A three piece fort, called "the bolt of Vauban" on the estuary, counts among UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.
During the 17th Century, Louis XIV required Vauban, a famous French architect, to protect Bordeaux from invaders. The great architect decided to close off the access to the city by boat. Therefore, he improved Blaye’s medieval fortifications and built two other forts : Fort Pâté on an island in the middle of the Gironde river - between Blaye and Medoc - and Fort Medoc on the opposite bank. Since 2008, Vauban's network has been added to UNESCO's World Heritage list as a unique system of defence and is represented by 11 other selected sites.
To discover "The Bolt of Vauban" (Blaye citadel, Fort Pâté and Fort Medoc), click here
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Built on marshland on the left bank of the Gironde, "Fort Médoc" is one element of the defensive system.
Building the fort was carried out from 1689 to 1690.
The square shaped fort, at right angle with the shore, made up of four bastions joined up by walls. An outer triangle shaped fortification protects the King's door and is located opposite the estuary. Its huge body was protected thanks to moats flooded by means of locks, surrounded by a covered lane and an outer moat. Inside the fort, there were two lines of barracks, a housing for a chief of staff, a chapel, a bakery and a powder store. At that time 300 soldiers could be housed.
In 1716, just 13 cannons and a few cannon balls were left to defend the fort and by 1789 just a few disabled soldiers, and three old cannons.
It went through many ups and downs, it was used by the French army durng W.W. I. Then it was handed over to the town of Cussac local authorities in 1930.
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Fort Pâté stands strong on its island right in the middle of the Gironde estuary.
"Island of Blaye" was mentioned for the first time round 1650. As high tides regulary covered it, Ferry, the appointed architect, decided to build a dyke around it in 1690. As the fort is oval shaped, it enables a 360° watch with 32 cannons. Two lines of cannons protected the island : one at the top of the fort and the second one around the building protected by a narrow glacis. The fort was somewhat special in that it was built on a raftlike foundation of pine wood laid down on piles. Then, a second raftlike foundation was laid out around the island to stabilise the ground ; the work was completed in 1693.
Rue des Minimes
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On a rocky promontory on the right bank of the Gironde, the citadel of Blaye overlooks the estuary in a very impressive way. Its location was of great importance, and was thus much coveted in the course of its history.
In the second half of the 16th Century, as Protestants and Catholics were fighting against each other the citadel was dismantled by some protestants.
In the early 17th Century, Louis XIII's government started alterations on the site, to create a more modern defence system, based on the Italian concept of the bastion.
In the middle of the 17th Century, as anti-King-of-France riots were going on, Blaye was the key to Bordeaux and to the whole Aquitaine area. A second building campaign was undertaken, demonstrating Louis XIV's government determination to turn Blaye into a major fortress.
In 1685, Vauban inspected the construction site, and noticed the poor conditions and weaknesses of the site. He proposed the layout of a new, more compact fortress. It was to be flanked by four bastions, three "demi-lune" defence systems and two gates. François Ferry was then entrusted with the plans and he started working in early 1686 until the end of 1689.
The citadel of Blaye is a splendid example of adapted defence systems to the still existing fortifications. Thanks to Blaye local authorities, a restoration work programme was started in 1989. The citadel is now very well preserved.