Fort Saint-André is a well-preserved example of fourteenth-century military architecture. It is located on the top of Mont Andaon, the highest hill in Villeneuve lez Avignon, which it shares with the Abbey Saint-André.
Construction of the fort was begun on orders of the French King Philippe le Bel (1270-1314) and was completed under his successors Jean II Le Bon (1350-1364) and Charles V (1364-1380). The declared purpose of the fort was to protect the Abbey from the bands of armed robbers that were still common in the South of France. But another reason was that the Rhône at that time was the border between France and the Provence. Villeneuve lez Avignon belonged to France, but Avignon did not, so the French kings wanted to have an imposing fortress at the border to show how powerful they were.
Not all the interior walls of the fort have been preserved, but from their remains you can tell where they used to be.
When I saw this opening in the wall, an opening which is wide on the inside and narrow on the outside, I was surprised to realize that I knew the word for it only in German (eine Schießscharte) but not in any other language. But on second thought I found this understandable, since medieval fortresses are scarce in America, so my experience of them has been mainly in Germany.
When I finally looked it up, I found that a word for this in English and French is embrasure. In any case, the idea was that an archer using the latest technology (bow and arrow) could shoot arrows through the slit while remaining under cover himself.
I don’t know whether this is an authentic medieval toilet or just a replica, in any case it is located on an upper floor of one of the towers. It is not connected to any kind of sewer system, but just to a sloping hole that soon ends in mid-air, so everything that came out of the toilet just fell down onto the ground next to the wall.
This large fireplace is very similar to the ones that can be seen in the Palace of the Popes in Avignon, on the other side of the river.
Of course there had to be a chapel in the fort, to keep up the morale of the troops and keep them obedient and submissive.
These illuminated cubes show graffiti from various centuries that have been found inside the fort. Apparently some of these were made by soldiers, some by prisoners and some even by bagnards or forçats who were brought here from the prison colony in Toulon to do forced labor in the fort.
From the towers of the fort you can look out over the countryside for many miles or kilometers (or leagues, as they would have said at the time). Here we are looking south towards Avignon, with the Palace of the Popes rising above the rest of the city.
Here is another view of Avignon and the Palace of the Popes, as seen through the gap between two of the crenellations on Fort Saint-André.
Here we are looking west towards La Chartreuse and part of the town of Villeneuve lez Avignon.
Location and aerial view of Fort Saint-André on monumentum.fr.
My photos in this post are from 2014. I revised the text in 2019.