The town of Morlaix, on the north coast of Brittany, was once an important trading centre in the late Middle Ages. This made its surrounding lands a tempting target for hostile neighbours like the English. In 1522 the English attacked and pillaged the town in revenge for an attack on Bristol by pirates from Morlaix. After this attack the local authorities decided that the town needed to be protected against attacks from the sea. Because the Morlaix bay is crowded with big and small rocks, one strategically-placed fort in the bay, combined with batteries on the surrounding cliffs, was sufficient to control all marine access to Morlaix by sealing off the only waterway deep enough for large ships. The Taureau rock was the perfect place for such a fort.
It took twenty years for construction work to begin. There was only enough money to build a tower with a low battery around it. Due to a lack of maintenance work the tower collapsed in 1609 and was rebuilt in 1614 (look for the stone with this year on it at the foot of the tower). In the early 1690s Brittany’s coasts were attacked several times by the English navy, making the coastal defence of this area a very urgent matter. Work on improving the fort began in 1699, after Vauban'approved of plans drawn up by Garangeau, the Director of Fortifications for the region, based in Saint Malo. The building of the fort took about 50 years and it hasn’t been modified much since it was finished in 1745.
Because the fort only took a secondary position in the defence system, from 1745 onward the fort had a new use: first of all it was occupied by a garrison of invalid soldiers. Due to lack of space in the Palais des Invalides in Paris invalid soldiers were placed in forts that didn’t play a major role in the defence system anymore. Fort Medoc for example was occupied by a similar garrison in those days. Secondly, at the same time, the fort was used as a prison. Local noblemen were imprisoned here at the request of their family (wishing to avoid disgrace in most cases), who paid for their imprisonment. They stayed there as long as their family paid. After the French Revolution the fort was used for political prisoners. After the fort lost its military importance in 1880 it has had several new functions; a party island for a rich local family, a military base for the Nazis and a sailing school.
Over the past years the fort has been restored and it has been open to the public since 2006. The fort can be reached by boat from Carantec and Le Diben, depending on the tide.References:
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.