December 22, 2008

Abbé Fouré, Les rochers sculptés / The sculpted rocks

postcardfrom my collection

Located in Rothéneuf, on the coastal road that runs from St. Malo to Cancalé in Brittany, France, the site Les rochers sculptés is a well known classic.

This art environment was created by Adolphe-Julien Fouré (1839-1910), who was a priest and generally is known as Abbé Fouré.

Life and works

Born in Saint-Thual,  Fouré as a young man studied at some seminaries, was ordained as a priest in 1863 and worked in a number of communities in Brittany, among other in Paimpont where he was rector for some years..

In october 1893, in his fifties, he settled in the small community of Rothéneuf, on the north coast of Brittany, not far from St Malo, where he rented a simple cabin.

The legend says that he, after a stroke which made him deaf-mute, no longer could fulfill his clerical duties and so decided to retire as a priest. Recent research by the Association of friends however demonstrates that Fouré was relieved from his duties by his superiors and had to leave after they did not appreciate a firm position the priest had taken in a local conflict.

In 1894 Fouré began making sculptures, both creations from stone, displayed on the exterior facade of the cabin and wooden creations, displayed in its courtyard and interior.

postcard showing the facade

So his house became kind of a museum and since in the region tourism had begun to develop, the site attracted tourists.

wooden sculptures inside the house, the "Grande Galerie"

Fouré became known as the hermit of Rothéneuf, although one can wonder if he led a lonely life.

He would be present at the premises, selling postcards which showed him and his creations. The revenue went to the local poor. During the priest's lifetime some 400 different postcards have been made.

postcard, from my collection

Currently the priest is mostly known because of the around three hundred sculptures he carved into the rocks along Rothéneuf's coast.

These sculptures represent folklorist, religious and historical themes, for example the Virgin Mary with nations at her feet, or impersonations of all kind of people related to the past of Brittany (among whom, but not exclusively -as legend says- a family that in the 16th century happened to live in that area and had a reputation of bandits behavior and piracy).

signature of the Abbé on a postcard, my collection
it shows he used to write his name as Fouré, 
although his original family name was Fouéré

Abbé Fouré stopped carving rocks in 1907, but he continued making wooden sculptures until his death on February 10, 1910.

Auction of Fouré's belongings

After he died his belongings were auctioned. The furniture was bought by various people and some items of this furniture nowadays are still available in art galleries. The wooden sculptures did not attract so much interest. Most items have been bought en bloc by the owner of the cabin, who had the purpose to let them stay in situ.

Fouré posing in his museum

However, the cabin/museum has disappeared, and so have almost all wooden sculptures¹. This probably happened in the period during world war II (around 1944?) when the French north-west coast was a military zone (to prevent an eventual allied invasion) where the civilian population was deployed.

Currently the sculptures in the rocks still exist, but the site hasn't a protected status and the creations gradually become affected by the weather and the visitors. Originally painted, meanwhile they have lost all color.

Livre d'or

The Abbé kept kind of a guest book in which visitors or he himself could write remarks and/or make drawings. This Livre d'or (golden book) was donated by the family to the Association of friends of the oeuvre of Abbé Fouré.

Here is a picture of the book's cover, from a series made available by the Association of friends for publication on the weblog of Sophie Lepetit

More pictures on the weblog lesgrigrisdesophie of February 4, 2012.

An association of friends

Presided by Joëlle Jouneau the association Les amis de l'oeuvre de l'Abbé Fouré, founded in 2010, documents Fouré's life and works, organizes expositions and meetings, and promotes the preservation of the site. They have a website (in French).

In the summer of 2013 Joëlle Jouneau was interviewed about the activities of the association. The text of this interview is in my collection of OEE-texts.

Exposition in Paimpont in 2012

In February and March 2012 the association of friends organised an exposition in Paimpont, Brittany, entitled Life and works of Abbé Fouré. 

Paimpont is special in Fouré's life. After in 1863 he was ordained as a priest, he became in 1865 the chaplain of the Chapel of St Eloi des Forges in this community, which is located in the Brocéliande area, known for the forges (furnaces) that at that time for some 200 years had been producing cast iron.

But in the 1860s economic tide had become unfavorable for the exploitation of these forges and the owners decided to gradually close them. Legend says that Fouré traveled to England, where the owners resided, to advocate the survival of the furnaces, but this story probably is apocryphal. 

Publication of a booklet about Fouré in May 2013

By means of crowdfunding the Association collected money to publish a booklet about Fouré. Written by Joëlle Jouneau and entitled l'Ermite de Rothéneuf, this publication (published in May 2013) offers a biography and a description and assessment, based on the latest insights, of his creative and other activities.

Fouré's life and work for long time have been surrounded by frills and legends. Only lately an attempt is made to figure out the truth and this book contributes to this.

Just some examples:
* it has been related that Fouré, when he was the rector of Paimpont, traveled to England to ask the owners of the local forges to refrain from the phased closure of these forges (cf Noguette, 1919); recent research in English archives up to now has not confirmed this;
* it also has been related, that Fouré in 1893 had to terminate his activities as a priest because he had become deaf and suffered from a stroke; in this respect the archives reveal that the priest in a local dispute took position against the authorities, after which he was dismissed from his office by the leadership of the church.

The booklet also has a review, as accurate as possible given the available knowledge, of Fouré's creations, both the ones in and around his house and the ones carved in the rocks. Since there still are many questions, this is an ongoing project.

