Salses Fortress

Salses-le-Château, France

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.



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


4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Daniel Fg (10 months ago)
A masterpiece of European military architecture and exceptionally well preserved. Absolutely worth a visit when in the area. Admission is € 8 ( 2023). The keep is only accessible with a guided visit (in French), but you can roam the inner courtyard freely.
2011Licinho (2 years ago)
Amazing place very well preserved. Very big building from 1000 B.C. that shows us an important part of the European History. The individual tour is not guided,It is just for groups. In this case more parts of the fortress are available for visitation. Parking is free , but small. Tickets for tour with fair price ( 8 EUR).
Henk Vaandrager (2 years ago)
One more castle in Languedoc, near Barcares. Not the most lustrous of them all... Not expensive at eight Euros but that is about what the castle is worth, I'm afraid.
Chris “TheMajor40” Kepu (2 years ago)
Such an awesome place to visit. I wish I knew French as the tour is French only speaking. Lower part of the fortress can be visited without a guide but the upper part of the fortress is guided tour only and I highly recommend it.
Barby Larsen (3 years ago)
What a beautiful place! I went on my motorcycle from Spain with little time , so i couldn't see it in full, but what I saw I loved. I'll be back with more time. They asked for a Covid passport.
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