Secret island trapped in Middle Ages

Written By komlim puldel on Senin, 06 Oktober 2014 | 20.01

The La Coupee isthmus on Sark. Picture: Richard Stockwell/Flickr Source: Flickr

IMAGINE a secret kingdom where feudalism is alive and well, a "Seigneur" rules, hanging has only recently been abolished, cars are banned and a favourite local saying is: "What's good enough for William the Conqueror is good enough for us!"

Welcome to Sark, a bizarre nation of 600 people hidden in the Channel Islands, off the coast of Normandy, France.

Cars are banned on Sark - residents and visitors travel by horse and cart. Picture: Beechwood Photography/Flickr Source: Flickr

Until 2008, when elections were finally introduced, Sark was Europe's last feudal state. Before then, the island was governed by the Chief Pleas - the feudal parliament - comprising of 40 unelected island landowners.

The island consists of two main parts, Greater Sark and Little Sark, connected by a narrow isthmus called La Coupée. Protective railings were built on the isthmus in 1900; before then, according to Wikipedia, "children would crawl across on their hands and knees to avoid being blown over the edge."

Sark is filled with quaint old buildings. Picture: Beechwood Photography/Flickr Source: Flickr

Getting to Sark is no easy task - the island doesn't have an airport, so visitors must take a 55-minute ferry ride from Guernsey. And make sure to take cash with you - there are no ATMs and only the HSBC bank (open briefly between 10am-12pm and 2pm-3pm, Monday to Friday) can give money to non-customers.

Don't be a hurry for an ambulance or fire engine either. Both need to be drawn by tractor in case of emergency.

Sark's ambulance is drawn by tractor. Picture: Henry Burrows/Flickr Source: Flickr

How did this secret haven come into existence? Formerly a pirate outpost, Helier de Carteret, the Seigneur of St Ouen in Jersey, was granted Sark as a fief in perpetuity by Queen Elizabeth I in 1565. He was tasked with paying less than $2 a year in to the monarchy in exchange for keeping the island free of rapscallions and occupied by at least 40 of her subjects.

Sark has no street lights and was designated as a Dark Sky Community in 2011 - an area without artificial light pollution, suited to astronomy. While it makes a trip home from the pub a little fraught (mind you, there are only two drinking holes on the island and they're not allowed to open on Sundays) it means the night skies are magnificent.

Visitors can tour the magnificent gardens at the home of the Siegnuer. Picture: Bernard Eckert/Flickr Source: Flickr

Despite the introduction of elections, most old fuedal traditions remain in place, especially in regard to landowners. Among the other Sarkian quirks: until 2000, divorce wasn't recognised, and it wasn't until 2004 that the island finally—and under pressure from the EU—voted to abolish a law that allowed hanging as a punishment.

A Sarkee can still issue their own injunction on a fellow resident by reciting the Lord's Prayer in French and the Clameur d' Haro oath: "Haro! Haro! Haro! A l'aide, mon Prince, on me fait tort!"

Fortunately, the last Clameur recorded on the island was in June 1970, when a resident wanted to prevent a garden wall being built.

Click here to visit The Isle of Sark official website.


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