Forteresse de Salses was built between 1497 and 1504, at the order of Ferdinand II of Aragon. It was designed by engineer Francisco Ramiro Lopez, the king’s commander and artillery master, to block access to France from Roussillon. It was originally destined to replace a previous château, from which the town takes its name (Salses-le-Château). The earliest records of this château, situated on a neighbouring rocky outcrop, date back to 1007, and it was destroyed during a siege in 1496.

The Fortress of Salses is a masterpiece of military architecture, designed to protect against the recently developed metal cannonball. It is a prime example of the transition between the mediaeval château, with its keep and cylindrical towers with long curtain walls, and the modern fortress, with its rigorously geometric and part-buried structure. Its walls are around 10 metres thick, and the fortress is divided over seven levels served by a maze of corridors and multiple interior defensive chicanes. By virtue of the defensive plan, the fortress is divided into three entirely independent sections.

The entire system was strengthened by a vast dry moat and buffer zone and, to the east, south and north-west, by three separate, pointed towers that acted as additional, advance defensive posts.

The fortress’ location was selected because of the abundant local springs that would be useful during times of siege. It occupies a strategically important position on the main route between France and Spain, on a narrow strip of land between the Corbières mountains and the marshland bordering the lakes.

The fortress, which survived a fire in 1503 despite being unfinished, was the subject of multiple attacks by both the French and Spanish. It was besieged, changed hands in 1503, 1639 and 1640, and was finally conquered by the French in 1642 following a fourth siege. With the signature of the Treaty of the Pyrenees on November 16th, 1659, the fortress’ destiny was finally sealed, and it became the permanent property of France.

Given its distance from the border, the fortress subsequently lost its strategic importance and was threatened with demolition on several occasions because it was becoming too expensive to maintain. The fortress nevertheless survived and was repaired and transformed from 1691 onwards, under the supervision of Vauban.

References:

Comments

Your name



Details

Founded: 1497-1504
Category: Castles and fortifications in France

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Ceekay Kaycee (2 years ago)
Large Fortress that is interesting to see around. Information notices in the fortress are in French, English and Spanish. Included in the 8€ entrance fee is the opportunity to wander around yourself on the ground floor and then have a guided tour inside on the upper levels. The price is extremely cheap for what is on offer but be warned, there are many quite steep steps to navigate inside if you take advantage of the guided tour, it is also in French only. I would say the guided part of the visit was unsuitable for anybody with mobility problems because of the number of steep stairs, few of which have handrails. This is an important heritage site and is worth visiting even if you are only looking around yourself. The sheer scale of this place has to be appreciated. The tour guide was particularly good, he was very patient with the group of people visiting as some were a little tentative on the stairs and struggling a little. Additionally, as I have already mentioned commentary was in French only, however he spoke slowly, clearly and distinctly and explained things using gestures in addition to describing things in simple language. This was useful for us as we were then translating his commentary to English for an elderly visiting relative. Some fun things for children or family groups as there was a room of giant wooden games where you could easily spend an hour if you played each giant game. Nice gift shop with vending machines for hot and cold drinks and snacks. Lots of books about the Fortress in various languages, also many other books about other historic monuments in the area. Wonderful view from the top levels during the guided tour. Parking outside.
Adrian Berkeley (2 years ago)
The fortress at Salses is an incredibly formidable fortification and a wonderful place to visit. Originally built by the Spanish in the 15th century to defend the historic border with France (at that time the Corbières hills), it lost its primary function when the border moved to its present day location. It has since been used for a variety of purposes, including a prison, but has been open to the public for more than 120 years. The thickness of the walls, strength of fortifications and the advanced design (for its era) are really remarkable. At €8 per person for the visit, which includes a guided tour of around 45 minutes, this is well worth a visit.
K Jackson (2 years ago)
Great history! Amazing place. Tour guide spoke fluent English, after the your began, she refused to explain anything in English. I'd understand if she didn't speak English, but since she did know it, it would be nice to participate too.
This Moment (2 years ago)
Surprising this magnificent fortress isn't better known
Dace Lisovska (2 years ago)
Fort was closed 1.01. but we walked around it. Quite impressive. Would love to visit inside and hear a story of the fort. Maybe next time.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Heraclea Lyncestis

Heraclea Lyncestis was an ancient Greek city in Macedon, ruled later by the Romans. It was founded by Philip II of Macedon in the middle of the 4th century BC. The city was named in honor of the mythological hero Heracles. The name Lynkestis originates from the name of the ancient kingdom, conquered by Philip, where the city was built.

Heraclea was a strategically important town during the Hellenistic period, as it was at the edge of Macedon"s border with Epirus to the west and Paeonia to the north, until the middle of the 2nd century BC, when the Romans conquered Macedon and destroyed its political power. The main Roman road in the area, Via Egnatia went through Heraclea, and Heraclea was an important stop. The prosperity of the city was maintained mainly due to this road.

The Roman emperor Hadrian built a theatre in the center of the town, on a hill, when many buildings in the Roman province of Macedonia were being restored. It began being used during the reign of Antoninus Pius. Inside the theatre there were three animal cages and in the western part a tunnel. The theatre went out of use during the late 4th century AD, when gladiator fights in the Roman Empire were banned, due to the spread of Christianity, the formulation of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the abandonment of, what was then perceived as, pagan rituals and entertainment.

Late Antiquity and Byzantine periods

In the early Byzantine period (4th to 6th centuries AD) Heraclea was an important episcopal centre. A small and a great basilica, the bishop"s residence, and a funerary basilica and the necropolis are some of the remains of this period. Three naves in the Great Basilica are covered with mosaics of very rich floral and figurative iconography; these well preserved mosaics are often regarded as fine examples of the early Christian art period.

The city was sacked by Ostrogoth/Visigoth forces, commanded by Theodoric the Great in 472 AD and again in 479 AD. It was restored in the late 5th and early 6th century. When an earthquake struck in 518 AD, the inhabitants of Heraclea gradually abandoned the city. Subsequently, at the eve of the 7th century, the Dragovites, a Slavic tribe pushed down from the north by the Avars, settled in the area. The last coin issue dates from ca. 585, which suggests that the city was finally captured by the Slavs. As result, in place of the deserted city theatre several huts were built.

The Episcopacy Residence was excavated between 1970 and 1975. The western part was discovered first and the southern side is near the town wall. The luxury rooms are located in the eastern part. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th rooms all have mosaic floors. Between the 3rd and 4th rooms there is a hole that led to the eastern entrance of the residence. The hole was purposefully created between the 4th and 6th century.