The Fenestrelle Fortress is the biggest alpine fortification in Europe, having a surface area of 1,300,000 m². The history of modern fortifications in the Fenestrelle area, began in 1690, when the King of France Louis XIV appointed Nicolas Catinat as commander of the French Army against the Duke of Savoy’s Army during the Nine Years' War. He understood the danger posed by the Chisone Valley for the French Army and decided to build 3 small redoubts and a fort in the Fenestrelle area. More specifically, in 1694 Nicolas Catinat obtained the approval of Louis XIV to build Fort Mutin. During the War of the Spanish Succession, this imposing fortification was besieged in August 1708 by Victor Amadeus II’s troops and conquered in 15 days.
At the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, France officially ceded Fenestrelle and the upper Val Chisone to the Duchy of Savoy as required by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The treaty gave the Kingdom of Sicily to the Duchy of Savoy, making Victor Amadeus II the first king of the House of Savoy. For political reasons the Kingdom of Sicily was then exchanged with the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1720.
Fort Mutin was restored, but Victor Amadeus II found it insufficient for the protection of the Val Chisone. So he instructed military architect Ignazio Bertola to design and build a complex of forts in Fenestrelle. They were connected by a 3 km long wall, an indoor staircase of 3,996 steps unique in Europe and an outside staircase of 2,500 steps. The construction began in the summer of 1728 and ended in 1793; then it started again in 1836, ending definitively in 1850.
During the Napoleonic Era when Fenestrelle was again under the French influence, it was used as a prison by the French Empire: notable prisoners were Joseph de Maistre and Bartolomeo Pacca. The prison also held Pierre Picaud, whose story was the inspiration for Edmond Dantès, the main character in Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo. The Kingdom of Sardinia locked political prisoners, Mazzini's supporters and common criminals in the fort, including the Archbishop Luigi Fransoni.
After the unification of Italy, around a thousand of Kingdom of the Two Sicilies soldiers were put into the fort. Several Garibaldi's and Papal States supporters were also locked up.
After the Kingdom of Italy joined the Triple Alliance in 1882, the fort was upgraded. After 1887, it became the headquarters of the Fenestrelle battalion of the 3rd Alpini Regiment.
After World War II, the fort was abandoned and left to decay, most of the available material being plundered. In 1990 a redevelopment action, guided by a group of volunteers, known as Progetto San Carlo (ONLUS) was started.References:
The castle of La Iruela, small but astonishing, is located on the top of a steep crag in Sierra de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park. From the castle, impressive views of the surrounding area and of the town can be enjoyed.
The keep dates from the Christian era. It has a square base and small dimensions and is located at the highest part of the crag.
There are some other enclosures within the tower that create a small alcázar which is difficult to access.
In a lower area of the castle, protected with defensive remains of rammed earth and irregular masonry, is an old Muslim farmstead.
After a recent restoration, an open-air theater has been built on La Iruela castle enclosure. This theater is a tribute to the Greek and Classic Eras and holds various artistic and cultural shows throughout the year.
The first traces of human activity in La Iruela area are dated from the Copper Age. An intense occupation continued until the Bronze Age.
Originally, La Iruela (like Cazorla) was a modest farmstead. From the 11th century, a wall and a small fortress were built on the hill to protect the farmers.
Around 1231, don Rodrigo Ximénez de Rada, Archbishop of Toledo, conquered La Iruela and made it part of the Adelantamiento de Cazorla. Over the Muslim fortress, the current fortress was built.
Once the military use of the fortress ended, it was used as cemetery.