The Citadel of Cambrai
Royal Gate at the Citadel of Cambrai. Source: http://www.aspecambrai.org
The Citadel of Cambrai, a unique example of the fortresses built by Emperor Charles V.
The city of Cambrai held the position of border city between the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire from the Carolingian period. Very early on it therefore had to build a ring of fortifications that were expanded and developed over the centuries with the evolutions in siegecraft. The decision to dismantle the fortifications was taken at the end of the19th century. Nonetheless, the city has kept some remarkable remnants of its fortified past. Of the medieval fortifications, several towers remain, along with the gates of the Front Sud, from the end of the 19th century: Arquets Tower, which is the water gate letting the Escaut flow into the city, Caudron Tower, equipped with a turret made of Bouchain sandstone since the 19th century, Saint Fiacre Tower located along the former curtain wall, and the Paris Gate, which has preserved some traces of the defence system.
In 1543, Emperor Charles V tore down a major abbey in Cambrai, Saint-Géry au Mont des Boeufs, to build a citadel using the new principles of bastioned military architecture. Although it was dismantled at the end of the 19th century, this citadel, a unique example of the fortresses built by Charles V, still has its countermine galleries for the surveillance of the ditches, the Royal Gate with rustic bossage decorated with a lion and an arsenal dating from the 16th century.
Among later installations, the officers’ lodgings from the 18th century have been preserved, explosive magazines and barracks that were able to withstand the bombs of the 19th century. Notre Dame Gate, built in 1632 at the north entrance to the city, is remarkable in its decoration.
Paris Gate, the former Saint Sépulcre Gate
A testimonial to the ramparts built at the end of the14th century, this was the only way to reach the south of the city until the fortifications were dismantled starting in 1892. This strategic position had to be invulnerable in case of a siege. The arrowslits on the towers, the drawbridge, the portcullis, the murder-holes in the vault and the large upstairs guard room ensured the Gate’s defence when attacked.
Cambrésis Tourism Office
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Quiz: Forts and citadels
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