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 Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.
The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).
With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).
Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.
The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.
The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.