The Citadel of Blaye is exceptional in many respects. Vauban, Louis XIV’s talented engineer, built it between 1686 and 1689 on a rocky promontory overlooking the Gironde estuary to control sailing on the estuary and restrict access to Bordeaux.
But this exceptionally strategic site had been inhabited and fortified long before that. A much coveted location, it was under siege no fewer than sixteen times between the Vth and the XVIth century.
The range of cannons at the time was insufficient to span the full width of the estuary (about three kilometres), so Vauban had the idea of constructing two new forts to provide crossfire. To construct Fort Paté, he used an island that had appeared naturally in the middle of the estuary fifteen years earlier.
Fort Médoc was constructed on the bank opposite Blaye, in the Médoc.
As parts of the Network of Major Vauban Sites, the Citadel of Blaye, Fort Paté and Fort Médoc have all three figured on the UNESCO world heritage list since 2008. This network of twelve sites consists of the best preserved examples of Vauban’s gigantic oeuvre (comprising no fewer than 160 fortresses).
The citadel is perfectly preserved. Its defence system comprises 1.2 km of ramparts, four bastions, three demilunes, dry moats, and underground passages between the defence lines. Inside, we are surprised to find a veritable military town with barracks, a convent and a powder store, currently used as workshops by artists and artisans, for exhibitions and many other events.
In addition, the citadel offers splendid panoramas of the Gironde estuary and its islands.