The fortifications of Saint-Martin-de-Ré

Vue aérienne de Saint-Martin-de-Ré. Source : GNU Free Documentation License

In 1681 Vauban strengthened the island's defences by constructing a citadel and a fortified castle.

The l'île de Ré, opposite La Rochelle, was subjected on several occasions to attack from British soldiers. Conscious of the need to protect access to La Rochelle and Rochefort, in 1681 Vauban started strengthening the island's defences by building a citadel and fortified castle at Saint-Martin-de-Ré, on the North coast.

Built on the site of a fortress where construction work had started in 1627, the square-shaped citadel occupies the eastern part of the town. Its defensive system comprises four bastions, three demi-lunes and a counterguard, surrounded by a moat and a covered walkway. It contained an arsenal, food and powder stores, barracks and officers' accommodation. The citadel opens on to the sea via a small fortified port. From 1873 onwards it became a stop-off point for penal colony prisoners on the way to New Caledonia until 1897 and later to Guyana until 1938. Today it remains a prison for more than 400 detainees and is not open to the public.
An example of Vauban's first system adapted to suit a flat site, the construction was accompanied by an enormous fortified enclosure capable of accommodating the island's population of some 16,000 inhabitants, as well as their livestock, and of storing food supplies and forage in the event of enemy attack. In an arc on the land side, there are bastions, orilloned half- bastions and a counterguard. Two monumental gates, the Porte Toiras and the Porte des Campani form the access points. Also surrounded by a moat and a covered walkway, it is in addition encircled by an open-plan glacis, sloping outwards from the ramparts within canon-firing range.
Saint-Martin de Ré Tourist Information Office 2, quai Nicolas Baudin Ilot du Port - BP 41 17410 Saint-Martin-Ré Tel.: + 33 (0) 5 46 09 20 06 Open from 01-07 to 31-08, from 10 am to 7 pm, Monday to Saturday and from 10 am to 1 pm and from 3 pm to 5 pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays from 01.06 to 30.09: Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm and from 10 am to 1 pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays In May: Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm and from 10 am to 12 pm on Sundays and/or Bank Holidays In April and during school holidays: Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm and on Sundays and Bank Holidays from 10 am to 12 pm from 01-10 to 31-03: Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm

  • Vue sur la porte de Toiras qui ouvre vers la flotte. Source : Photo Ville de Saint-Martin-de-Ré

  • Vue aérienne de Saint-Martin-de-Ré. Source : Photo Ville de Saint-Martin-de-Ré

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    Practical information

    Address

    Cours Vauban 17410
    Saint-Martin-Ré

    Prices

    Visite guidée Plein tarif: 6 € Tarif réduit: 2,50 € Groupes (+ de 20 personnes): 5,5 €

    Weekly opening hours

    Accès libre toute l’année. Visite guidé sur réservation le mardi et jeudi à 10h30 pendant les vacances scolaires.