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Archival treasures in Morlaix: Napoleon’s tomb – Archival treasures


In 1840, King Louis-Philippe decided to repatriate the emperor’s body. After several weeks of travel, the coffin arrived in Paris to be placed under the dome of the Invalides, in December 1840.

Green porphyry from Morlaix harbor

We need a tomb equal to past glories. Paul-Émile de La Fruglaye (1766-1849), former mayor of Ploujean and mineralogist in his spare time, suggests using green porphyry from the harbor of Morlaix. In 1843, Mr. Delaunay, architect in Morlaix, was commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior to search for blocks for the realization of the sarcophagus “in the site of the north coast of the harbor of Morlaix”. The following year, he extracted a block of about eight meters. But insufficient to meet the dimensions requested by the architect of the monument, Louis Visconti. M. Delaunay despairs of finding in “this immense mass of rock (…) such a strong stone and above all perfectly homogeneous”. Research continues, new funds are allocated, a second block is extracted.

Change of program

At the beginning of 1845, the ministry wanted to stop research for lack of conclusive results. The two blocks extracted “from the quarries of Ploenoch (sic) near Morlaix” and which “lie on the shore” will serve as the base of the monument. The ministry proposes to transport them to Le Havre by sea.

In 1846, a change of program. Mr. Delaunay must now find eight blocks for the base of the sarcophagus. But the working conditions of the workers are difficult because of the tides which “cover the blocks twice a day”, the remoteness of the dwellings which necessitates the installation of barracks to house them and a forge. The architect even asks that these blocks be transported as they are to Paris to be squared there! In September 1846, Mr. Delaunay declared that he had not found “blocks of the requested dimensions and quality”. The workers are fired, the research abandoned. Ironically, we prefer a red quartzite imported from Russia. The base will be made with green granite from the Vosges. As for the blocks extracted, they will be used for the tomb of the Count of La Fruglaye in his chapel in the castle of Keranroux.

Archival treasures

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