Fortified Military Sites

  • Fortress from the XIV century, Sarzay

    Fortress from the XIV century, Sarzay

    © ATOUT FRANCE/CRT Centre - Val de Loire/P. Duriez

Fortified Military Sites

Witnesses of History, conquests and wars, and even of defeats, fortresses and citadels have left tangible marks on France's landscape.

From Prehistoric times, caves were fortified against predators. The Gaulish oppidum was surrounded by ditches, such as the fortified town of Ensérune. Military architecture was perfected under the Romans. During the Middle Ages, fortresses proliferated in strategic positions, with the lord offering protection to the serfs of the surrounding area in exchange for a carefully counted tithe. The finest fortresses and keeps of this feudal architecture are to be found at Coucy-le-Château (Aisne), Châteauneuf-en-Auxois (Côte-d'Or), Châteaudun (Eure-et-Loir), Vincennes (Val-de-Marne), Carcassonne (Aude), Aigues-Mortes and its ramparts (Gard), the Saint-André fort at Villeneuve-les-Avignon (Gard), Angers (Maine-et-Loire), Pierrefonds (Oise), Sedan (Ardennes)… Not forgetting the prodigious Cathar castles of the Pyrenees, standing as absolutely fantastic silhouettes with a background of mountains.

Marshal of France, S. de Vauban, appointed superintendent of fortifications in the 17th century by Louis XIV, surrounded strategic points, ports and citadels, with fortified enclosures, such as at Mont-Dauphin (Hautes-Alpes), at Besançon (Doubs) or at Belfort (Territoire de Belfort). In the 19th century, the architect E. Viollet-Leduc restored a great many fortresses, such as Carcassonne and Pierrefonds. His work is often subjected to criticism. As for the fortress of Haut-Koenigsbourg (Bas-Rhin), this was rebuilt in 1900 by Bodo Ebhardt, the architect of Wilhelm II.