Collioure

Map of the fortifications of Collioure. On the left is the Château Royal and on the right is Fort Miradou.

Although the site of Collioure has been occupied since prehistoric times, it was in medieval times that the castle there grew in size and importance. It was a summer residence of the King of Majorca, whose palace was at Perpignan.

After that short-lived kingdom had died, the Spanish occupied the town and the Emperor Charles V improved its fortifications. Collioure was besieged and captured by the French in 1642.

When Vauban visited Roussilon in 1669, he did not leave clear instructions as to what work should be carried out, so it fell to Saint-Hillaire to design the fortifications. He protected the high ground to the north of the town by building Fort Miradou on the site of an old medieval tower.

Fort Miradou from the north of the town, with Fort Saint-Elme in the background.

The landward side of the castle (Château Royal) was further protected by the construction of a large demi-lune and a ditch. A wall protected by a ditch and a small demi-lune ran from Fort Miradou to Château Royal, thus enclosing the town.

Map of the fortifications of Collioure. On the left is the Château Royal and on the right is Fort Miradou.

Both the castle and the fort had defences facing the town and so could be used as citadels at need. When Vauban reviewed the work, he was not pleased with the defences of Collioure, saying "the fortification is commanded and enfiladed at several points, in one word, [collioure is] a useless fortress".

He proposed the fortification of Port Vendres to the south, and suggested that the town of Collioure be razed and the population be transported to Port Vendres, which was struggling commercially.

His project was never carried out, much money already having been spent on the fortifications at Collioure. However, two forts were built at Port Vendres, Fort Béar and Fort Fanal, but the town always lost out to Collioure in terms of importance and commerce. The Château Royal has some interesting features, its medieval core is preserved and two bastions were added facing the sea so as to protect the harbour. The massive demi-lune on the landward side is truly colossal, perhaps so large as to deny itself complete cover from the walls.

View from Château Royal across the harbour towards the sea.
The inside of the large demi-lune on the landward side of Château Royal.

Fort Miradou is also unusual. Being built on a steep slope, its northern defences are much higher than those on the southern side, giving the appearance of a rather strange layered defence. The fort is also overlooked by the higher ground to the north, doubtless one of the points Vauban was alluding to.

To the south of the town the ancient tower of Saint Elme was built into a fort, called Fort Saint-Elme. This fort was designed to protect the high ground that overlooked the harbour of Collioure, from which point attackers could easily bombard the town and the Château Royal.

The outside of the large demi-lune.

Visiting Collioure

Fort Saint Elme

Fort Miradou and the Château Royal are both in good condition, but the wall that connected them is gone. Fort Miradou is still a military base, so it is not open to the public, but the castle is open and is well worth a visit.

Fort Saint Elme is privately owned and not open, but is easily visible from all around. Collioure is a popular tourist resort so it is easy to reach, with a train station and probably buses from major nearby places.

Condition Access to fortifications Size of fortress Accessability of town Museum/Info Overall score
6 3 3 8 3 4.6
Back to the "Fortresses"page