Fort de Salses
Visit the Fort de Salses in Pyrénées-Orientales, Languedoc-Roussillon
Salses Fort was constructed by the catalans in 1497 to protect their border with France to the north - the castle that had previously stood at the same location had been destroyed the year before by the French army
The location had been part of a key transportation route dating back to Roman times.
Besieged several times unsuccessfully, including once before construction was complete (in 1503) the fort was finally successfully conquered by the French in 1642 during the Thirty Years War.
It subsequently lost its strategic importance with the signing of the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 which moved the Spanish border further south (the same fate befell the cathar castles to the north, used by the French to protect their side of the frontier).
The fort is unusual in that it is essentially a medieval castle but also includes more 'modern' defensive capabilities. The use of artillery at that time had created a need for thicker stronger walls, and the ability to fire artillery from within the castle. The solution was to half bury the castle (equivalent to mounding earth against the internal side of the very thick walls, making the walls much stronger and providing a platform for the castles own artillery).
Other innovations adding to the impregnability of Salses include archers 'slits' both in exterior walls and interior walls, low towers, a deep moat, and carefully designed interior layout permitting each part of the castle to be separately defended in case of attack.
Within the fort is a large open courtyard, surrounded by the walls, and several buildings including the castle keep. A large ditch across the interior restricted access to the keep, which required use of a drawbridge. The building is extensive, covering almost a hectare of land (2.5 acres) and was capable of housing up to 1500 men at one time.
Map showing location of Fort de Salses