Relief map of Bergues (at the Musee des Beaux-Arts, Lille). Saint-Winoc is in the foreground.

Originally fortified as early as the 9th century, the defences of the town of Bergues were rebuilt in 1383, surrounding the town with a brick wall periodically flanked by round towers. The town developed around two distinct centres; the lower town in the west and Saint-Winoc's Abbey on the heights to the east.

Consequently, the defences were the strange shape of an oval, pinched in the middle. To these medieval defences the Spanish added some demi-lunes and strengthened the heights of Saint-Winoc in the 16th century.

In 1646, Bergues was occupied by the French, but was recaptured in 1652 by the Spanish who lost it to the French in 1658. The town was ceded to Spain again in 1660, but became permanently French in 1668. Vauban was called upon to strengthen the defences in 1676.

The medieval Nekerstor Tower (a water gate) was built into a bastion.

He designed a crown to protect the heights of Saint Winoc in the east, and made minor alterations to the trace in the west. The crown of Saint Winoc, consisted of a bastion and two demi-bastions, protected by false brays and demi-lunes.

View along the ramparts towards the Porte de Cassel.

Vauban also proposed the construction of three bastions to the north of the town, though this work was not completed until 1744 (these can be seen on the relief map above at the top right hand side of the image).

Two small redoubts were also constructed at Bergues, one to the north and one to the south of the crown of Saint Winoc. These were designed to protect the eastern portion of the defences, which could not be protected by inundations, unlike the western side of the town.

The medieval walls of Bergues (right) and the large southern demi-lune (left).
The Porte de Bierne.

Bergues was an important fortress in the first line of the Pré Carré. It protected important waterways to the coast, and was a short distance from the major channel port of Dunkerque. The defences of Bergues and Dunkerque were designed to complement each other and two small forts (Fort Louis and Fort Saint-Francois) were built between the two towns.

Visiting Bergues

Bergues is easily accessible by road from Dunkerque, though I believe there is no railway station there. The defences are for the most part intact, apart from the redoubts, and the outworks on the southern sector of the walls. The Porte de Dunkerque is now just a gap in the walls but the other two gates still exist. The crown of Saint Winoc contains fine examples of Vauban's rare 'first system' false bray, although a little overgrown. Bergues is a beautiful town and the walls make a lovely evening walk, esecially in the summer.

Porte de Cassel
Condition Access to fortifications Size of fortress Accessability of town Museum/Info Overall score
9 7 7 7 5 7
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