded vegetation screens would not only protect the vines from wind and sea spray, but also maintain the biodiversity linked to the alternation of open and closed environments. As fresh water is not present on the island, it is necessary to think about a system for collecting rainwater, which can be used in particular for irrigation and the development of water-intensive food crops.
On the topic of waste, the main challenge is to improve management methods, starting by limiting the import of over-packaged products and the production of non-recyclable waste. Better wastewater management is also a major challenge on a small island like Saint-Honorat.
Given the high number of tourists, especially during the summer, it is necessary to raise public awareness of the specific issues of the island, thanks to appropriate signage.