Fort Saint-Jean sits where the Old Port harbor meets the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Its yellow-orange bricks absorb the sun’s warmth while the light breeze from the sea tempers the heat that rises from them. It’s a perfect spot for an afternoon stroll. My favorite.
According to Wikipedia the fort was built in 1660 by Louis XIV on the site of the Military Order of the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem (a monastic hospice during the crusades). At the same time Fort Saint-Nicolas was constructed on the opposite side of the harbor. Commenting on their construction Louis XIV said, “We noticed that the inhabitants of Marseille were extremely fond of nice fortresses. We wanted to have our own at the entrance to this great port.”
The ironic part is that at that time the cannons of the two new forts pointed toward the city. A rumor was circulating that the locals were planning an uprising against the governor.
Over the centuries the fort has been used for a prison during the French Revolution, a final stop-off point for recruits of the French Foreign Legion on their way to North Africa, and during World War II it was occupied by the German military. Explosions and time have destroyed some of the battlements and buildings. In 2013 it became part of the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM).
Check out the beautiful photos in my gallery
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