Fort Boyard (fortification)
- This article is about the fortification of Fort Boyard itself; for the game show see Fort Boyard (TV series).
|In the Pertuis d'Antioche straits, between the Île-d'Aix and
the île d'Oléron, on the west coast of France
Fort Boyard (pronounced: [fɔʁ bɔjaʁ]) is a fort located between the Île-d'Aix and the Île d'Oléron in the Pertuis d'Antioche straits, on the west coast of France and is the filming location for the TV gameshow of the same name. Though a fort on Boyard bank was suggested as early as the 17th century, it was not until the 1800s under Napoleon Bonaparte that work began. Building started in 1801 and was completed in 1857. In 1967, the final scene of the French film Les aventuriers was filmed at the remains of the fort.
Fort Boyard is oval-shaped, 68 metres (223 ft) long and 31 m (102 ft) wide. The walls were built 20 m (66 ft) high. At the centre is a yard, and the ground floor provided stores and quarters for the men and officers. The floor above contained casemates for the emplacements of guns and further quarters. Above that were facilities for barbette guns and mortars.
The construction of the fort was first considered during a build-up of the French armed forces undertaken by Louis XIV between 1661 and 1667. Fort Boyard was to form a line of fortification with Fort Enet and Fort de la Rade on Île-d'Aix to protect the arsenal of Rochefort from Royal Navy incursions. Due to the limited range of artillery in the 17th century, the fields of fire between the fortifications on the islands of Aix and Oléron did not overlap. A fort on Boyard bank, roughly mid-way between the two, would have filled that gap. In 1692 the French engineer Descombs began planning the programme of building the fort; however, once it became clear how expensive it would be the scheme was abandoned. Vauban, Louis XIV's leading military engineer, famously advised against it, saying "Your Majesty, it would be easier to seize the moon with your teeth than to attempt such an undertaking in such a place".
After a British raid on Île-d'Aix in 1757, plans for a fort on Boyard bank were once again considered. Though plans were drawn up, the logistical problems again ensured it was abandoned. Efforts were renewed under Napoleon Bonaparte in 1800, and the following year engineers Ferregeau and Armand Samuel de Marescot, and Vice-Admiral François Étienne de Rosily-Mesros designed a fort to be built on the bank. To facilitate the work, a port was established on île d'Oléron. The village of Boyardville was built for the workers. The first stage of construction was to establish a plateau, some 100 by 50 m (330 by 160 ft), to act as foundations. To this end, stones were piled up on the bank.
The project was suspended in 1809. Construction resumed in 1837, under Louis-Philippe, following renewed tensions with the United Kingdom. The fortifications were completed in 1857, with sufficient room for a garrison of 250 men. However, by the time of its completion, the range of cannons had significantly increased, making the fort unnecessary for national defence.
After 1871, Fort Boyard was briefly used as a military prison, before being abandoned at the beginning of the 20th century. As time went by, the fort slowly crumbled and deteriorated into the sea as it was left unmaintained. In 1950 it was made a listed building, and in 1961 was sold to Charente Maritime Regional Council.
It has been the filming location of both the French and international versions of the TV gameshow of the same name since 1990.
Similar forts elsewhere
In Kronstadt, Russia, there is a fort very similar to Fort Boyard. Fort Alexander was built between 1838–1845 according to the architectural project of engineer-colonel Carbonier and Moris Dastrem. Nicholas I of Russia decided to name it “Emperor Alexander” after his brother, the Russian Emperor Alexander I. The fort measures 90x60 meters and it was the first multi-storied fortification in the Russian Empire. It was armed with 103 cannons. In addition, 34 guns could be adjusted on the roof to provide a perimeter defense. Fort Alexander was converted into a Plague laboratory in 1897, and hence it is nicknamed the "Plague Fort".
By the end of the 20th century, Fort Alexander became neglected.
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