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World famous harbour



During a visit in 1686 of the fortifications of the Cotentin, Vauban realised the strategic importance of the geographic situation of Cherbourg, as a naval base, to defend the Norman coastline from the English.

In spite of the defeat of the “Fort de la Hougue” in 1692, it is only in 1779 that the decision was taken to create a "port of will ".

The construction of a main dyke from the plans of the engineer, Cessart, began in 1782:

-several kilometres of rocks (3 700m) were put 18 to 20 metres under the sea;

-the building work took 70 years and represented one of the biggest sites in Europe at the time in line with a similar project in Saint Petersburg

At the same time, the « Ile Pelée » and the « rock of the Homet » were being built, according to the plans of Montalembert.

These forts were completed in 1785 and 1876. At the same time, we began to build the central fort in the middle of the dyke.

The works ceased for a while during the stormy period of the Revolution. Napoleon 1st ordered the construction of a port in 1803, which was deep enough for the largest warships.


The management of the site was given over to Cachin, who was the Director of maritime and military works.

Ten years later, the « avant-port » was inaugurated in the presence of the Empress Marie-Louise of Austria.

The works came to a halt again in 1815 but restarted under the reign of Louis-Philippe. The arsenal was surrounded by a fortified wall and the dyke was completed at the end of Louis-Philippe’s reign.

The works were finally completed in 1853. The three forts on the dyke, which reinforced the defences, were completed in 1858.  


The dyke plays a vital role for the city of Cherbourg. Waves are stopped short on the dyke. Without the dyke, the sea could be too strong in some parts of the small harbor wall.




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