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Île Vierge is located in Finistère
Île Vierge
Location of Île Vierge within Finistère

Île Vierge (Breton language: Enez-Werc'h) is a 6-hectare (15-acre)[1] islet lying 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) off the north-east coast of Brittany, opposite the village of Lilia.[2] It is in the commune of Plouguerneau, in the département of Finistère.[2] It is the location of the tallest stone lighthouse in Europe.[2] The International Hydrographic Organization specifies Île Vierge as marking the south-western limit of the English Channel.[3]



About 1450, the Conventual Franciscans established an abbey on the island.[2] The name "Île Vierge" probably comes from a chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.[2] In 1507, the monks moved to Aber Wrac'h on the mainland.[2] In 1844, the French state purchased the island [2] from sieur Goyon de Coëpel for 6,000 francs.[1]


New and old lighthouses on Île Vierge

The first lighthouse was a square tower 33 metres (110 ft) high constructed in 1842–45 at the westernmost point of the island.[2] It started operation on 15 August 1845,[2] feast day of the Assumption of the Virgin.[4] It had a fixed white light visible for 14 nautical miles (26 km; 16 mi).[2] It remained in use while the second lighthouse was under construction in 1896–1902. A foghorn was installed in 1952, replaced in 1993 by an electric beacon.[2]

The newer lighthouse is 82.5 metres (271 ft) tall, made of blocks of granite. The external face is a truncated cone; the interior face is cylindrical, lined with 12,500 opaline glass tiles made by Saint-Gobain.[2] There are five steps to the front door; inside, 360 steps of stone and 32 of iron lead to the lamp platform.[2] The electric lamp was installed in 1952 on the original mechanical turning plate, sitting in a bath of mercury.[2] The plate was replaced with an electric motor in 1983.[2] The lamp has four lenses with a focal length of 0.5m.[2] The twin beam gives a white flash every 5 seconds, visible for 27 nautical miles (50 km; 31 mi).[2] Electrical generators were installed in 1959, supplemented in 1967–1994 by two wind turbines.[2] The light and rotation are switched activated automatically by a photoelectric sensor.[2] Although the lightouse is automated, the site is still manned.[5]

The island is open to the public from April to September, as is the lighthouse, by appointment.[2] The number of visitors was 5,944 in 2003; 5,974 in 2004; 7,371 in 2005.[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b "DDE 29: L'Île Vierge" (in French). DDE du Finistère. Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Sea. 21 September 2005. Retrieved 20 December 2009.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Phare de l’île Vierge" (in French). Sécurité maritime - Les Phares et Balises. France: Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Sea. 30 June 2006. Retrieved 19 December 2009.  
  3. ^ Limits of Oceans and Seas (3rd + corrections ed.). International Hydrographic Organization. 1971. p. 42 [corrections to page 13]. Retrieved 19 December 2009.  
  4. ^ Lessard, Anne. "Le phare de l’île Vierge" (in French). Patrimoine maritime. Retrieved 20 December 2009.  
  5. ^ "Automatisation programme" (in English) (PDF). Planete TP : tout sur les Travaux publics. Paris: ASCO-TP (Association pour la Connaissance des Travaux Publics). 18 February 2008. Retrieved 20 December 2009.  
  6. ^ "4 – Le patrimoine des phares et balises" (in French) (MS Word). Phare d'Eckmühl, Commune de Penmarc'h: Travaux d'expertise du phare: Dossier de presse. Direction départementale de l’Equipement du Finistère. p. 4. Retrieved 20 December 2009.  

External links

Coordinates: 48°38′20″N 4°34′09″W / 48.63889°N 4.56917°W / 48.63889; -4.56917



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