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The home museum of Sarah Bernhardt

"The first time I saw Belle-Île, I saw it as a haven, a paradise, a refuge. At the windiest end I discovered a fort, a place especially inaccessible, especially uninhabitable, and especially uncomfortable. And which, for those reasons, enchanted me".

 

In 1894, Sarah, then in the beginning of her 50s, arrived on the island with her friend the painter Georges Clairin. Their private driver led Sarah Bernhardt and her friends to the Pointe des Poulains where Sarah Bernhardt found herself face to face with this fort; gray, isolated and, all in all, not very appealing. She fell in love with it and the note attached to the door "fort for sale, talk to the lighthouse keeper" led her to buy it that day. Being an artist, she will feel forced to renovate the fort completely, will decorate the walls with woodwork in the intention of making the place warmer and more welcoming, and she will also install large bay windows to let in a better light, worthy of the greatest painters. In 1896, she will spend her first holidays in that fort. 

 Soon enough, she found the fort to be too small, and decided to build the Villa des 5 parties du monde (the 5 parts of the world villa) as a holiday home for her family. This name was given to the villa in reference to her travels all over the world; she in that sense decorated each bedroom on the theme of a visited continent. Afterwards, this villa of the 5 parts of the world was renovated into a museography. The audio guide lets you hear her voice, recorded by Edison and long referred to as the "golden voice". A studio was built in the garden of the fort for her artist friends. The studio had a room for her dear friend Clairin who was able to paint there but also to bathe in seaweed he brought back from the beach; it marks the start of thalassotherapy and the acknowledgement of the benefits of the sea and its products. Unfortunately, only the foundations of the building remain today. The Villa Lysiane (in honour of her granddaughter) will be built in 1897, and she will set up a dormitory upstairs to accommodate her friends. The villa is now the Espace Nature (green space), where you can find a shop with books and postcards. The Communauté de Communes de Belle Ile en mer (federation of municipalities) and the Conservatoire du Littoral have decided to keep its spirit of "villa des amis" (friends villa) by renovating it into a reception desk for visitors, and have also renamed it "Espace Nature" in order to exhibit the rare or even unusual natural species that can be found on the island such as the black bee, barnacles, maërl beds,...

The Phare des Poulains, present on the island since 1868, was rehabilitated in 2000. The lighthouse was reorganised and repainted to create an exhibition in the main room, on the management of natural spaces. Solar panels have been installed on the roof of the lighthouse, while helping keep the wild aspect of the place and make the lighthouse more environmental-friendly. It is inaccessible at high tide, with this in mind, each visitor needs to make sure to read the tidal schedules before going there, otherwise they can find themselves stuck around the lighthouse and forced to spend a night under the stars.

In order to convey the tragedian's enthusiasm for the stage, and to keep the spirit of the place, artists are invited regularly. Artists working in the music scene with the Plages Musicales de Bangor (Musical Beaches of Bangor), tales with the Contes de l’Usage du Monde (Tales from the Use of the World), as well as commented walks on the site. She was an animal lover, and continued to expand her property in order to have her own farm, which was later redeveloped and is today the Golf de l’extrême.

Sarah was very loved across the island. She was very involved in the island's life and would always offer her help when she could. During the 1911 winter, while the island suffered through a lot of storms which stopped the fishermen from going fishing offshore. Sarah was already back in Paris when she heard about their struggle to find food. She decided to build a cooperative bakery to feed the people in need. To fund this project she organised a charity gala in her theatre. The opening of this bakery will stay in the islanders mind for a long time. she will also help the Société Centrale de Sauvetage, and was also there for the launch of the Sauzon lifeboat. On top of everything, she offered a wedding dress to her brave postwoman who would bring her the newspaper multiple times a day.

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