Built to guard the mouth of the Charente, harbour of the Ile d’Aix and the arsenal of Rochefort, it reinforced the defence system built along the coastline and on the islands of the Charente-Maritime. Construction, ordered by Napoleon, took more than 30 years, 20 of which were for the foundations alone …
Building work was difficult, hindered by storms that blew down the unfinished walls, boats transporting the stones capsizing, and attacks by the English – and was completed only in 1859. Napoleon never saw the finished construction, as he left the Ile d'Aix to go into exile. But progress in artillery, which advanced quicker than the building work, rendered it useless even before it was finished. It cost the equivalent of more than two hundred million Euros today. It was the pride of the age, to such an extent that a model was presented at the Exposition Universelle of 1867.
Fort Boyard served as a prison before being abandoned by the army in 1913 and put up for sale at 7,500 Francs. Only two potential buyers came forward; the successful buyer appeared to have neither the means nor the time for the upkeep of his new property. It has also been used by cinema on a number of occasions. But it was television that finally saved Fort Boyard. Owned by the Conseil Général of Charente-Maritime since 1989, the fort has had a national and international media career since the first broadcasting in 1990 of the television programme ‘Fort Boyard’.
Cruises take you round the foot of this giant structure, a symbol of the richness of the heritage of the Charente-Maritime.
Office de Tourisme Rochefort-Océan - 05 46 99 08 60 -www.rochefort-ocean.com
Croisières Inter-Iles - 0 825 135 500 (0,15€/min) - www.inter-iles.com