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Fort Paté

Fort Paté


Fort Paté is a military fort built on an island in the Gironde estuary, Paté island. It is located in the Blaye distict.

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Collection: Forts and Lighthouses of Aquitaine

Fort Paté


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Made of: Resin
Size: H 4,5 x 12 x 10 cm

  • Location : Blaye, Gironde
  • Construction : 1690 - 1693


Fort Paté together with Fort Médoc and Blaye citadel make up the tri-prong defensive commissioned by Vauban within the Gironde estuary for the protection of Bordeaux and its port.

These three installations meant that Bordeaux would not have to sell itself cheap or act as "beggar" /  la gueuse, as Vauban put it, to their enemies  whether they be the English during the 100 years war or the Spanish during the period of  revolts and disturbances.

In 1690, Louis XIV signed for the construction of the fort. The sand banks which established themselves a few decades before the fort was built did not provide decent enough footings, so a double mesh of timber was used to reinforce the sute and sure up the foundation of the building. It was completed in 1693. The fort measured 12 meters in height and was oval in shape. The site is lined up with Fort Médoc and Blaye citadel.

The fort is rather squat in shape. For the most part built of large stone block but also in brick on the exterior of the  arrowslits (Facing the fray). 32 shooting bays at ground floor level surround the magazine. A spiral staircase connects to the next level up.  At the top, the guardroom is located between two smaller rooms, each protected by a shooting bay. Two stone sentry posts, one to the south, with a drop down gate over the fort's main entrance mainly for observation. Rain water was dispersed from the roof terrace using gargoil drains filling a cistern in the downstairs vaulted gallery. The fort's architecture is distinctly minimalist in view of original ambitious plans proposed for such forts and strongholds which were not adopted in view of the poor site quality.

Fort Paté in truth was more a "dissuasive" structure than a defensive one. 

Armements and defensive role
Functioning together between Blaye citadel and Fort Médoc, Fort Paté was central to the role of this triptic front line, allowing  fields of fire to overlap thus preventing enemy ships from passing. Referenced by Sir Bellin, marine engineer in 1759,  Fort Paté was armed with the following : 8 x 36 pounders, 10 x 24 pounders and 2 x 12 pounders.

The heaviest artillery (36 pounders) were positioned in the low level battery at the fort's base and are still identifiable today when the ground reveals them. This water line battery was aimed to sink enemy vessels. Its artillery operators were protected by a musket squad firing from the upper gallery ramparts through 32 arrowslits.

Up on the terrace, they fired to demast a vessel : two half-balls linked with a chain would be fired at the rigging, mast and sails.

The existence of firing bays up at gallery level would be a fair indication of artillery below. The current form (deep cills) does tell of a defensive function involving shooting with observation posts from the footway ; the cannon fire being from the four pillboxes at the foot of the fort, probably built in the second half of the 19th century.

As the use of artillery increased and specifically cannons, the breech would become more strategic in the the 19th century, and more upstream in the estuary.

Consolidation of the shoreline

At the time Fort Paté was built, when it was decided to take advantage of this "gift from nature" considering that the "sand banks" only formed a few decades prior to the construction of the fort. This phenomenon of emerging and disappearing sand banks is still fairly common today in the estuary, in the vicinity of Paté island.

"Quite quickly, we can see that the island is being eroded, especially on the Médoc facing side", as remarked by the Intendant Bazin de Bezons during his visit to the island in May 1685. Very swiftly they began the work of joining up the sandbanks. The first was accomplished in 1727, the date after which they continued unceasingly with necessary consolidations.

Fort Paté was designated among France's historic monuments on 17th July 1951

On 7th July 2008, Fort Paté (together with Blaye citadel and Fort Médoc) is one of the twelve sites brought into the network of Vauban's major sites and recently adopted as a World UNESCO heritage site.

Source: wikipedia

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