The Citadel of Blaye

Designed by the 17th century architect, Sébastien Le Prestre, Marquis of Vauban, the Citadel of Blaye, along with the Paté fort and the Médoc fort, forms part of “Vauban’s bolt”: a three part fortification designed to defend Bordeaux from its enemies arriving from the Atlantic. There are a total of 160 military buildings scattered around France that were designed by the same architect- 12 of which are now known as “Vauban’s fortifications” and are registered on the UNESCO world heritage list since 2008.

Citadelle de Blaye 2  

The town of Blaye was a disputed hotspot over hundreds of years and was destroyed by Protestant forces in the late 16th century. After the damaging years of the wars of religion, Louis XIII repaired the fortress and started installing a modern defence system. The Citadel of Blaye was designed, as we know it now, between 1685-1689 and expands a total area of 38 hectares.

The fortress of Vauban is open 7 days a week, every day of the year

The fortress is open 7 days a week, every day of the year. There are informative posts, in English, around the fortress to accompany tourists during their visit however, guided tours of the Citadel of Blaye are also available. Tourist guides will explain what life was like in a 17th century garrison and how Vauban envisaged his defence system. You can even discover the underground passages that soldiers would have used in case the fortress was besieged. 

The citadel has a small population living inside, as if it were a village surrounded by think, protective walls. You will most probably enter the Citadel by Porte Dauphine and climb up the stairs to reach the Clock tower. From here you can walk along the top of the walls and enjoy a splendid panoramic view of the town of Blaye and the estuary of the Gironde river. Looking south, you can see the island Pâté and, on the other side of the river, Fort Médoc. Looking north, you can see Ile Nouvelle. At the end of your wall-top tour, you will end up on the highest part of the citadel, in front of the ruins of the Castle of Rudel which dates back to the Middle Ages.  

Few words about the architect : Le Marquis de Vauban

Sébastien Le Prestre was a promising workman from a very early age and at only 20 years old, he entered the service of King Louis XIV. As an engineer, he optimised the defensive system. As a soldier, he assured the protection and siege of cities. As an architect, he drew plans for fortifies sites. He was soon in charge of all the kingdom’s defences- at only 34 years old- and his aim was to develop a network of strong fortifications.

These fortifications did not depend on the construction of one high wall to keep the enemy out- something that 15th century artillery with its canon balls soon weakened- but a series of outer walls in a star shape formation, originally an Italian idea, adapted individually to each environment and left no blind spots. Along with the other two forts, Paté and Médoc, located on the other side of the river, Vauban’s idea was to set up a system of cross-fires to prevent any enemies from sailing up the Garonne and into Bordeaux. 

Porte royale Fort Médoc  
Fort pâté