Built on the site of the former fortified château of the kings of Navarre, the Citadel looks over the walled town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
The capital of the Basse-Navarre and an important crossing route over the Pyrenees, Saint Jean Pied de Port, was founded at the end of the 12th century under the reign of the last kings of Navarre to protect the course of the river and access to the Roncevaux and Bentarte passes. Built on the site of the former fortified château of the kings of Navarre, the Citadel, which has recently been restored, looks over the walled town. It is a fine example of the defensive system of 'Vauban-style' fortifications, with a glacis, moats, walls flanked by bastions with arrow loops, firearms, swing bridges, draw bridges and portcullis.
Constructed by Chevalier Deville in 1628 under the reign of Richelieu, during a time of religious wars and Franco-Spanish conflicts, it was later modified by Vauban. Vauban improved the defensive system, which consisted of four bastions, and planned outlying forts such as the redoubts, as well as the fortification of the whole of the town - only the first part of the project would be carried out. It is accessed by a ramp. In the western demi-lune there is a view over the town and the Cize basin. Around the internal courtyard and against the ramparts constructed above the underground vaulted casemates, are huddled the barracks, the governor's quarters and chapel, the powder stores and the well.
It was from this military position that in 1793 and 1794 all the expeditions against Spain were carried out, during which the Volunteers and later, the 10 companies of Basque Chasseurs distinguished themselves under the command of the would-be Marshal Harispe. In 1814, the Citadel did not succumb under pressure from Anglo-Hispanic-Portuguese troops and the war ended before it surrendered.
During the 1914-18 war, German prisoners and French disciplinarians were held there. The premises would be used as a barracks until 1923.Between 1936 and 1939, having become council property, the Citadel accommodated 500 Basque refugee children fleeing from the Spanish Civil War. The fortress is now home to a secondary education college.References:
Castel del Monte, located in the municipality of Andria, rises on a rocky hill dominating the surrounding countryside of the Murgia region. A unique piece of medieval architecture, it was completed in 1240. The castle’s location, its perfect octagonal shape, as well as the mathematical and astronomical precision of its layout all reflect the broad education and cultural vision of its founder, Emperor Frederick II.
As a leader of modern humanism, the Germanic Emperor brought scholars together in his court from throughout the Mediterranean, combining Eastern and Western traditions. The castle’s unique design, an octagonal plan with octagonal towers at each angle, represents a search for perfection. Interior features reflect Eastern influences, such as the innovative hydraulic installation used by Frederick II for bathing in accord to the typical Arabic customs.
The site is of outstanding universal value in its formal perfection and its harmonious blending of cultural elements from northern Europe, the Muslim world and classical antiquity. Castel del Monte is a unique masterpiece of medieval architecture, reflecting the humanist ideas of its founder, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen.