Halfway between the Oleron and Aix islands, Fort Boyard is built on a sandbank which partially appears clearly at low tides and spring tides. Initially constructed to control access to the Aix Island Harbor, it has now become a TV star...

To protect the Arsenal of Rochefort

As soon as Colbert created the Arsenal in Rochefort in 1666, the Engineer Clerville - building supervisor for all the Kingdom's fortifications - recommended that a fort be erected on the Boyard site to protect access to the Aix Island Harbor. Vauban would disagree : 'Sir, it would be easier to grip the moon with the teeth than to attempt such an enterprise on such a location". In 1763, after the disembarkment of the English enemy on the Aix Island and the Seven Year War that followed, the project of Fort Boyard was brought up again, only to be discarded again for its technical dificulties.

Bonaparte breaks ground

In June 1801 a commission of experts from the Engineering, the Civil Enginering and the Marine departments gave its report on the Fort Boyard and the Fort Enet projects. On February 4th, 1803, the Boyard project was approved by the First Consul Bonaparte.

A battle against the ocean

Construction started in1804 with the necessary foundations five meters below water level. In 1807, the first footings installed proved to be sinking in the sand and the violentstorms in the 1807-1808 winter destroyed them almost entirely. In 1808, Napoleon decided to cut the project in half so as to keep the cost down. In 1809, construction stopped due to various difficulties - the sea and the English. 7500 cubic meters of stone which had been poured for a total cost of 3.5 million francs.


In 1840, during Louis Philippe's ruling, a new burst of tension between the French and the English sparked off a decisive restart of the project. The foundations had stabilized and new techniques had appeared - concrete mortars an hydraulic lime. The 1847 and 1848 campaigns allowed the achievement of the Fort's base for 2.35 million francs. The marine department officially handed over Engineers the foundations which had now risen to 2 meters above high water level.

The Architecture

The Fort is built in stone and shaped like an elongated ring. It shelters three levels of blockhouses for cannons like the 18th century vessels. The warehouses for supplies, gunpowder and artillery were on the first floor, next to the kitchens and canteens, the entrance to the guardroom, a police room, latrines and four sets of stairs leading up to the floors above.

The vanity of Man

The armament of Fort Boyard was initially planned to begin in 1859 with seventy four cannons, but by then the invention of rifles had represented a considerable evolution in outdated fortifications. In the mid-19th century, forts built on islands could cross fire and were sufficient to protect access to the harbor. The need for Fort Boyard had become obsolete. Therefore the Fort was never equipped with its initially foreseen seventy four cannons but instead received only about thirty modernized models!


From prisoners to TV games

The fort was relegated in 1913 and landmarked in 1950. It was used as a prison for a while, was sold in 1961 and then became the property of Charente-Maritime Country. Now restored, it is a set for the TV game "Keys to Fort Boyard" and symbolizes the bond between the history of our department and the sea.

---> according to Nicolas FAUCHERRE, "Bastions de la mer" ," Niort 1995

Realisation1996 Actufax:
Copyright ŠActufax &Rochefort townhall
Last update : 05/04/2001

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