Histoire - Patrimoine bâti, Belle île en mer, île de Bretagne, Bretagne sud, au large du Golfe du MorbihanEgalement appelée Aiguade de Vauban, l'entrée dans ce monument est libre
©Egalement appelée Aiguade de Vauban, l'entrée dans ce monument est libre|Fabien Giordano, Bellimages

La Belle Fontaine : a unique fresh water reserve

Also called “Aiguade de Vauban”, it was once used to supply ships with fresh water. Classified as a historical monument, this reservoir can hold 850,000 liters. There are only 2 buildings of this type left in France today.Open to the public, it can be visited…..

A fresh water supply

Facing the sea

The aiguade was built in 1696 to collect water from a spring and provide drinking water for the King’s ships. It is very likely that it was Vauban, the great military engineer of Louis XIV, who initiated the realization, during his stays on Belle-île (between 1683 and 1689). This is the reason why it is also called Aiguade Vauban.

With the Royal Fountain of St-Nazaire, near Rochefort, the Belle Fontaine is the only work still existing in France ! It becomes besides, in 1993, the first building of Belle-île, classified with the titles of the Historic buildings.

Its reservoir, with a capacity of about 850,000 liters, measures about 22.5 in length by 6.5 meters in width and reaches 6 meters in depth. It is protected by a stone arch, whose reflection in the water gives the impression of a cylindrical construction.

A strategic location

Protected by defensive works

At the foot of the reservoir, a granite quay, allows the berthing of the rowboats that the King’s ships, remaining offshore, send “faire de l’eau“. Starting from the bottom of the tank, pipes lead the water to external conduits on which the sailors adjust sleeves to fill the barrels…Technical and a bit perilous!

As you can see by visiting the site, La Belle Fontaine is protected by various defensive works still visible, in addition to the steep cliffs that surround it:

  • on the seaward side, a gunport parapet;
  • a wall (of which only the beginning can be guessed today) forbidding the enemy’s backhanded taking that the looting of the inhabitants;
  • a small guard house that housed the officer in charge of commanding the sector.

Throughout the eighteenth century, the Belle Fontaine is recognized as an exceptional building, both for its usefulness and its beauty. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it becomes however without any use for the Navy. It will serve as a water reserve during periods of drought, then will be put up for sale by the state in 1953.

Completely rehabilitated

La Belle Fontaine is open to the public

In the 1950s, the Estates Department offered it, as a priority, to the city of Le Palais because of its

“historical and architectural character […] and the interest it could generate for the city.”

The municipality officially became the owner on November 17, 1954. From then on, the water of the Aiguade will be used for industrial purposes: the Petit Jean cannery (located in Port Guen) is authorized to take 10 cubic meters per day for washing fish. Later, Le Palais rented the water to a company that manufactured table water. The Aiguade Vauban ceased all activity in 1976.

In 2021, and following numerous damages of the place due to storms, the town hall of Le Palais undertakes renovation and restoration works which will last nearly three years.

It is therefore today a high place of the historical heritage of Belle-île that is offered to the visit, a must for all lovers of old stone and History!”

La Belle Fontaine via the GR®340From Le Palais

Starting from Le Palais, the town center, you can reach La Belle Fontaine via the GR®340. A nice walk of about 3.5 km (one way) with the program: the beaches of Ramonette, Port Guen and Bordadoué and a breathtaking view of the islands of Houat and Hoëdic.

Two steps from the Belle FontaineVisit a local brewery!

Located right next to the Belle Fontaine, push the door of the La Morgat brewery! Discover with Thibaud, the secrets of making 100% local beer during a free visit…that blows your mind!

Periods, days and opening hours of La Morgat. (alcohol abuse is dangerous to your health, consume in moderation.)

Want to know more about La Belle Fontaine?A fascinating book!

To the curious and history lovers, we recommend reading the fascinating book by Carlette Portier and Jacques Poutord, Le Palais, au-delà de l’enceinte de la ville, published by the indispensable

Société Historique de Belle-île-en-Mer. On sale at the Tourist Office, 17€.

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