Fort de Socoa
This fort in the département of Pyrénées-Atlantiques is a fine example of the combination of medieval military architecture and the Vauban-style system of fortifications.
Fort de Socoa in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques is a fine example of the combination of medieval military architecture and the Vauban-style system of fortifications. The border with the empire of Charles Quint became a concern for the kings of France from the 16th century onwards. The Basque region, a natural route towards Spain, was visited by several engineers. Henri IV wanted to build a fortress to protect Saint-Jean-de-Luz and the surrounding towns from Spanish invasion. However, a conflict of interests between the communities delayed the project, which was finally carried out by Louis XIII. In 1636, the Spanish invaded the coast, carried out building work and renamed the citadel "Fort de Castille". As a result of military reversals, the region returned to French sovereignty. The fort was finished and took the name Socoa. In 1686, Vauban, on an inspection visit in the Pyrenees, visited the Basque Country. He then suggested strengthening the Fort de Socoa by using the ruins left by the Spanish following the Thirty Years War. The engineer planned to construct a security jetty to improve access to the fort.
Construction work, which began shortly afterwards, lasted until 1698. It was managed by Fleury. As far as alterations were concerned, the tower was raised in height to two floors, which he crowned with parapets and a machicolation. The site also had a barracks and a chapel. The main enclosure, which was subsequently altered, would take on its present form under the Regency (1723). Besieged once more by the Spanish in 1793, the fort was occupied by British troops in 1814 who used it as a sort of defensive support for the bay, a place for supplying the men stationed inland. Once peace was restored, Fort de Socoa was repaired between 1816 and 1817.
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