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Island of Saint-Louis

Island of Saint-Louis

Founded as a French colonial settlement in the 17th century, Saint-Louis was urbanised in the mid-19th century. It was the capital of Senegal from 1872 to 1957 and played an important cultural and economic role in the whole of West Africa. The location of the town on an island at the mouth of the Senegal River, its regular town plan, the system of quays, and the characteristic colonial architecture give Saint-Louis its distinctive appearance and identity.

Île de Saint-Louis

Fondée par les colons français au XVIIe siècle, Saint-Louis s'urbanisa au milieu du XIXe siècle. Elle fut la capitale du Sénégal de 1872 à 1957 et joua un rôle culturel et économique prépondérant dans l'ensemble de l'Afrique occidentale. La situation de la ville sur une île à l'embouchure du fleuve Sénégal, son plan urbain régulier, son système de quais et son architecture coloniale caractéristique confèrent à Saint-Louis sa qualité particulière et son identité.

جزيرة سانت لويس

تأسست سانت لويس على يد المستعمرين الفرنسيين في القرن السابع عشر ثم تمدّنت في منتصف القرن التاسع عشر. وعندما كانت عاصمة السنغال من عام 1872 ولغاية 1957لعبت دوراً ثقافياً واقتصادياً بالغ الأهمية في مجمل أرجاء افريقيا الغربية. وتعود القيمة الخاصة التي تتسم بها هذه المدينة وهويتها الى موقعها الجغرافي في جزيرة عند مصب نهر السنغال والى تخطيطها المدني المنتظم ونظام الأرصفة وهندستها الاستعمارية المميزة.

source: UNESCO/ERI

圣路易斯岛

17世纪时,法国殖民者在此建立定居点。到了19世纪中叶,圣路易斯岛发展成为一座城市。1872年到1957年期间,这里曾一度是塞内加尔的首府所在地,在整个西非地区发挥着重要的文化和经济作用。圣路易斯岛位于塞内加尔河的河口处,岛上正规的城市规划、众多的船埠码头和风格迥异的殖民地建筑,都使得圣路易斯城别具特色,独具一格。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Город-остров Сен-Луи

Основанный в XVII в. как французское колониальное поселение, Сен-Луи стал городом в середине XIХ в. Он был столицей Сенегала в 1872-1957 гг. и играл важную культурную и экономическую роль для всей Западной Африки. Размещение города на острове в устье реки Сенегал, его регулярная планировка, система набережных и характерная колониальная архитектура придают облику Сен-Луи целостность и неповторимые черты.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Isla de San Luis

Fundada por colonos franceses en el siglo XVII y urbanizada a mediados del siglo XIX, San Luis fue la capital del Senegal desde 1872 hasta 1957 y desempeñó un importante papel cultural y económico en todo el África Occidental. La calidad e identidad singulares de esta ciudad se deben a su emplazamiento en una isla de la desembocadura del rio Senegal, así como a su trazado urbano regular, su complejo de muelles y su arquitectura típicamente colonial.

source: UNESCO/ERI

サン-ルイ島

source: NFUAJ

Eiland van Saint-Louis

In de 17e eeuw werd Saint-Louis gesticht als een Franse koloniale nederzetting en halverwege de 19e eeuw verstedelijkte het gebied. Het was de hoofdstad van Senegal van 1872 tot 1957 en speelde een belangrijke culturele en economische rol in heel West-Afrika. Het eiland is omsloten door een systeem van kades, die naar alle waterwegen in de oost-west richting verwijzen. Saint-Louis heeft een karakteristieke uitstraling en identiteit om meerdere redenen. Ten eerste ligt het op een eiland aan de monding van de rivier de Senegal, verder heeft het een regelmatig stadsplan, een systeem van kades en een karakteristieke koloniale architectuur.

