UNESCO Heritage List
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Bellegarde Fortress was built by Vauban starting in 1668. It sits on top of a hill overlooking the pass of Pertus an ancient communication route between France and Spain.
The strategic location was used since 1285 when the King of Majorca built of fortified tower to protect himself from his powerful neighbor the King of Aragon, who manages however to conquer the region in the 14th century.
Like the rest of the Roussillon the area becomes French at the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 and its strategic importance increases so much that in 1668 Vauban decides to built a stronghold in the place of the old tower.
The building process lasted 3 decades. To build it Vauban lowered the hill the sort sits on by 30m. During this time between 1674 and 1675 during the Holland war the fort’s new construction site is attacked and occupied by the Spanish troops.
The fortress, a pentagonal structure that occupies 14 hectares, is equipped with a 1 km long glacis (artificial slope of earth!) and with 5 bastions: bastion du Perthus, bastion de Saint André, bastion de Panissars, d’Espagne and du precipice, connected with each other. Between the bastion du Perthus and the bastion de Saint André there is "Porte de France" the only access gate of the fort.
The second line of defense of the fort is an second line of ramparts and an interior protection wall. Inside of these 3 layers of protection is the actual fort containing dwelling for up to 600 soldiers, a chapel a hospital and a bakery. To supply the fort with the necessary water a well of 62 meters was dug in the bedrock in 1698.
Can be visited only during May to September.
Images courtesy of www.fortified-places.com.