GROTTES DES CANALETTES
Equipment for leisure activities
Vauban accorded great importance to the defence of high ground above a town, without which he felt that a place was worth nothing. The fort was built on a rocky overhang on the side of the mountain in 1681. It ensured surveillance of the Têt valley and, with the ramparts of Villefranche, formed a formidable defence. It is situated 180 metres above valley level, regal on the crest of Mount Belloc. The fort could accommodate 50 to 100 garrison men in times of peace and had an autonomous function in case of a siege. In a great feat of architecture, its fortification marries the mountainous relief.
This fortification could accommodate 50 to 100 soldiers and its situation and accessibility are astonishing. It is built over three levels and has exceptional views over the valleys and the majestic Canigou from its rampart walkway. The watchtowers placed at each point of the stronghold are characteristic of Vauban’s work.
Inside there are barracks, and a chapel and its crypt. The cistern, with a capacity of 70,000 litres, ensured the garrison’s water needs. Between bastions and cannon ports, don’t miss the women’s prison where, under Louis XIV, the infamous Lady Poisoners were imprisoned.
To access the fort from Villefranche de Conflent, you must take a pink marble underground staircase, covered by a stone vaulted roof. The climb is worth the detour with an ascent of 180m and 734 steps in total.
Vauban had always envisaged this staircase linking the fort to the town of Villefranche. However, the project was abandoned due to lack of finances. It was finished almost two hundred years later by Napoleon.
For those who prefer to travel by car, transfers by 4x4 or in a minibus are organised from the village by the owners of the fort from the ‘Bar Le Canigou. You can also access the fort on foot via a path and descend by the underground staircase after the visit.
From Villefranche de Conflent
Regular guided tours or free visits. The fort restaurant provides a refreshing break.
66500 VILLEFRANCHE DE CONFLENT
Tel: + 33 (0)4 68 96 34 01