Unesco World Heritage
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If Vauban rebuilt more then 160 strongholds throughout his long career as the King's Louis XIV military engineer, Mont-Louis is one of the only 9 fortified places-towns that he himself founded on previously clear area.
It is Vauban who suggested to Louis XIV, after the treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 that established the border between France and Spain at it's nowadays location, the reinforcement of the kingdom's newly acquired territories by means of reinforcement of the already existent forts of Colliure, Bellgarde, Prats-de-Mollo, Villefranche-de-Conflent and the building of a brand new fort.
The new fortress location was chosen by Vauban when he visited the region in March 1679. It was to be at 1600 meters altitude the highest elevation fort of France and in honor of his king Vauban gave it the name of Mont-Louis!
Initially the project included the construction of a citadel, an upper town and a lower town. The towns were intended to house at the outset the construction workers and later the tradesmen and craftsmen that were to supply of the garrison stationed in the citadel with the necessary goods. (Due to lack of founds only the citadel and the upper town were ever built).
The whole complex was to be - and actually is - surrounded by fortified bastioned walls and dry moat. Mont Louis was built during 3 years from 1679 to 1681 (during the winter seasons the construction activity was stopping and only several soldiers were left there to prevent pillage). The new fortified town was inaugurated on the 26th of October 1681 in the presence of Francois de Fortia, Marquess of Durban the first royal governor of Mont-Louis.
To populate this new town the government had - as it has now - the power of giving tax breaks and Mont Louis was given advantageous reduced taxes for merchandises that were entering the town.
In the late 17th century a military hospital was set up in one of the barracks of the town, equipped with 70 beds, a surgery room, a pharmacy and even a "pharmaceutical" lab in charge of producing, herbal teas, ointments and patches for wounds treatment.
Today the citadel is still in use by the French army. It houses the "Centre National d'Entraînement Commando" and can be visited only on guided tours.
The town of Mont-Louis has now a population just under 300. It is a touristic little town (with a surface of 39ha the smallest town in Pyrénées Orientales department) that features not only the famous Vauban era constructions but also a beautiful 18th century church and also the first experimental solar furnace in the world.
Vauban's Mont Louis perfectly built fortification was never besieged!