Source: unesco.nl

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Island of Saint-Louis © UNESCO
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The Island of Saint-Louis, oceanic port of West Africa, constitutes a unique landscape. Indeed, this miniscule strip of land, today wedged between two arms of the mouth of the Senegal River, enjoys an exceptional environment – a subtle marriage between land and water.

As the first French chartered company on the Atlantic coast of African in 1659, the Island of Saint-Louis became the hub for European traders travelling up the river year round in search of slaves but also gum arabic, gold, leather and other products.  The little oceanic city was the political capital of the colony and French West Africa (FWA) up until 1902, and capital of Senegal and Mauritania up until 1957, before falling into decline due to the transfer of the capital to Dakar.

The historic city of  Saint-Louis exercised considerable influence in the parts of Africa under French dominion, and even further afield, in terms of architecture and also as regards education, culture, craftsmanship and services. In this respect, it was the first laboratory of this new, different society comprising a cultural mix and hybridisation, a crucible of development and diffusion of cultural syntheses and a call for citizenship for all of FWA, thus contributing to the birth of a new humanism.

The designated property covers the entire area of the Island of Saint-Louis, including the banks and quays, as well as the Faidherbe Bridge. The Island is articulated in three parts: the North quarter, the South quarter and the Place Faidherbe with the Government Palace in the centre. The Island is surrounded by a system of quays that serve as a reference for all the streets in the east-west direction.  With its military barrack style, the government seat (built on the ancient fort of the city) comprises the orthogonal centre of a perfectly regular urban plan. The magnificent « balconied houses », the « gallery houses » and beautiful Signares as well as the rare « Portuguese « maison basses » » give the city its aesthetic quality and identity. The majestic Faidherbe Bridge, the spans of which were imported from France in separate parts in 1897, has in no way modified the urban plan.  Thanks to its regular layout, its system of quays and  its high quality colonial architecture, the Island of Saint-Louis comprises a remarkable example of a colonial city with stylistic unity and urban homogeneity based on typologies and town planning principles inherited from the colonial administration.

Criterion (ii): The historic town of Saint-Louis exhibits an important exchange of values and influences on the development of education and culture, architecture, craftsmanship, and services in a large part of West Africa.

Criterion (iv): The Island of Saint-Louis, a former capital of West Africa, is an outstanding example of a colonial city, characterized by its particular natural setting, and it illustrates the development of colonial government in this region.

Integrity (2010)

The conceptual integrity is ensured by the fact that the entire Island is designated as World Heritage, including the beaches, quays and the Faidherbe Bridge. The extension of the buffer zone in 2007 has provided additional protection to the insular property. A strict application of the urban master plan for the development of the town should enable, in due course, the mitigation of negative effects of urban pressure which are evident in the area situated beyond the buffer zone. Furthermore, threats to the integrity of the property caused by the development of dams upriver, combined with flooding in recent years, have been countered thanks to the creation of a relay canal. These overall measures supported by robust initiatives in situ have enabled the preservation of the integrity of the Island of Saint-Louis.

Authenticity (2010)

The current face of Saint-Louis carries the mark of the vision of Governor Faidherbe who, more than anyone else, has imprinted his orthogonal urban grid that no other more recent urban development has been able to modify – not even the building of the majestic Faidherbe Bridge, inaugurated on 19 October 1897 by André Lebon and which has become the emblem of the city. This remarkable continuity has enabled the Island of Saint-Louis to preserve its authenticity in close correlation with a built environment that, although undergoing some important transformations, has entered into a stabilising phase since the promulgation of the decree for the implementation of the Safeguarding and Valorisation Plan for Saint-Louis, in 2008. Important training workshops that have provided instruction to more than 200 craftsmen in the different restoration disciplines have strengthened this dynamic by upgrading the traditional know-how, the use of original materials and the diffusion of best practices.

