France – Saint Malo

Walled and built with the same grey granite stone as Mont St-Michel, ST-MALO was originally in the Middle Ages a fortified island at the mouth of the Rance, controlling not only the estuary but the open sea beyond.
The promontory fort of Alet, south of the modern centre in what’s now the St-Servan district, commanded approaches to the Rance even before the Romans, but modern St-Malo traces its origins to a monastic settlement founded by saints Aaron and Brendan early in the sixth century. In later centuries it became notorious as the home of a fierce breed of pirate-mariners, who were never quite under anybody’s control but their own; for four years from 1590, St-Malo even declared itself to be an independent republic. The corsaires of St-Malo not only forced English ships passing up the Channel to pay tribute, but also brought wealth from further afield. Jacques Cartier, who colonized Canada, lived in and sailed from St-Malo, as did the first colonists to settle the Falklands – hence the islands’ Argentinian name, Las Malvinas, from the French Malouins.

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