An international star
Perhaps the most famous actress of all time, Sarah Bernhardt has performed every great romantic role of her time. Her portrait was well known by French people but also abroad, as well as her character. An eccentric, lovable person with richly coloured outfits and a bohemian lifestyle. Her house was full of wild animals. We can easily imagine her homeric rages. She was known for her “ Quand même!”, a strong, obstinate and tenacious woman motto. During World War I, she visited French soldiers at the front after a serious operation.
Sarah Bernhardt started her career at the Comédie-Française (France’s national theater company). She was known for her ability to play both gender roles. She had a great success across the Atlantic and was one of the first great "stars" of the world stage. In 1905, she injured her knee during a performance in South America. The injury never healed properly and, in 1911, her right leg was amputated. However, in 1920, Bernhardt played in Racine’s Athalie, presenting the monologue of an aging woman despite her bad health condition.
In love with Belle-île
In 1894, at the tender age of 50, Sarah Bernhardt discovered the delights of Belle-Île with her friend, the painter Georges Clairin. Succumbing to the charms of the landscape, she immediately bougth a former military fort on the Pointe des Poulains.
In addition to the two villas built for her family and friends known as «Les cinq Parties du Monde » and « Lysiane », Sarah Bernhardt had gardens planted with various plants : iris, daffodil, reed and periwinkle. Great sportwoman, she had a tennis court built. She regularly organized parties, where prestigious guests like Edouard VII, the King of the United Kingdom were invited.
Very concerned about the local people and their daily struggles in the early 20th century, the «Bonne Dame de Penhoët » (as they affectionately call her ) financed a cooperative bakery : « l'Oeuvre du pain pas cher ».
In 1922, the actress who wanted to end her days in what she called « her paradise » was forced to sell her house.She died in March 1923, few months after her last holidays in her fort. The actress is buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery.
The site is open to the public every day from April to September : From Tuesday to Sunday 10.30am-17.30pm.
Off season : Contact the tourist office.