GROTTE DES GRANDES CANALETTES
EQUIPMENT FOR LEISURE ACTIVITIES
Vauban accorded great importance to the defense of high grounds above a town, without which he felt that strongholds were worth nothing. The fort was built on a rocky spur overhanging on the side of the mountain in 1681. It ensured surveillance of the Têt valley and, with the ramparts of Villefranche formed impressive defense. It is situated 180 meters above the Têt, on the crest of the mountain of Belloch. The fort could accommodate a garrison of 50 to 100 men in times of peace and was autonomous in case of siege. The fortification closely fits the mountainous relief, it is a masterpiece of ingenious design.
This fortification could accommodate a garrison of 50 to 100 soldiers and its situation and accessibility are astonishing. It is built on 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, a chapel and its crypt. The cistern that has a capacity of 70,000 liters ensured the garrison’s water needs. Between bastions and cannon ports, don’t miss the women’s prison where, under Louis XIV, the famous Lady Poisoners were imprisoned.
To access the fort from Villefranche de Conflent, you must take a pink marble underground staircase that is covered by a stone vaulted roof. The climb is worth the detour with a 180m ascent and 734 steps in total.
Vauban had always envisaged this undergrown 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 are less sporty and who prefer to travel by car, transfers by 4x4 or minibus are organized from the village, by the fort owners and 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 offers refreshments.
66500 VILLEFRANCHE DE CONFLENT
Tel: + 33 (0)4 68 96 34 01