Located in the exceptional natural site of the Île Sainte-Marguerite, the largest and wildest of the Lérins islands, the Museum of the Sea in Cannes offers visitors collections based on underwater and land archeology. The historical and cultural heritage of Cannes is highlighted in a remarkable setting.
The Museum of the Sea in Cannes is housed in the former Vauban-type Fort Royal, which once protected the bay of Cannes from barbarian incursions and attempted invasions. This historical monument, lined with pine and eucalyptus, is located at the top of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The old prisons have been preserved. By order of the king, many opponents of the kingdom were imprisoned there, including Huguenots acquired during the Reformation. A memorial pays tribute to these prisoners locked up for their faith. The artist Jean Le Gac, with his work on the prisoner painter, revived a very old practice, that of the paintings, drawings and graffiti that the prisoners left on the walls of the cells. The Iron Mask prison cell plunges visitors into an in-between, between history and legend. This mysterious prisoner, whose identity no one knows, was incarcerated here for eleven years. He gave birth to many theories and inspired movies and books.
The site of the Fort Royal has been occupied since Antiquity by the Celto-Ligurian, Greek and Roman peoples. The ancient Roman cisterns now house the museum’s collections on the first floor. These vaulted rooms bear witness to the ingenious hydraulic system designed to collect rainwater. Excavations have also uncovered fragments of wall paintings from the ancient Roman baths, as well as various remains and objects of great value to archeologists.
The Museum of the Sea in Cannes also has a collection of archeological remains from successive excavation campaigns. Several wrecks stranded near the Lérins Islands bear witness to the maritime practices of ancient and medieval peoples. The museum thus houses remains exhumed from the Roman wreck of the Tradelière, with nine different types of amphoras dating from the 1st century BC, terracotta crockery, cups, vases with zoomorphic decoration, as well as glass bowls. The Saracen wreck of Le Batéguier, discovered in 1973 at a depth of 54 meters, contained numerous ceramics: jars, cooking vessels, vases, pots, oil lamps… Rarer objects complete this collection, such as a lamp filler in the shape of a dromedary, a crown lamp, and pots with filter lids.
Facing the bay of Cannes, the Lérins Islands are a very popular tourist destination. Just a few hundred meters from the coast, they offer an oasis of nature and tranquility to visitors. The Île Sainte-Marguerite is covered with a forest composed of Mediterranean species, but also of cedars, eucalyptus and Judas trees. The discovery of the botanical trail can pleasantly complete your visit to the museum of the sea.
You can also discover the nearby island of Saint-Honorat, which still hosts a monastic community. The Cistercian Congregation of the Immaculate Conception still cultivates its vineyard. You will enjoy strolling among the vines or under the foliage of the trees. The former fortified monastery can also be visited.
Numerous exhibitions are organized at the Museum of the Sea in Cannes, and deal with a variety of themes. The Man in the Iron Mask. A Secret of State, thus addressed in 2019 a strong historical theme, where political intrigue merges with the romance of the legend. Yann Arthus-Bertrand was honored in 2017, during the exhibition Heritage seen from the sky. In 2013, the contemporary artist Georges Rousse took over the premises and enhance the heritage of Fort Royal through his temporary installation Mediterraneo. In 2007, Sébastien Le Prestre, Marquis de Vauban, was honored during the exhibition Around Vauban, the fortress of Île Sainte-Marguerite.
- Visiting time: at least 1 or 2 hours
- Opening days: the museum is open every day between June and September and closed every Monday the rest of the year. Closed on November 1 and November 11, December 25, January 1 and May 1.
- Schedule: opening hours vary depending on the time of year. Between June and September, the museum is open continuously from 10:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
- Address: Île Sainte-Marguerite 06400 Cannes
- Access: shuttles from the Port of Cannes connect with the Lérins Islands.