Art & Architecture

article | Reading time10 min

The parade ground and the fortified reduction

La place d'armes, son puits et ses arcades

Discover these places of life and defense: the Place d'Armes and the réduit fortifié!

The parade ground

The parade ground takes the form of a vast quadrangular courtyard bordered on the north, south and east sides by a series of residential and service buildings built on three levels on the reverse side of the walls. On the first floor, an arcaded portico surrounds three sides of the square. In the center of the square stands a cistern with a sentry box. The water was used to supply the garrison and water the livestock.

The corps de logis or barracks

Part of the square was occupied by the soldiers' barracks. At Salses, garrison numbers fluctuated according to the political context: in peacetime, for example, they were reduced to 40 men in 1534. From 1594 to 1569, they were increased to over two thousand soldiers during the upsurge in tensions between Spain and France. Living conditions for these soldiers were harsh, due in part to the cold, damp conditions in the rooms, but also to the mediocrity of the pay they received. Some soldiers owned a few plots of land in the surrounding countryside, or traded with the inhabitants of neighboring villages. If they were married, their wives and children may have resided in Salses, or even in the fortress itself, where the presence of widows is attested.

The first two levels housed soldiers and non-commissioned officers. The third level was used to store food supplies . On the north, south and west sides, they were topped by an artillery platform.

At the north-west corner of the square, a 17th-century clock was installed in an elaborate niche built into the upper part of the wall.

La place d'armes et le puits
La place d'armes et le puits

© Asphérie CMN FDS

The stables

To the south, east and north are three basement stables , accessed by an inclined ramp. Rectangular in shape, with brick vaults, these rooms could accommodate up to 300 horses, mostly Spanish broom, which were small enough to fit through the vaulted entrance passages. Fodder for the animals was stored in feed troughs built into the wall. In 1637, there were 400 horses in the stables and under the porticoes.

On the floor of the south stable is a work by Toni Grand (1935-2005), a French artist from Provence. Installed in the fortress in 1986, this sculpture stands out for its plasticity. The work is reminiscent of a root or vine stock, or a mass representing the thousands of soldiers who lived and suffered in the fortress.

The garrison chapel

In the northeast corner is the garrison chapel. Served by a priest assisted by chaplains, the chapel contains an altar dedicated to Saint Sebastian and a second dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Soldiers and non-commissioned officers attended services in the ground-floor hall, while the governor and his retinue occupied the gallery.

An altarpiece composed of two pilasters encircling a molded frame, is surmounted by a pediment adorned with a royal sun, the symbol of Louis XIV, the Sun King.

The chapel leads to the north-east artillery tower, accessed via a corridor to the right of the altar. Like the other three corner towers, it housed cannons at its base and top. Its central shaft served as a freight elevator, a megaphone and a vent to dissipate the smoke from the cannons. In July 1639, the French army, numbering some 20,000 men, attacked the fortress of Salses, which was garrisoned by around 500 men at the time. The French succeeded in penetrating the fortress by breaching the northeast artillery tower.

Les écuries
Les écuries


Le réduit fortifié

The terrace offers a panoramic view of the parade ground and the fortified reduction. The east facade of the terrace displays some of the characteristic features of Salses architecture: the symmetry of the volumes and defensive features, and the care taken with water drainage, as shown by the gutters on the facade.

Built as an extension of the parade ground, the reduced fortification acts as a veritable inner fortress, concentrating the strategic locations essential to the conduct of a siege.

It is separated from the parade ground by a moat and a double curtain wall. equipped with a projecting spur and pierced with gunports and firing windows. On the parade ground side, a vaulted room with gunports protects access to the inner courtyard. The latter's defense is organized around a succession of courtyards and firing platforms.

A series of rooms housing vital garrison activities, particularly in the event of siege, are distributed around the central courtyard of the reduction.

The eastern front houses a number of spaces, including a dairy, kitchen, stable and cowshed. The northeast corner houses the bakery, the "valve room" and the infirmary.

Mentioned in written sources from the 16th-17th centuries, other facilities have yet to be located inside the fortress. These include a forge , attested between 1497 and 1503; a foundry for the manufacture of artillery pieces; a gunpowder mill, which an inventory dated 1526 locates in the ditch, and, finally, a nail store located near the gunpowder mill.

le réduit fortifié
Le réduit fortifié


The stable and dairy

The front of the parade ground features a stable and a dairy. The dairy could house some 30 cows , producing around 600 liters of milk a day. The room still retains some of its original features. Liquid manure was evacuated via a central gutter and treated in settling tanks. Rings fixed to the floor were used to tie up cattle, perhaps calves. Next to the cowshed, the dairy housed three cheese-making basins, as well as a cooler room for maturing and preserving the finished product. The walls of these rooms overlooking the parade ground feature firing windows. Equipped for muskets or couleuvrines These defend the inner moat with low-angle fire.

The bakery

A vast vaulted room on the western front of the reduction houses the bakery. To the right of the entrance are two ovens. The first, with a brick hearth, was used to bake bread. The second, with a volcanic stone hearth, was used for steaming cookies and cakes. Heat from one of the two ovens was partly directed to the adjoining room, known as the "chambre des vannes", where it heated one of the basins.

The "valve room

Adjoining the bakery, the room known as the "chambre des vannes" is located above a spring, whose water supplied part of the fortress. In Salses, water control is of prime importance, first and foremost because of the Mediterranean climate, but also because the fortress is located close to the sagnes. bordering the pond. In fact, the name Salses probably derives from the expression Fons Salsulae, used by ancient authors to designate resurgences on the banks of ponds.

From then on, the fortress' water supplycould not depend solely on the cistern located at the center of the parade ground. Relying no doubt on the knowledge of the Muslims in terms of water conveyance, techniques he had observed during his stay at the Alhambra in Granada, the fortress's master builder Ramiro López and his assistants devised an ingenious and efficient system for capturing the water flowing from the karstic resurgences of the Corbières. A strategic location, this "valve chamber" contains several basins for collecting and distributing the water from one of these springs. From this room, three pipes lead to the kitchen and stable, the cisterns under the keep, and the escarpment gallery channel. Small filtering and settling basins are still visible in the inner ditch of the storeroom.

The infirmary

Located to the right of the entrance door, the infirmary is a long, vaulted room with brick walls. The room, where the beds of the sick and wounded were kept, was heated by a large fireplace housing an oven where surgical instruments were sterilized. By 1511, the fortress was home to a doctor, a surgeon and an apothecary.


© Asphéries CMN FDS

also to discover