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:
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.