Built on marshy land on the Left Bank of the Gironde, opposite Fort Pâté, Fort Médoc was a key part of Vauban's three-point defence system. Its purpose was to block the passage of ships between Île Pâté and Cussac in the Médoc. Fort Médoc was built in 1689-1690 on low-lying terrain with alluvial soil. The artillery battery was pointed towards Blaye and most of the structure was taken up to house it.
In order to keep the fort from being captured by soldiers disembarking from the estuary, it was necessary to build a structure able to resist such an attack. The square-shaped fort, oriented perpendicularly to the riverbank, consisted of four bastions linked by curtain walls. A demilune protected the imposing Porte Royale on the side furthest from the estuary. This vast entity was in turn protected by a covered walkway, a preliminary moat, and a main moat able to be filled with water by locks.
Two rows of barracks were built inside the square as well as a building to house the Major, a chapel, a bakery, and a gunpowder storage area. The barracks could accommodate 300 soldiers. However, the military role of Fort Médoc turned out to be rather negligible in the course of its history. In fact, it was never attacked. In 1716, thirteen 6 and 8 pound cannons and a rather limited number of cannonballs were nevertheless waiting. By 1789, only a few soldiers, mostly disabled veterans, and three old cannons attested to the fort's military vocation.
After periods of virtual abandon, followed by a renovation, the site was decommissioned by the army in 1916. It became the property of the commune of Cussac in 1930. This part of Vauban's project, executed by the architect Duplessy, is typical of fortifications designed by the French military strategist.
With the citadel of Blaye, its city walls and the Fort Paté, the Fort Médoc was listed in 2008 as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as part of the 'Fortifications of Vauban' group.References:
The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.
The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.
In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.
In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.
After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.
In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.
In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.