The booklet, 12 x 17.5 cm, 64 pages, richly illustrated with old postcards, can be ordered at Librairie La Procure,

the interpretation center

Opening of an interpretation center (2021)

After ten years of preparation, the association of friends of Fouré opened a Centre d'Interprétation de l'Ermite de Rothéneuf on 9 July 2021. Located in Saint Malo, this center can organize exhibitions and conferences, and can arrange walks and virtual tours on the sculpted rocks.

The center has a page on Facebook.


Stories from former times
* Noguette, La vie de l'Ermite de Rothéneuf, St. Malo, 1919. This brochure by Eugène Herpin, 1850-1942, has been republished on Bruno Montpied's weblog. A translation into english in OEE texts.
* Another early 20th century text is R. Brooks Popham, The hermit of Rothéneuf, 1912, also republished in OEE texts.
* Also from the early 20th century, first published in 1919, republished in 2010 the Guide du Musée describing the wooden sculptures. This new edition has an introduction by Bruno Montpied and is illustrated with items from the author's collection of rather rare old postcards that show these sculptures. The document is published in the very first edition of the new french art periodical l'Or aux 13 isles

Article on SPACES website, with pictures (made in 1988) by Seymour Rosen
* Website of the Association of Friends
* Website Habitants-paysagistes (Lille Art Museum, from march 2018 on) has an entry with a variety of pictures by Francis David (1983-1991) and l'Aracine ((1900-1945) and documentary panels from René Escard's documentation)
* Article by Sonia Terhzaz, reporting the visit she paid to the site in 2014, on her website Cartographie  des Rocamberlus 

* Jarvis Cocker's Journeys into the Outside (1999, on YouTube in 2012, see my post of august 23, 2012)
* Trailer on YouTube of Frédéric Daudier's film l'Homme de granit (2002, 52 min, Arcanae Productions (can be ordered on DVD).

More pictures
* Some panoramic postcards on Jean-Michel Chesné's weblog (19-1-2011)  These special pictures can be enlarged and give a good impression of  the vastness of the site.

* On Facebook a large series of pictures of Abbe Fouré's creations collected by Françoise Genty 


Life and work of Abbé Fouré, Les forges de Paimpont, February/March 2012 (organised by the Association of friends of the oeuvre of Abbé Fouré), continued in the Chapel of St Vincent in the Normand community of Saint Coulomb, east of Saint Malo (April 8 - June 30, 2012)

picture via Joële Jouneau

* In 2013, at the occasion of the manifestation l'Art brut à l'Ouest in Brest, Brittany, with the cooperation of the Association of Friends, an exposition about Abbé Fouré, "as you have never seen him before" (April until end of June 2013).

¹ in December 2010 it was made public that an inhabitant of St. Malo owns a wooden sculpture made by Abbé Fouré, a present to her mother (see Jean/Michel Chesné's weblog, 19-1-2011)

first published December 2008, last revised April 2023)

Adolphe-Julien Fouré

Les rochers sculptés
34500 Saint Malo, dept Ille-et-Vilaine, region Brittany, France
open for the public
a private firm exploits the site, asking an entrance fee
at low tide the site can be reached freely (by those familiar with the surroundings)


  1. Thank you so much for such an interesting Blog and information about so many fantastic Outsiders Artists; it is most appreciated!.

    Also all my thanks for such a nice presentation of the Abbé Fouré.As a French I really appreciate this article.

    Yes in a way he is well known or should I say was well known.
    Thanks to a new French Association: 'L'Association des amis de l'Oeuvre de l'Abbé Fouré' which tries to protect his Master piece and also wishes to bring people to re-discover his work and life.

    If some person wanted to know a bit more about this Association and about the Abbé, you could have a look on this Blog:
    The Blog has put a few information and an advert on exhibition at the Forges of Paimpont in February this year.

    The Abbé Fouré sculpted the Rocks of Rothéneuf during 25 years. During this time he also sculpted some 3 to 400 drift wood sculptures. Most of them have 'vanished', supposedly burnt during the war, but one has turned up when there was an exhibition for the 100 years of his death, and another one is actually exhibited in the LaM museum, in the North of France at Villeneuve-d'Ascq, a newly re-opened museum which has the biggest collection of Art Brut in Europe.

    During his short 25 years of being an Artist Creator- an Outsider Artist, Adolphe-Julien Fouéré known as the Hermite of Rothéneuf or Abbé Fouré had more than 400 postcards made of him and his work. If some persons were interested even jut to see some of them, a glance at a post card site could be interesting:
    A very nice article about the Abbé was also written in PostCard monthly magazine in UK No391 of November 2011.

    Thanks again, I will come with more information soon.

    1. @ Francoise Genty.
      Thanks a lot for your interesting comment. It is my intention to announce the upcoming exposition in Paimpont in one of my next posts.
      The postcards in Sophie Lepetit's blog are very nice indeed. During the abbé's lifetime these were the favourite medium to inform the general public about these sites.
      I would appreciate to communicate with you about Fouré's life and work and about the Association d'Amis, so please contact me at

  2. Dear Henk!
    Thank you SO MUCH for the article and reference literature concerning mesmerizing creations of Abbot Fouré!
    I dared to translate the essays into Russian, for the readers of my blog:
    Of course, with the links to the sources - your blog, as well as original texts, photo sources, etc.

    Thank you again - yours is the most complete collection of materials about the Abbot I could find in English.