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Vauban fortifications

Campsite Ile de Ré > Ile de Ré > Authentic island > Vauban fortifications

Discover Saint-Martin-de-Ré, a fortified island

The island of Ré enjoys a strong reputation as a strategic island, thanks to its cultural identity, its trade in salt, wine and brandy, and its location in relation to the mainland. The island boasts a unique military heritage dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, when threats and offensive attacks ruled the island.
Just a few minutes by car from the Tour des Prises campsite, the town of Saint Martin de Ré is the cradle of the very history of the Ile de Ré. It is home to numerous fortified structures designed and invented from scratch by Vauban. The city was transformed into a fortified, entrenched camp, thanks to the citadel and its 14km-long rampart surrounding the city.
The site is a true symbol of military architecture dating back to the 17th century, when Louis XIV’s famous engineer demonstrated his expertise in fortifying the city. Now preserved, it’s an invitation to immerse yourself in the turbulent history of the Grand Siècle.
Since 2008, the village of Saint-Martin-de-Ré has been part of the network of major Vauban sites, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the 32nd World Heritage Site in France and the 878th in the world.

Aerial view of the Citadel of Le Palais built by Vauban on Belle-Île-en-Mer, the largest island of Brittany in Morbihan, France – Maritime fortification on a French island in the Atlantic Ocean

A brief history of the fortifications of Saint-Martin-de-Ré

During the Hundred Years’ War, the island of Ré was an anchorage and supply point for both the French and the English. Once conquered by the French, it became a strategic point for French maritime defense. Hence the idea of building fortifications at Saint-Martin-de-Ré. They were built under the orders of Louis XIII in 1627 by the engineer d’Argencourt, who had designed a first citadel within the city walls, as well as the Prée fort in the village of La Flotte.
In 1672, the engineer La Favollière came up with a project for an enclosure and port for the village of Saint-Martin-de-Ré. Vauban was called to the island in 1474 to review the fortification plans.
In 1981, engineer François Ferry drew on elements of La Favollière’s plan for his design, which was approved by Vauban. The plan was to build a new citadel on the same site as the first. The citadel was to include an urban enclosure to encircle the entire commune of Saint-Martin-de-Ré, in the form of a semicircle with five fronts, five orillon bastions, five half-moons and a half-bastion facing the seafront. It also features two doors on the south-west and south-east sides. Vauban then drew up plans for the construction of an extensive enclosure around the town, which would provide shelter and protection for the entire island population in the event of an invasion. It represents nearly 16,000 people with their livestock.
Altered under the Third Republic, the city walls and citadel have been preserved in their entirety. Its ramparts have been turned into an urban park, and the citadel’s small port is still accessible.

Make a reservation at La Tour des Prises campsite on the Ile de Ré to enjoy a visit to Saint-Martin-de-Ré and its fortifications.