Citadel of Bayonne
The Citadel of Bayonne, a Vauban masterpiece, is one of the fortified structures of this magnificent town.
Castrum de Lapurdum, whose ruins can still be seen around the cathedral in Bayonne, already demonstrated its military purpose in Roman times. Over the centuries the town, a strategic crossing point towards Spain and a control point for river communications between the seafront and the inland region, was provided with significant defensive fortifications. The ramparts, as well as three fortified structures - the Château Vieux, the Château Neuf and the Citadel, all of which have for the most part been preserved - bear witness to this.
From the 15th century onwards, when Dunois' armies seized Bayonne on behalf of the King of France, Charles VII, the position of Bayonne became strategic. François 1st therefore equipped the town with a fort. Vauban modernised it from 1680 onwards. His arrival in the Pyrenees led to the redesigning of the system of defence for the Spanish border, in which Bayonne became the linchpin, supported by the citadels of Navarrenx and Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. He supervised the construction and strengthening of the ramparts and gates. He also built and consolidated the buildings of the Château Vieux. The town's surrounding wall was also repaired and the old dungeon inside was demolished. Of particular note is the citadel he created on the right bank of the Adour, the Château Neuf. His accomplice, Ferry, oversaw the works. The citadel was in use in the 18th century and, in 1750, a garrison of 2,000 men was stationed there. In order to support the citadel, subsequent engineers built redoubts in the surrounding area to defend the town's Southern flanks. The Bayonne citadel saw its last military action in 1814 during confrontations between the Anglo-Hispanic-Portuguese troops led by Wellington and those of Marshal Soult. The premises are currently occupied by the 1st Marine Parachute Infantry Regiment (1er RPIMa). The citadel can be visited during open houses.
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