After 360 years of military use, the Citadel in Marseille is opening its doors to the public

From May 4, locals and tourists will be able to explore the fortress built in the 17th century.E century and since 1967 it has been classified as a “historic monument”.

The Citadel of Marseille – or Fort Saint-Nicolas – which was built between 1660 and 1664 and overlooks the Old Port, will open its doors to the general public from Saturday 4 May after almost 360 years of military use. The Citadel, which is already occasionally open to the public on special occasions such as heritage days, wants to become “a place of life where Marseillais and tourists can come and relax but also enjoy a cultural program and historical visits”Mathilde Rubinstein, deputy director of the association that manages the site, explained on Monday.

“We know we’ll be the next place people come to drink while watching the sunset over the sea and harbour”, smiled the director of the Citadelle de Marseille association, created within the SOS group, specializing in social entrepreneurship. The Citadel will open its doors to the public every weekend in May, then five days a week into the night, starting in June.

A symbol of royal authority since its construction under Louis XIV, the fortress was partially destroyed by revolutionaries in 1789, then rebuilt by Napoleon. During the Second World War it was used by the Vichy regime – who notably imprisoned former minister Jean Zay here – and then by the Nazi occupiers, before being reclaimed by the French army to become a laboratory for tropical disease research. Finally, in 2010, the Citadel was bequeathed by the army to the city of Marseille.

It was classified as a “historic monument” in 1967, and the first restoration work began in 2003 under the auspices of the association. Acta Vista, specializing in this type of construction site with people in precarious situations. This association is one of the 650 entities that make up the Marseille SOS group.

“In twenty years, almost 7,000 job seekers have passed through the construction site on their way to professional reintegration”welcomed Monday by the Deputy Director GeneralActa Vista, Demotes-Maynard Daisy. The site actually served as a springboard for 90% of the workers who passed through, “not necessarily in the historic buildings sector”she elaborated, though each was trained in the profession “For work”, as construction progressed. This first stage of renovation achieved, the city of Marseille delegated the administration of the fortress to the association in 2021 Citadel in Marseille.

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