Anyone who has been to Cannes (or the French Riviera) will have at least seen, and most likely visited the “Lerins Islands” off the coast of Cannes, namely Île de Saint-Honorat and Île Sainte-Marguerite. These islands have a rich and fascinating history. One of the oldest working Monasteries in Europe, the Île de Saint-Honorat is the Southern, smaller island, dating back to AD410. The Monks, who have inhabited this Island for over 1600 years (!) live a life of silence, dedicated to prayer, as well as making wine and lavendar oil and collecting honey as they have done for centuries gone by.
Just as fascinating is the Île Sainte-Marguerite, the island closest to Cannes. Most of us will remember a 1998 movie with Leonardo Di Caprio, named “Man in the Iron Mask”. What many may not know is that this movie was based on fact, and that the real life story took place on this very island. There has been much debate on the identity of “The Man in the Iron Mask”, who was held captive for a period of 34 years, until he died in 1703, however, the famous writer and philosopher, Voltaire, claimed that this prisoner was infact the illegitimate older brother of King Louis XIV of France, due to correspondence between the jailer and his superiors in Paris.
So how does this all tie in with our Property of the Week? Well, it ties in beautifully. The monks of the Île de Saint-Honorat were hugely wealthy, owning Cannes, Vallauris and Mougins. However, while inhabitting the Island, the monks often faced wars and invasion, and armies of the time found the Islands to be the perfect base from which to protect their seas. Additionally, there was no wildlife on the Islands and therefore no food to take the monks through the colder winter months. As such, in 1642, they built a residence for themselves on the mainland, in Mougins. It would be their hunting lodge, and refuge.
Not only did the monks take refuge in their mainland Residence, but Napoleon would spend a fornights sejour here after escaping from Elba Island while he grouped his forces in 1815, and during the summer prior to the outbreak of the Second World War the American Ambassador to Great Britain, Joseph Kennedy and his wife, spent their holidays here – not long before the Gestapo seized the home to be used as a regional headquarters for the South of France in WWII.
One of the most historic properties on the Cote d’Azur, and still one of the biggest privately owned pieces of land bordering the sea on almost 50 Acres – this property is on the market today, with Fine & Country. Having had only 5 owners over it’s 373 year history – this magnificent Bastide stands out today as one of the most superb properties with one of the richest histories in the South of France.
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