Fort Liberia

Photo of the relief map of Villefranche-de-Conflent, showing Fort Liberia above the town at the top of the picture.

Designed to protect the town of Villefranche-de-Conflent (also fortified by Vauban), Fort Liberia lies high above said town, which is in the valley below. The fort is built on a high shoulder, providing it with an ample view of all three roads into Villefranche.

Being half way up a mountain, it is naturally dominated by the high ground to its rear. The fort is made up of three levels in addition to the 'front' of the fort (below the lowest level). The third level is the highest level and the farthest from the town. The front consists of a small walled courtyard and two small bastions, which only have musket loopholes on the top, with embrasures for cannon on the lower floor pointing out over the valley.

There is only one entrance from the front of the fort leading up to the first level and it is heavily protected. Attackers coming up the staircase from the front section of the fort would have found themselves exposed in the middle of the courtyard of the first level.

View from the first level of the wall protecting the second level. The roof of the main barracks can be seen, as well as two of the four embrasures of this wall.

The first level has another small bastion on its western point, similar to those of the front, again angled down the valley. The walls of the first level itself have 10 embrasures, three facing south-west, two south, two east and 3 south-east. On the eastern point of this level there is a small semi-circular tower to cover the entrance (a bridge which crosses the ditch and so provides access to the first the level).

View up the western wall of the second level, the barrack building is on the right.

Should the first level fall, the defenders could retreat to the second level, whose cannon can sweep the parapets leading up from the first level. This level possesses another 10 cannon embrasures.

Despite the large amount of embrasures present, there were never more than 10 cannon in the fort, which could be moved to provide concentrated fire in any particular direction on demand. The second level also contains the main soldiers barracks, a large building which could doubtless be turned into a blockhouse at need.

The third and final level is divided from the second by a tall, thick stone wall. It contains the officers barracks, a more artistic construction than the rather utilitarian barracks, it shows off the catalan style typical of the region.

Taken from the doorway between the second and third levels on the parapet, looking over the second level. The chapel spire can also be seen. This shot also illustrates how the fort dominates the valley below it.
Profile of the fort, showing the different levels. The third and highest level is on the left and the 'front' is the lowest and smallest level on the right. The ditch and counterscarp can be seen on the left.

Perhaps more importantly, this level is where the two entrances to the counterscarp gallery are located.

The counterscarp gallery runs along the upper side of the ditch protecting the northern end of the fort (ie: the rear of the third level). It takes the form of a corridor that follows the outside of the ditch, allowing the defenders to pour fire into the ditch from both sides. It is accessed by two staircases one leading down from the western side of the third level, the other fom the eastern side of the third level. The powder magazines are also located here, below ground and out of harm's way.

The counterscarp gallery from the inside. There are loopholes opening onto the ditch on the left, and the loopholed doorways are designed to allow the defenders to prevent the enemy from overcoming the gallery.

Visiting Fort Liberia

Fort Liberia can easily be reached from Villefranche-de-Conflent, by car (following signs to 'Fort Liberia' from the main road to the east of the town), or on foot via the 19th century tunnel built to connect the town and the fort, the entrance to which is by the Redoute du Pont St-Pierre.

See also www.fort-liberia.com (in French only)

Condition Access to fortifications Size of fortress Accessability of town Museum/Info Overall score
10 10 3 5 5 6.6
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