The fortified town of Port-Vendres

Vue panoramique du Port-Vendres. Source : http://nicolasgiraudphoto.eklablog.com/l

 

An important port due to its position and the depth of its natural harbour.

The site of Port-Vendres has been occupied since the 8th century B.C. Its name comes from a temple dedicated to Venus - Portus Veneris - that in ancient times overlooked the inlet. The first urban settlements were established by the first king of Majorca, James I, in the 13th. The wars against the Aragon kings destroyed the buildings, to the extent that when Roussillon came under Spanish sovereignty in the 15th century, the city had to be completely rebuilt.

After the Treaty of the Pyrenees, the province became part of the kingdom of France once more. King Louis XIV and Vauban, recognising the potential of this port whose deep waters close to Spain made it unique along the Roussillon coast, classified Port-Vendres as a military port.

Budget limits forced French Secretary of State Marquis de Louvois to commission Vauban to carry out a more modest project: the port was slightly modified to allow part of the fleet from the Levant to stay on the Catalan coasts without too much risk. The province’s governor, Maréchal de Mailly, had the old sheltered dock dug out and constructed the Collioure road. De Wailly, the king’s architect, designed the plans. The redoubts built by de Mailly (above Oasis beach, modified during the Second World War to make place for the Lahitolle 1888 9-mm cannons, damaged in 1944 and listed as a historic monument in 1991), by Béar (completed in 1880) and by Fanal (initial construction by Vauban in 1673-1700) protected the access to the new site of Port-Vendres, whose works undertaken by Maréchal de Mailly, governor of the province of Louis XIV, lasted until 1780 and whose monuments were classified as historic monuments in 1933.

In 1838, France first set its sights on North Africa. Plans to extend and improve the infrastructure at Port-Vendres were put into action to make it an important Mediterranean commercial port: a jetty, Place Castellane, Fort Béar and a rail link were built in 1867, and a sea link consisting of liners was set up between the port and Africa in 1885.


The German navy used the French installations in November 1942, then constructed new ones from 1943. The occupation army set up an entrenched camp there enabling it to cope with amphibious operations as well as a land attack from the interior.

The Port-Vendres Stützpunktgruppe was therefore a major component of Germany's control system along the Pyrénées-Orientales coastal front next to Sète and Agde. The town of Port-Vendres was placed under the authority of a port commander led by Korvettenkapitän Kurt Stratmann, then later Fregattenkapitän Walter Denys. The battery in Ullastrel is one of the remnants from this period. On 19 August 1944, the German army retreated. The munitions and arms stores were destroyed, the docks blown up with dynamite to frustrate the Allies progression.


Fort Béar, a military base, erected on the hill between Collioure and Port-Vendres overlooks the town. Originally designed by Vauban, it was modified by Séré-de-Rivières in the 19th century. Converted into a radio compass in 1949, it became a radome in 1960.

 

Practical information:


Mairie 8 rue Jules Pams 66660 Port-Vendres

Tel.: 04 68 82 01 03

Fax: 04 68 82 19 62

  • Arrival of the first German troops in Port-Vendres on 12 November 1942. Source: Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv

  • Battery in Ullastrel. Source: www.interfest.de

  • Port-Vendres in the 18th century. Illustration by Margouët. Source: http://gallica.bnf.fr

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