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Fort de la Prée

Campsite Ile de Ré > Ile de Ré > Places to explore > Visit Fort de la Prée

Fort de la Prée is located on the Ile de Ré, near a small port that has been the gateway to La Rochelle since the Middle Ages. At this stage, the crossing is only 5 kilometers long. Fort La Prée is the island’s oldest Vauban fortification. A jewel of military heritage not to be missed during your stay at camping La Tour des Prises.

History of Fort de la Prée

It was decided to build the fort at La Prée before fortifying St Martin de Ré, to avoid invasion of the island by the English, who were ready to support the Protestant rebels. At the same time, the island’s main access point was secured, giving the crown a firm grip on the island and providing it with an important means of access.
In order to control the Protestant population of the Ile de Ré in the early 17th century, to ensure that they would not collaborate with the English enemy, and at the same time to protect the island from that same enemy, it had to be fortified.
The island of Ré was strategic, as it could be used by the enemy as a base from which to attack La Rochelle and, to a lesser extent, Rochefort.
The first plans date back to 1625. They show a small star-shaped fort surrounded by a moat on the landward side, bordered by a renovated outer envelope with a ditch opposite. This ditch is preceded by a covered path. The fort had a small harbor, covered by the outer shell.

The fort had the chance to prove its worth as early as 1627, when the English laid siege to Saint-Martin-de-Ré, which was not yet fully fortified. Fort de la Prée formed a safe harbor from which the French launched their counter-attack. The English were forced to give up their siege and retreat.
In the years that followed, the fort’s waterfront was reinforced and the covered way on the land side was doubled, making the fort much larger. In 1684, Vauban ordered the destruction of the covered ways and the fort’s outer shell.

The fort seen from the landward side

The defenses around the port were reinforced, barracks were built along the right waterfront (the foundations of which can still be seen today) and a new covered road was constructed. These changes gave the fort the appearance it has more or less retained to this day.
One interesting thing about Fort de la Prée is the way it was seen by the engineers who worked on it. Most of them complain about its size, saying it’s too small, rather than the fact that the semi-circular curtain walls don’t flank the bastions adequately and there’s not enough drinking water. However, they all wanted to preserve the fort and reduced its size themselves.
Looking at the original plans, we can see that the star-shaped fort functions more like a keep (central tower), with the outer envelope and covered way forming the first layers of defense. Seen in this light, the shape of the fort seems more logical.
By the 1930s, the fort had lost its military importance, and over the centuries it has remained largely unchanged. Bomb shelters were added and some of the buildings inside the fort were modified during the 19th century. Later, during the Second World War, the Nazis built a bunker inside the fort.

Visit Fort de la Prée

The guns of the sea-level batteries were able to damage the ships very effectively by hitting their hulls on the waterline.
Although not the most logical way to build a curtain wall, semi-circular shapes are something very characteristic of the fort, by which you’ll always be reminded. It’s a beautiful feature of this fort.
Apart from that, the fort’s compact design makes it easy to see its entire defense, the waterfront as well as the landward side and the harbor. These things make Fort de la Prée a beautiful fort to visit, and it’s easily combined with a visit to the Ile de Ré. To visit the fort, it’s only 18km from La Tour des Prises campsite.