Art & Architecture

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A modern building for its time

Vue aérienne de la forteresse

Come and discover this unique and impressive fortress, built at the very beginning of the Renaissance!

Transitional architecture

Built in the early 16th century, this fortress represents a transition between the medieval fortified castle and the 17th century bastioned stronghold. It has a resolutely modern face, notably due to the compactness of its exterior volumes and the multiplicity of its defensive works.

Its layout and architecture are the result of a synthesis of several traditions. It incorporates a number of elements of Castilian architecture, such as the subdivision of the internal space into three autonomous entities (parade ground, reduction, keep), the complexity of internal circulation in a network of corridors built into the wall, and the presence of watchtowers.  corbelled onto towers.

The internal structure of the corner towers and the adoption of symmetry rules also bear witness to an Italian influence. In fact, Charles V called on Italian engineers such as Gabriele Tadino de Martinengo and Benedetto Da Ravenna to redesign the defensive elements. In the reports they sent to the Emperor, they recommended that the four corner towers be equipped with parapets  building three cavaliers two on the north-west and south walls, one on the top of the keep, or to build "chemises  to a height of ten meters at the foot of the walls.

Photo aérienne de la forteresse de Salses
Photo aérienne de la forteresse de Salses


Discouraging and repelling attackers

The construction of the fortress is based on rules of symmetry. Rectangular in plan, measuring 110 meters by 84 meters, the main square is bounded by four curtain walls with four circular corner towers. It is also semi-buried, necessitating the excavation and drainage of a very damp subsoil. Finally, the structure of the walls testifies to the variety of building materials used. The red ochre limestone comes from the neighboring Corbières; the white limestone from the nearby Ampurdà, while the bricks were made in workshops in neighboring villages (Salses, Claira, Saint-Hippolyte).

The main square is surrounded by a moat 12 to 15 metres wide and 6 to 10 metres deep, which is level with the floor of the lower rooms and galleries. A allowed surface water to drain away, preventing stagnation and thus limiting pestilence and fevers. The ditch is bounded on the outside by a slope called a counterscarp, and on the inside by an escarpment. In the first phase of construction, the counterscarps were provided with a glacis and extended outwards by a covered stone path that was razed to the ground on Vauban's orders.

At the time of construction, poternes were also opened in these counterscarps, with access from the advanced works, in order to catch the enemy in the ditch from the rear . A narrow, half-barrel vaulted escarpment gallery runs around the entire perimeter of the fortress, crossing the base of the towers. It served as a listening gallery and counter-mine.

These various features were designed to limit the effects of mine-laying. After the siege of 1503, the escarpments were reinforced by a lined embankment approximately 7 meters from the bottom of the ditch, to protect the wall from the action of miners. . As a result, the firing posts (small gunboats and arquebus sighting slots) located in the lower part of the curtain walls were condemned.

La tour nord ouest et sa caponnière
La tour nord ouest et sa caponnière


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