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The Citadel of Blaye

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Bernezac.com - French Atlantic Coast - The Citadel of Blaye

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The Citadel of Blaye

The citadel of Blaye is, in fact, a town that is one kilometre long, with a small population, which keeps it alive whilst still retaining its tranquillity.

You can get a feel of the town by strolling through the streets and you will get a full appreciation of its position, overlooking the Gironde, by walking around the walls.

Porte Royale and Porte Dauphine

Porte Royale is the main entrance designed by Vauban and is situated on the east side of the citadel. You can take your car into the citadel through this entrance.

Alternatively, if you leave your car outside the citadel, you can enter on foot, generally by the Porte Dauphine.

Climb the stairs to reach the Clock Tower (Tour de l'Horloge), then walk along the top of the walls to enjoy a panoramic view of the town of Blaye and the estuary of the Gironde.

The tour of the walls

For a first visit to the citadel, we recommend beginning with a tour of the walls and ending by walking in the streets and squares inside the citadel.

The view of the estuary of the Gironde seen from the walls is quite different, depending if the walk is taken in the morning or in the afternoon or even at midday, according to the position of the sun.

In the morning, the views looking out to sea are enhanced by the bright, direct overhead light, whilst by the middle or end of the afternoon, they appear to be lit from behind.
Photographers will choose to return several times to take advantage of the exceptional luminosity of the estuary with its silt colour, typical of the waters of the Gironde.

The tour of the walls

Having entered by the Porte Dauphine, turn to the left up to the military exercise area, Place d'Armes, made up of an esplanade which overlooks the Gironde.

Here you will get a first sight of the estuary and the islands.
Southwards, the island Pâté and opposite, on the other side of the river, Fort-Medoc in the Médoc vineyards area.

Looking to the right-hand side, the Ile Nouvelle can be seen.

In the 17th century, the Fort-Pâté was built on the island of the same name and the Fort-Medoc completed the citadel of Blaye for the defence of the estuary. The citadel was completed by Vauban in 1689.
Continue then towards the northern extremity of the citadel, up to the Tower of Aiguillette.

The fortification system before Vauban

Take time to read the information on the panel which explains all about the system of fortification at that time and which teaches us that Vauban didn't invent everything!

We summarise below the text of this panel:
" A new machine of war, the bastion and the star configuration.
The vocation of a fortification ‘bastionnée’ is to allow the besieged to counter the enemy attack by protecting themselves well from the enemy fire. 

From the15th Century, the medieval towers were replaced by lower buildings.
In the 16th Century, improvements like the deepening of the moat and the extension of the width of the wall made the problem of protection on the sides become more and more critical.
To eliminate dead angles (zones in which shooting and observation are impossible), Italian engineers, Leonardo da Vinci amongst them, conceived a shape in which all the parts " protect themselves mutually ".
Bastions arranged in a "star" layout left no point in front of them which could not be seen by the two nearby bastions.
In 1600, the French engineer Jean Errard fixed the rules of the fortification, the principles which would be improved by De Ville and Pagan.
The "bastioned" layout was completed by outside works allowing a mutual support, as for example the half-moon shape.
It is especially from Pagan's principles that Vauban conceived his first system of fortification. "

The Castle of Rudel

The tour of the walls ends with the ruins of the Castle of Rudel. This castle of the Middle Ages gets its name from a troubadour of the 12th century. It was integrated into Vauban's citadel and has been in ruins since the 19th Century.

A viewpoint indicator is located on the top of the keep. There is a wide panoramic view of the estuary overlooking the sea, the eastern part of the citadel and the Porte Royale.

Walk inside the Citadel

The castle of Rudel is situated in the highest part of the citadel which, in the Middle Ages, was separated from the esplanade by a wall and Porte de Liverneuf.
In the 17th Century, it was completed with further buildings. Having crossed the Porte de Liverneuf, the walk continues in the small streets such as rue du Couvent des Minimes. The old Couvent des Minimes is situated near the Place d'Armes.

One imagines all the famous people who helped to make the history of Blaye.
Saint Romain in the 6th century, the priest ordained by Saint Martin, Roland the nephew of Charlemagne buried with Saint Romain after the battle of Roncevaux in 778,
Jaufré Rudel, troubadour and Lord of Blaye in the12th Century, at the time of Aliénor of Aquitaine, Duke de Saint Simon, governor in the 17th century, his son Louis de Saint Simon, author of the Memories, Vauban, the General Superintendant of the Fortifications, who wrote in his memoirs that, of all the fortified towns of which he was in charge of the construction, (more than 300!), it was with the citadel of Blaye that satisfied him the most.
Duchesse de Berry was interned in the citadel during the Monarchy of July, 1830, under the control of the Marshal Bugeaud,
Paul Reboutet fought in 1936 against the destruction of the citadel, which was finally classified "Monument Historique" in 1937.

The authentic character of the town contributes to the pleasure of walking along the streets.
The Office of Tourism organises conducted tours.

 

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