Facing the ramparts of Saint-Malo, the tomb of Chateaubriand threatened by erosion

The town hall of the Breton town, where the great writer of the Memories from beyond the graverequested a diagnosis in order to ess the state of deterioration of the tomb.

Death does not reveal the secrets of life»wrote François-René de Chateaubriand in the Memories from beyond the grave…The tomb of the great writer is in danger. Erected according to his wish on a reef facing the ramparts of Saint-Malo, it is today, some 175 years after its disappearance in 1848, threatened by erosion. A worrying deterioration which prompted the town hall to request a diagnosis.

As I went up the path, I told myself that the grave is not going to stay there forever», notes Véronique Callot, a tourist from the Ile-de-France region who came to admire the tomb of this pioneer of romanticism (1768-1848), who enjoys a sublime panorama of the waves of the Emerald Coast and the corsair city. Because by closely examining the tomb on the uninhabited islet of Grand Bé, accessible only a few hours a day at low tide, we realize that one of the granite pillars flirts dangerously with the cliff. “The right side of the tomb is at the edge of the cliff whereas 15, 20 years ago you could go around the tomb on foot», sighs Mayor Gilles Lurton.

Read alsoLife of Napoleon, of Chateaubriand: a mutual admiration

Michel Désir, administrator of the Chateaubriand company, is also worried. “To this day, it is no longer possible for me to access the back of the tomb to attach the sheaf of wheat and wild flowers to the cross, a traditional pose for July 4, the anniversary of the writer’s death.“. And he does not hide his concern: “Two years ago, I could slip in carefully. Last year I could p one foot while holding on to the gate. This year I climbed the grid. Next year ?»

In front of the tomb, protected by a security wire, many foreign tourists p without knowing that they have before their eyes the final resting place of one of the greatest French writers, because neither date nor name appears on this anonymous granite slab. surmounted by an imposing cross. Only a plaque, affixed to a nearby wall, pays homage to the author of “Memories from beyond the grave» with these words: “A great French writer wanted to rest here to hear only the sea and the wind. Pant respects his last wish“.

If the risk of collapse is not imminent, the town hall, owner of the tomb, has decided to carry out a study. “We made the decision to launch a diagnostic mission and then we will seek the opinion of the Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs (Drac)», Explains Gilles Lurton, specifying that the results should be known in 2024.

Move the grave?

Can we consider moving the tomb and the remains of The Enchanter one day? And can we imagine it far from Grand Bé? “Elsewhere than on the Grand Bé, it seems complicated to me. For me, if we have to move it, we have to move it back, but I’m going a long way when I say this: if sometimes we have to move the grave it becomes a national event», notes the mayor.

Coming from Finistère, Cathy and Antoine, in their fifties, are not surprised by the appearance of the tomb and the danger that awaits it. “With the blows of tobacco, the coast crumbles more and more. On the GR 34 (the path that runs along the Breton coast, editor’s note), there are more and more closed portions. The coastline is changing, we are getting used to erosion in Brittany and we can even see it here», laments Cathy, who does not prefer to give her last name.

A great lover of Romanticism and the 19th century, Frédéric, 36, a Parisian on a weekend in Saint-Malo, is a philosopher. “I wonder what Chateaubriand would have wished… That the tomb would allow itself to be destroyed by natural phenomena? Because for the romantics, Man is at the center of a nature greater than him and which can overcome him.“.

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