"Be intimidated by the imposing Fort St Andre" Villeneuve-lès-Avignon Things to Do Tip by CatherineReichardt

Villeneuve-lès-Avignon Things to Do: 19 reviews and 52 photos

  Looking up to Fort St Andre
by CatherineReichardt

It's hard not to be impressed, intimidated and otherwise awed by Fortress St Andre ... the embodiment of the fortress that little boys - and girls - envisage when they play games of medieval knights in armour ... hence my rather fanciful travelogue as an exercise in childish make believe (hell, it's my leisure time, so I'm allowed to play)!

To understand why such effort was expended on Fort St Andre, it's necessary to realise that for a very long time, this was the border between the jurisdiction of France and that of Provence (then a separate territory). Any hill commanding a good view over the river was always going to be prime real estate in terms of fortification, so when the French King Louis XIII signed a treaty with the abbot of St Andre over Andaon Hill in the 13th century, the outcome was a fait accompli!

The town of Villeneuve had been founded by Philip le Bel a few decades previous, and was fortified by Jean Le Bon (kings over this period seem to have been notable for either their virtue or good looks!) in light of the conflict associated with the Hundred Years War. The fortress continued to have immense strategic importance until 1481, when Provence was incorporated into the kingdom of France (by which time those pesky Antipopes over the river had also thankfully gone away).

The current fortress was constructed in the 1360s during a period when the region was at the mercy of brigands known as the Routiers, opportunists who exploited the chaos caused by the Hundred Years War for their own gain. The fort was constructed despite the French domestic exchequer having been effectively emptied by the ransoming of John le Bon from the English (who clearly put a high price on his goodness).

The present complex is remarkable for the fact that it is so intact: doubtless with some restoration, but nevertheless, you have the sense of an intact fortress as it must have been at the height of its influence. I found it particularly charming that a small community still live within the fortress walls, but please observe the signs indicating which areas are out of bounds in order to respect their privacy.

This is as close as it gets to Little Boy Heaven (with no age restrictions) so allow yourself sufficient time to tour the complex ... but more importantly, to imagine how it must have been!

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Oct 25, 2011
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