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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.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

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.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

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/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0



source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

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/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

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/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


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

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.


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.


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 

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.