Protection and management requirements (2010)

Saint- Louis has always benefitted from special safeguarding measures that have contributed to a good management of the site. Indeed, since 1928, the town has a urban master plan. Several other plans have followed until the creation, in 2006, of the Safeguarding and Valorisation Plan for Saint-Louis, thanks to UNESCO support.  Several legal texts have been created to strengthen this mechanism, in particular: Law 71-12 of 25 January 1971 for the protection of the historic sites and monuments and its Decree 73.746 of 1973 concerning the application of Law 71-12 of 25 January 1971; Order N° 012 771 of 17 November 1975 concerning the publication of the listed Historic Sites and Monuments and the Decree N° 2008-694 of 30 June 2008, concerning the application of the Safeguarding and Valorisation Plan for Saint-Louis.

It must also be emphasized that a functional management system exists based on the concerted actions of diverse stakeholders.  The ARCAS (Association for the Restoration and Conservation of Saint-Louis Architecture), the Tourism Office, the ICOMOS Section at Saint-Louis and the associations of the quarters are all involved in awareness raising, alert and pressure activities to support the action of the State and Town authorities. Their active participation may be noted in, among others, the creation of adapted signposting, the production of information posters on the best and bad practices, the organization of cultural activities (theatre, carnaval, etc.). This extraordinary mobilisation of the associations that fight daily for the safeguarding of Saint-Louis, shall soon be reinforced by a Committee for the Safeguarding of Saint-Louis which will be animated by the already appointed manager.

 

Long Description

The Island of Saint-Louis, a former capital of West Africa, is an outstanding example of a colonial city, characterized by its particular natural setting, which illustrates the development of colonial government in this region and the important exchange of values and influences on the development of education and culture, architecture, craftsmanship, and services in a large part of West Africa.

The Island of Saint-Louis was not inhabited before the arrival of the Europeans. The region belonged to the kingdom of Walo and was explored by Portuguese, Venetians and Dutch from the 15th century onwards. There were a number of initiatives, particularly in the 17th century, when some settlements were established in the region. In 1633 the French decided to establish the first chartered company in Senegal, the Cap-Vert Company. The island at the mouth of the Senegal River was selected in 1659 when, after some unsuccessful attempts, the Frenchman Louis Caullier chose this site for the fortification of the company. Several other companies followed the Cap-Vert Company; the English occupied Saint-Louis on three occasions, in 1693, in 1779, and from 1809 to 1817. Initially unhealthy and inhospitable, the island also lacked building materials, until it was discovered that the plentiful masses of oysters could serve for lime production and road construction. Gradually the settlement developed its commercial activities, trading rubber, leather, gold, ivory and cereals as well as slaves. To these were added the need for education and building of schools. In 1854 Louis Faidherbe was nominated governor, and Saint-Louis was nominated the capital of Senegal and the capital of West Africa. In this period Saint-Louis became the leading urban centre in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the centre for the diffusion of cultural and artistic activities. This time of peace in the colony contributed to the development of economic and commercial activities, thus favouring the expansion and influence of the town. However, in 1902 Saint-Louis lost its status as capital of West Africa and in 1957 it ceased being capital of Senegal. This meant the departure of the French garrison and their families and the closure of offices and shops. The French population was drastically reduced. At present the city has revived its economy (based on fishing and agriculture) and tourism.

The Island of Saint-Louis is articulated in three parts: the North quarter, the South quarter, and the Place Faidherbe and the Government Palace in the centre. The entire settlement is situated in a magnificent lagoon formed by the two arms of the Senegal River, which separate it from the maritime part of the town and from the Sor quarter on the continent. The bridge of Moustapha Malick Gaye (formerly Servatius) links the island to a ridge of land in the west, the Langue de Barbarie, which protects it from the ocean. The Faidherbe Bridge, inaugurated in 1897, links the town to the mainland and the area of Sor.

