Fort San Cristóbal

Pamplona, Spain

The Fort Alfonso XII or San Cristóbal is a fort located on the top of the mount San Cristóbal, 4 km from Pamplona, Spain. It was built after the Carlist War of 1872-1876 because Carlists succeeded to reach Pamplona (controlled by the liberal Government) with their artillery from this and other mountains surrounding Pamplona from the north. The advances in artillery during late 19th century forced the military authorities to build this kind of fortifications in order to control mountains and hills close to important towns. Another example of this is the fort San Marcos, near San Sebastián.

The fortress was built from 1878 to 1919. The top of the mountain was blasted and most of the construction is underground, so it is barely visible from the outside. Its three floors have an extension of 180,000 m². It is surrounded by a moat and the total extension of the facility is 615,000 m².

After the revolution of 1934, nearly 750 revolutionary convicts were imprisoned there. Most of them were amnestied after the electoral win of the left in February 1936. During the early stages of the Civil War (July-September 1936), the military rebels strong in Navarre unleashed a terror campaign against inconvenient, dissenting civilians in the rearguard. The inmate population in the fort rose to more than 2,000.

On May 22, 1938, some prisoners organised a massive prison break. 792 prisoners fled, but unfortunately for the escapees one of the guards sneaked his way to Pamplona, and gave notice. The Nationalist military rebels strong in Navarre went on to organise a manhunt, with only three managing to get to the French border; 585 were arrested, 211 were shot dead. Fourteen of the arrested who were considered the leaders were sentenced to death. Most fugitives were intercepted during the following days.

Those living through the military operation were brought back to the fort, imprisoned, and left to die of famine and disease, totalling more than 400. In 1988, a sculpture was erected to honour the memory of the Republicans who died there. The fort ceased to be a prison in 1945.

The Ministry of Defence still owns the facility although the last troops left it in 1991. Although there has been several projects for recovering the fort and giving it a new use and in 2001 it was decreed 'good of cultural interest', it remains today abandoned and ruinous.



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Founded: 1878-1919
Category: Castles and fortifications in Spain

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User Reviews

Maxim Mosharov (2 years ago)
Great historical place to visit. It is open for tours of you call to special department. You can sneak in though. If you keep on going along the right side, in about a 400 meters there are stairs down to the fort. Then you can explore the fort prison complex. There is not much of anything left. I only explored areas near by though. You can go up to the second floor cells, the go to the first floor cells. Bring flashlight.
David Izquierdo Azzouz (2 years ago)
Nice views of Pamplona and surroundings, if you're dressed for the mountain you can even have a walk around the fortification, it's quite impressive and entertaining, you cab even get inside where it's dark and somewhat scary but yet safe, also nice views from the other side up in the hill of the rural area outside Pamplona.
Lilli Reilly (Llillibug) (2 years ago)
Cool place to visit!
martin martinov (4 years ago)
Great view to Pamplona! Nice rout for walking and biking. You can reach the place by car too.
Carmen Blanco (5 years ago)
Unexpectedly tremendous visit to a military owned permanently closed facility near Pamplona, built in late XIX century to defend the city from a nothern attack, and used as a prison during Republic and civil war, the place remains still (even if ruined and abandoned) as an historical place.
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Château de Foix

The Château de Foix dominates the town of Foix. An important tourist site, it is known as a centre of the Cathars. Built on an older 7th-century fortification, the castle is known from 987. In 1002, it was mentioned in the will of Roger I, Count of Carcassonne, who bequeathed the fortress to his youngest child, Bernard. In effect, the family ruling over the region were installed here which allowed them to control access to the upper Ariège valley and to keep surveillance from this strategic point over the lower land, protected behind impregnable walls.

In 1034, the castle became capital of the County of Foix and played a decisive role in medieval military history. During the two following centuries, the castle was home to Counts with shining personalities who became the soul of the Occitan resistance during the crusade against the Albigensians. The county became a privileged refuge for persecuted Cathars.

The castle, often besieged (notably by Simon de Montfort in 1211 and 1212), resisted assault and was only taken once, in 1486, thanks to treachery during the war between two branches of the Foix family.

From the 14th century, the Counts of Foix spent less and less time in the uncomfortable castle, preferring the Governors' Palace. From 1479, the Counts of Foix became Kings of Navarre and the last of them, made Henri IV of France, annexed his Pyrrenean lands to France.

As seat of the Governor of the Foix region from the 15th century, the castle continued to ensure the defence of the area, notably during the Wars of Religion. Alone of all the castles in the region, it was exempted from the destruction orders of Richelieu (1632-1638).

Until the Revolution, the fortress remained a garrison. Its life was brightened with grand receptions for its governors, including the Count of Tréville, captain of musketeers under Louis XIII and Marshal Philippe Henri de Ségur, one of Louis XVI's ministers. The Round Tower, built in the 15th century, is the most recent, the two square towers having been built before the 11th century. They served as a political and civil prison for four centuries until 1862.

Since 1930, the castle has housed the collections of the Ariège départemental museum. Sections on prehistory, Gallo-Roman and mediaeval archaeology tell the history of Ariège from ancient times. Currently, the museum is rearranging exhibits to concentrate on the history of the castle site so as to recreate the life of Foix at the time of the Counts.