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> The Vauban fortifications in France
Montreuil-sur-Mer

Type: urban wall, citadel, water defence
Department: Pas-de-Calais
Region: Nord-Pas-de-Calais

History and description
Noted in literature since the time of the Carolingians, Montreuil-sur-Mer was the only port of the royal domain between 987 and 1204. The town, constructed on a rocky headland above the estuary of the Canche, was fortified since the 15th century. The Count of Helgaut, its owner, decided to construct two castel mottes there, which would remain intact until the reign of Philippe Auguste, King of France. He used the site to construct a castle and reconstructed the ramparts, which were equipped with semi-circular towers adapted to archers. These ramparts were modernised several times, notably to adapt them for firearms. Ravaged in 1537 by the armies of Charles Quint, after having been ruined during the Hundred Years War, Montreuil-sur-Mer was endowed with bastioned fortifications under Francis I of France. Six detached bastions, moats and a glacis were built in front of the medieval ramparts, under Henri II and Charles IX. Their main characteristic was a polychrome decoration, in the Mannerist style. Errard de Bar-le-Duc worked on the fortifications of Montreuil at the start of the 17th century. The medieval castle was demolished to make way for an irregular pentagonal shaped citadel, equipped with five bastions and a ravelin on its own unique urban front. Two hornworks were added before Vauban. The first was constructed in 1605 by Errard de Bar-le-Duc, the second in 1630 by the engineer Antoine de Ville.
Vauban visited the town in 1672 and 1674. His sole projects for Montreuil were hydraulic works linked to the flood defences, which he improved. He constructed a covered walkway around the moats. Since Montreuil was nothing other than a minor location in the Pré Carré, he was no longer interested.
The start of the 19th century saw its rehabilitation by the First Empire and the Restoration but the scope here was limited to maintaining existing construction. In 1867, the location was downgraded.

Current state
The ramparts and citadel of Montreuil-sur-Mer still stand. They have been classed as historical monuments since 1913 and are accessible to the public.
Montreuil is only of minor interest in terms of the work of Vauban but it does represent a rare case of a preserved medieval fortress with the modern addition of the first French bastioned fortifications.

Bibliography
BRAGARD (P.), CHEUVA (P.), COMBEAU (Y.) et al., Etoiles de pierre. Voyage en Nord Pas-de-Calais, Villeneuve-d’Ascq, 2003.
FAUCHERRE (N.) et HANSCOTTE (F.), La route des villes fortes du Nord, Paris, 2003, éd. Huitième Jour.
Septentrion, le guide : entre Mer du Nord et Meuse, 19 villes fortes s’unissent pour inventer un idéal urbain, s. l., 2008, p. 50-51.


Legends (top to bottom) :
  • Aerial view of Montreuil-sur-Mer, Google Earth, 19/08/2010.
UNESCO RSMV