In medieval times the town of Montreuil-sur-Mer stood on a hill near the mouth of the river Canche. An important port, it was first fortified in the 9th century, when a stone wall was built around the town. In the 13th century the town was expanding and so new walls were built to enclose it. The new circuit of defences extended farther south to take in a new market square and farther east and north down the hill to take in the lower town, which was growing up on the riverbank. At the north-east corner of the town a castle with 8 towers was built, forming part of the walls. However, Montreuil's fortunes declined as the estuary silted up and much of the lower town was not built up.
In the 16th century the town was on the northern frontier of France, with the Imperial province of Artois just to the north. Montreuil saw several sieges in the wars between the French and the Habsburgs and their English allies. The first came in 1522, when a joint Imperial and English force failed to capture the town. The second, in 1537, was more disastrous. This time the besiegers captured the town and burnt it, destroying many of the houses. As a result, the French decided to strengthen the fortifications. The work was carried out by an engineer called Jean Marin. Marin saw that the weakest part of the town was the north and east sides where the walls were at the bottom of the hill rather than at the top. He built a new rampart in the north and east, inside the old walls. The result was an inner circuit enclosing the upper town.
The new wall had 5 bastions, which were among the first to be built in France. Below them, the 13-century walls around the lower town were left in place to serve as an outer line of defence. When the English laid siege to Montreuil in 1544, the work on the new fortifications was sufficiently advanced to deter them from attacking from the north or the east. Instead, they attacked from the south, where the approach is less steep, but they were unsuccessful. After holding out for 3 months, Montreuil was relieved by a large French army that forced the English to retreat to Boulogne. Work on the fortifications continued and was completed in 1549.
In 1567, under French king Charles IX, the fortifications were strengthened by the construction of a bastioned citadel built around the castle. Following to Spanish attack in 1596, King Henri IV ordered his military engineer Jean Errard'to strengthen the fortifications of Montreuil. Finally, the 13th-century wall around the lower town was reinforced by the construction of 3 demi-lunes. Thus, in the early 17th century Montreuil was protected on all sides by artillery fortifications.
Monrtreuil was again strengthened in the 1630s when Chevalier de Ville, Louis XIII's military engineer, had the walls backed with earth to enable them to absorb cannon-fire more effectively. The old round towers were lowered and adapted for artillery and muskets.
Vauban'visited Montreuil twice in the 1670s to survey the fotifications. He disapproved of the citadel and even suggested demolishing it and building a bastioned front in its place. In the end he added a demi-lune to the town side instead. Vauban was also responsible for three earthwork demi-lunes on the east side of the upper town and for the covered way'surrounding the defences. Finally, he put sluice gates in place for inundations'and built three bastions and a hornwork to the north of the lower town.
In 1845 the north bastion of the citadel was rebuilt with Haxo casemates and in 1867. The fortifications of the town were declassified, but the citadel was garrisoned until 1929. For the most part the fortifications are in good condition, although the earthwork demi-lunes on the east side of the upper town are rather overgrown. The citadel, which is currently being restored is normally open in the summer months, with a small entrance fee.References:
The Seaplane Harbour is the newest and one of the most exciting museums in Tallinn. It tells stories about the Estonian maritime and military history. The museum’s display, that comprises of more than a couple of hundred large exhibits, revitalizes the colourful history of Estonia.
British built submarine Lembit weighing 600 tones is the centrepiece of the new museum. Built in 1936 for the Estonian navy, Lembit served in the World War II under the Soviet flag. It remained in service for 75 years being the oldest submarine in the World still in use until it was hauled ashore in 2011. Despite its long history, Lembit is still in an excellent condition offering a glimpse of the 1930s art of technology.
Another exciting attraction is a full-scale replica of Short Type 184, a British pre-World War II seaplane, which was also used by the Estonian armed forces. Short Type 184 has earned its place in military history by being the first aircraft ever to attack an enemy’s ship with an air-launched torpedo. Since none of the original seaplanes have survived, the replica in Seaplane Harbour is the only full-size representation of the aircraft in the whole World.
Simulators mimicking a flight above Tallinn, around-the-world journey in the yellow submarine, navigating on the Tallinn bay make this museum heaven for kids or adventurous adults.
Seaplane Harbour operates in architecturally unique hangars built almost a century ago, in 1916 and 1917, as a part of Peter the Great sea fortress. These hangars are the World’s first reinforced concrete shell structures of such a great size. Charles Lindbergh, the man who performed the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, landed here in 1930s.
On the outdoor area visitors can tour a collection of historic ships, including the Suur Tõll, Europe's largest steam-powered icebreaker.