A castle on the 100 meter high hill was built in the 1200s - Mons Medium it was called. The castle was replaced by modern fortifications by the Habsburg Charles V, with construction starting in 1545.  Upon Charles' death, Montmedy came under Spanish rule, and the fortress was improved up until the mid 1600s.  A siege in 1657 attended by Louis XIV, and in which Vauban was wounded while commanding, captured the fort for the French.  The French force of 10-13,000 men had been up against only about 750, losing about 4,000!  Vauban updated the fort twice, in 1679 and in 1698, adding demi-lunes and widening the covered way but not significantly altering the shape of the citadel. 

During the French Revolution, Louis XVI was captured at Varrenes while trying to reach Montmedy.  After the Franco-Prussian War, Sere de Rivieres had underground barracks built at Montmedy.

Only one gate gives access to the citadel.  We will take the road into the fort, occasionally flying to the ramparts for higher views.  First we pass the covered way, then through the demi-lune and its gate before reaching the gate through the curtain wall.

The Demi-lune de la Porte was built between 1648 and 1652 between the Bastion du Boulevard and the Bastion Detache, which we can't see yet.  At right, the Bastion Bas is the only one of the citadel's attached bastions at a lower level, making it more like a demi-lune connected to the fort.  Other 'bastions' are at this lower level but completely detached.  Before we continue up the road, first let's fly up to the Bastion du Boulevard.

From Bastion du Boulevard

To the left from this bastion we see the lower Bastion Bas, then a demi-lune, followed by Bastion St. Andre at the end of the curtain wall.  The building at right used to be the pigeon house.  Now let's look the other way...

From Bastion du Boulevard

Here we see the road as it passes behind the Demi-lune de la Porte on its way toward the gate through the curtain wall.  In front of the demi-lune you can see the covered way, unusually narrow, and a couple of traverses designed to protect the infantry on the covered way from enfilade richocet fire.  Now let's fly down to the road again...


Here you can see the full range of protection given to the gate - the demi-lune and two bastions.  The gate, visible at right, has drawbridges for both vehicles and pedestrians!  It dates to from the 16th to 18th centuries.  The coat of arms of Charles V used to adorn the spot over the drawbridge.  Now let's fly up to the gatehouse to see the view...  


Up here, you can see that we haven't even completely gotten to the interior of the fort yet!  A vehicle or pedestrian has to continue up the road and through yet another gate.

Accessible only via a walkway through the rampart, the Bastion Detache, aptly named, helps protect the gate.  The gatehouse, accessible in the same way, sits atop the gate.  An enemy that captured the Bastion Detache would still find it very difficult to enter the rest of the fort.  

Next, let's fly over to the work above, and to the left, of the gate on the left of the panorama...

Final Gate
Here we can see our progress so far.  The Bastion St Martin is in the ditch at right, obscured by the work that we are standing on.  The road continues between two walls and enters the final gate (photo at right), which curves and emerges just before the church.

Let's go through the gate and inside the citadel...


We have come through the gate having gone in the direction of the car, and we are now in town, which is somewhat run down but undergoing restoration.  The church is at right-center.  It dates to the 18th century.  The museum, which is dated but very good, is the building with red shutters.  Admission gets you access to the ramparts, (some of what we have already seen) but first let's nose around some -going left along the inner wall.

Note the red gate, which we will see later from the other side.  Here we have come to buildings, powder magazines designed by Sere de Rivieres around 1880, but walking down the passage to the left of the ramp we also find a sign that says to go no further.  Don't go any further, because rocks may fall on your head, or the ceiling may collapse on you.  I will show you what you there is to see there - next. 


This...  A massive and spectacular casemate beneath the Bastion du Boulevard.  There is a large crack along it which you can see in the merged image at left - if you look hard enough.  Lots of fallen rock litter the floor.  Walking through the obviously unsafe casemate we look through the opening and over the Bastion du Bas to the Bastion St. Andre. (photo at right)  Let's turn back before we died an untimely death.  We will get to the ramparts via the museum.

For your orientation, the red gate at right in the panorama is visible in a previous image from the other side.  The church is also visible at far right.

The mounds here with stonework and entrance doors serve as magazines but are also useful to protect the men on the ramparts from enfilade fire.

We will continue along the path at left to the western side of the fort.

We came along the walkway at left to the west side of the fort.  In the center are some buildings, Sere de Rivieres barracks, followed by the southwest facing side of the fort.  Let's continue toward the Bastion St. Andre.


Stepping in to the small room and looking outside we can see the Bastion Bas and a demi-lune from the direction that we came.  To the left we see Bastion St Andre, where we will go next.  Looking down we see a false bray, which extends to Bastion Bas.  Two stairways descend from the false bray to a caponier that allows protected access to the demi-lune.  This work, the Demi-lune of Porcs, was originally an earthwork, but Vauban had it rebuilt in stone.  Across the ditch is the covered way, with traverses.  The place of arms is a location where infantry could mass for a sortie.

Bastion St Andre

From atop Bastion St Andre we can see some of the feature that we just talked about - on the left of the panorama.  The fort's trace, or enceinte, angles southwest here to the Bastion Connils, which has a counterguard to its front.  The covered way between there and here is generously provided with traverses and places of arms.  During the 1657 siege, the Governor of Montmedy was killed.  Louis XIV watched the siege from a hill - appropriately enough in the direction of the sun in this panorama.  Next, we walk to the Bastion Connils.

From Bastion Connils

At left you can see the counterguard and other features that we discussed.  A bridge was built to the counterguard in the 19th century, but it no longer stands.  At the bastion Connils, the trace angles toward the east.  This front includes the bastion Graille.  The Bastion Graille is another oddity as it is not connected to the fort and is more of an outwork.  The same is true of Bastion St. Martin.  Below at right you get a good views of traverses and the chicanes that allowed me to move around them on the covered way.  The main approach to the fort in the 1657 siege was dug toward this bastion.

We just came from the bench at the tip of the Bastion Connils at the left side of the panorama.  Here you can see the assortment of earth covered buildings, Sere de Rivieres barracks, providing protection from enemy artillery.  On the right side of the panorama down below is the Bastion Graille.

Looking down at Bastion Graille

Continuing along the ramparts, the enceinte angles again this time, just slightly.

Bastion Notre-Dame

At right is the rampart that we have been walking along.  Here at the Bastion Notre-Dame, the enceinte angles back north at 90 degrees.  If we move a few feet away, along the rail at left, we can get a better view into the ditch.  See below.  Belgium is just seven kilometers away.

A false bray, very near to the foot of the wall, was designed as a fighting position for the infantry.  Infantry also fought from the covered way further forward.  The covered way is narrow despite being widen by Vauban.  Vauban thought the arrangement was less than ideal, but the steep slopes and cramped nature of the site made it necessary.  

The wall extending across the ditch and down the hill, I believe, was part of Montmedy's city walls.

From the ditch you can see the height of the false bray and of the walls themselves.

Returning to the ramparts you can look down and see the false bray and a demi-lune.

We have reached the work above the final gate into town, so we have seen the entire fort!

Copyright 2011 by John Hamill

Back to John's Military History Tour of Europe