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History of fort Saint-André

vue du fort, des Alpilles depuis la tour Philippe le bel

Discover Fort Saint-André, a former royal fortress located on the border between the kingdom of France and Provence, opposite the Popes' Palace in Avignon.

Once upon a time

The origins of the fort

The story of Fort Saint-André begins on the heights of Mont Andaon, a rocky spur rising some 50 meters above the level of the Rhône, which flowed at the foot of the mountain until the end of the 18th century.

Legend has it that in the 6th century, a young girl named Casarie decided to give up everything to devote her life to God and live as a recluse on Mont Andaon. On her death, her husband erected a stele on which her story is engraved. A pilgrimage around her tomb led to the establishment of the Abbey of Saint-André in the late 10th century.

La montée du Fort
La montée du Fort

© Geoffroy Mathieu / CMN

Building a royal stronghold

In the 13th century, the kingdom of France faced a major challenge. How could it assert its power along the border against the Papacy, based on the left bank of the Rhône in Avignon, and against Provence ? King Philip the Fair had the solution!

He took advantage of an agreement signed a few years earlier between theAbbey of Saint-André and King Louis VIII to order the construction of a royal fortress on the heights of Mont Andaon. It was to encompass the abbey and village already established on the mountain.

Built at a height of 68 meters, the fort, a symbol of the King of France, made it possible to see the enemy coming from afar and defend the kingdom's frontier.

sommet des tours jumelles depuis la coursive
sommet des tours jumelles

© Isabelle Fouilloy-Jullien / CMN

The fort, a prison?

As soon as it was completed, Fort Saint-André was used as a prison. During the Wars of Religion, Protestants were imprisoned in the Tower of Masks.

In the 17th century, but also during the Second World War, prisoners of war were held in the upper floors of the twin towers.

Over the centuries, these prisoners left their mark in the form of numerous graffiti.

Graffiti représentant la main d'un soldat
Graffiti représentant la main d'un soldat

© Antoinette Gorioux / CMN

Fort Saint-André, a branch of Les Invalides

In 1481, Provence became part of the kingdom of France. Fort Saint-André lost its strategic importance and defensive role.

But what was to be done with the fortress ?

A new role was assigned to the fort: it was used to house visiting and wounded soldiers, whom the Invalides military hospital in Paris could no longer accommodate in the 18th century.

As a result, a branch hospital was set up at the fort , where soldiers received treatment and maintained the premises at the same time.

illustration représentant 3 soldats du du 16ème siècle handicapé
Les invalides du Fort


From the Revolution to the present day

At the beginning of the 19th century, the fortress lost its role as a garrison and branch of the Invalides. It was abandoned and no longer maintained. The inhabitants of the village of Saint-André moved to the lower town of Villeneuve-lez-Avignon, and the fortifications fell into disrepair. Around 1830, the commune was ready to acquire"the remains" in the interests of civilization. In 1889, the Ministry of War handed the fort over to the Beaux-Arts to maintain.

In January 1906, the towers and enclosure were listed as a historic monument.

Today, Fort Saint-André is open to visitors from the Centre des monuments nationaux. Numerous events, exhibitions and workshops are offered throughout the year. To discover this rich program, visit our calendar of events.

carte postale représentant Villeneuve-Lez-Avignon au début du XXème siècle
carte postale de Villeneuve-Lez-Avignon au début du XXème siècle


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