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
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
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
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
Paul Reboutet fought in 1936 against the destruction of the
citadel, which was finally classified "Monument Historique" in
character of the town contributes to the pleasure of walking
along the streets.
The Office of Tourism organises conducted tours.