The urban fabric of the old town is based on the orthogonal grid plan of 1828, which established the street pattern and regulated the development starting from the old fortification as the basic reference. The island is encased by a system of quays, which are a reference to all streets in the east-west direction. The urban layout gives the town its particular character and specificity. From the architectural and aesthetic point of view the quality of the two- or three-storeyed colonial buildings is distinguished in the form of wooden balconies with wrought-iron grilles, roofs with red tiles, and the doors and windows with wooden shutters. The main historic buildings include the ancient fort the Governor's Palace, which marks the centre of the island, the place where the first settlement was established. This ensemble has been modified to a great extent over the centuries, particularly in the interior, but it still conserves the exterior, although with some additions. The cathedral, situated next to the Governor's Palace, was built with the voluntary contribution of the citizens, completed in 1828. The military barracks (Rognat Nord and Rognat Sud) were constructed in 1837 in the centre of the town, on Place Faidherbe. Together with the Governor's Palace, they form a classical composition in axis with the Servatius Bridge. The Regional Assembly for the River has existed since 1825, first in a more modest form. It was extended to house a primary school in 1839, and after 1873 it was used for the colonial archives. Subsequently it has provided the premises for various public authorities. A rather large complex, it is articulated with pilasters and balconies and is in a good state of repair. Other buildings include the Civic Hospital built in 1822, and the Great Mosque of the North, built starting in 1838.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

The Island of Saint-Louis was not inhabited before the arrival of the Europeans. The region belonged to the kingdom of Walo and was subject to exploration by Portuguese, Venetians, and Dutch from the 15th century onwards. There were a number of initiatives, particularly in the 17th century, when some settlements were established in the region. In 1633 the French decided to establish the first chartered company in Senegal, the Cap-Vert Company. The island at the mouth of Senegal River was selected in 1659 when, after some unsuccessful attempts, the Frenchman Louis Caullier chose this site for the fortification of the company. Several other companies followed the Cap-Vert Company, and the English occupied Saint-Louis on three occasions, in 1693, in 1779, and from 1809 to 1817.

Initially unhealthy and inhospitable, the island also lacked building materials, until it was discovered that the plentiful masses of oysters could serve for lime production and road construction. Gradually the settlement of Saint-Louis developed its commercial activities, trading rubber, leather, gold, ivory, and cereals as well as dealing in slaves. To these were added the need for education and building of schools.

At the beginning of the 19th century the settlement had some 8000 inhabitants. In 1828 an urban master plan established the street pattern and regulated the development of the town, starting from the old fortification as the basic reference. The real development of the town, however, took place from 1854, when Louis Faidherbe was nominated governor. Thus from 1854 to 1865 Saint-Louis was urbanized. It was nominated the capital of Senegal in 1872 and reached its apogee in 1895 when it was nominated the capital of West Africa.

In this period Saint-Louis became the leading urban centre in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the centre for the diffusion of cultural and artistic activities. The first museum of the industry, ethnography, and history of West Africa was opened in Saint-Louis on 15 March 1864. In this period the schools and other public institutions and services, as well as the first Senegalese military battalion, and a Muslim court of justice, were established.

The period of peace in the colony contributed to the development of economic and commercial activities, thus favouring the expansion and influence of the town. However, in 1902 Saint-Louis lost its status as the capital of West Africa and in 1957 it ceased being the capital of Senegal. This meant the departure of the French garrison with the military and their families and the closure of a number of offices and shops; the last to close were the customs in 1963. The French population was drastically reduced. At the same time, however, the overall population continued to grow, being 55,600 in 1960, 90,000 in 1976, and 150,000 in 1997.

The town has developed both on the Langue de Barbarie (the ridge against the Ocean) and in Sor on the continent. There has also been overpopulation in the old town, where some older structures been at risk of collapse. An new urban master plan was prepared in 1983 in order to regulate the situation, and also to provide for the protection of the historic areas. At present the city has revived its economy (based on fishing and agriculture) and tourism (international festivals, exhibitions, sports, etc.). The University of Gaston Berger was opened in 1992. A new airport was recently inaugurated in Saint-Louis to facilitate access. The growth of the city is giving the authorities the same concerns as any other large African city, including illegal occupation of land and environmental problems.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation