the walls of the ghost citadel of entrevaux, france
“For I perceived that man’s estate is as a citadel: he may throw down the walls to gain what he calls freedom, but then nothing of him remains save a dismantled fortress, open to the stars. And then begins the anguish of not-being.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Citadelle
“Entrevaux was founded in the 11th century by the inhabitants of Glandèves, an ancient Roman town. It was heavily fortified by King François I in the mid 16th century and by King Louis XIV towards the end of the 17th century, in order to defend France from the Savoie invaders.”
Entrevaux, or ‘between valleys,” is one of many small, easily accessible, medieval villages up the Var valley from Nice, France. It is situated, as the name suggests, between two valleys on the Var river. It can be reached by car, but I prefer taking the small gage train, the Chemin de Fer de Provence, from a Nice train station.
Nice has two train stations. Most travelers know the Gare de Nice-Ville on Avenue Thiers that is used by the TER, Intercity, and TGV lines.
A second station, a private one, is the Gare des Chemin de Fer at 4 Bis Rue Alfred Binet in Nice. From here one will take the Chemin de Fer de Provence inland to Entrevaux. It goes as far as Dignes-les-Bains, which is, incidentally, the setting where Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables begins.
I like visiting Entrevaux for a few reasons. During lunch I will always order an entrée with some secca de bœuf, or secca d’Entrevaux, “a type of dried salted beef made in Entrevaux. Similar to the Swiss Bindenfleisch, it is typically eaten as a starter.” I adore the small bridge, the “royal gate,” that crosses the Var and leads into the village. It helped to protect Entrevaux from invaders. Finally, my favorite reason for going is the Citadel that stands above the village and provides a commanding view of both valleys. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
In a previous post, “une fois interrivos (1040) mais aujourd’hui entrevaux (2016),” I showed what the citadel looks like when observing it from a distance. I showed also the walk up to the top and to the Citadel and from there the views of the valleys.
What does the Citadel look like up close and inside? I would like to spend some time wandering around the Citadel and then move inward until I come to the chambers and the prisoner holding cells.
In back of the citadel is a relatively flat area that has a large deep hole where other buildings and rooms existed separate from the fortified walls of the citadel itself. Walking through the ruins one cannot help imagine the men, and maybe some women, who had lived and worked there. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
Inside the citadel are ruins of rooms, passage ways, cells for prisoners, and ghosts. Wooden doors are still held together with medieval nails and stairs attached to stone ascend to rooms built from the same stone wall. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
Officers, other military personnel, and government functionaries, over the years, were housed in the citadel. Rooms had a fire place and a window and thick, cold, stone walls. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
Part of the Citadel was used to house prisoners. The two narrow cave-like “rooms,” pictured above, were two areas where they were confined. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)