Yet another Pyrenean exploration - finally, so many locations to find over there... The Fort Portalet is old: its construction was ordered by the King Louis-Philipe the First in case of a possible invasion of the Spanish through the Aspe valley.
Its capacity was around 400 soldiers, this explains the size of the fort. Many barracks are built on the top, and a lot of galleries are directly dug into the very steep cliff, overlooking the narrow road leading to the Somport pass, then to Spain.
It will serve to defend against an invasion from the Spanish in 1875, then will be disarmed until 1939. When the France will lose the war in 1940, it will be used as a prison under the Vichy system and receive famous prisonners, like Léon Blum, Edouard Daladier, Georges Mandel, Paul Reynaud et Maurice Gamelin.
In 1942, the south of France is integrated to the German "forbidden area" (zone interdite), all along the Spanish border.
The fort is liberated by the Spanish army in August 1944. From August to November 1945, the field marshal Pétain will be the prisonner of the fort.
The fort is then decomissioned by the French army in 1962, and sold in 1966.
Completely left abandoned since then, the fort is bought by several villages from the Aspe valley in 1999, in order to build up a touristic site. End of 2005, the works of deforestation and reconstruction have at last started.
It was a magical place to explore, lost and high up in the mountains, on a steep cliff. It will undoubtedly attract a lot of visitors once the conversion will be over.
estoy muy contento de ver estas fotos,ya que yo hace unos anos,pase 2 meses dentro del fuerte de portalet como sdf,osea como ocupa,en pleno invierno,y ademas yo solo,se pasa mucho frio,y algunas veces hasta miedo,pero tengo buen recuerdo,ademas tendrian que montar un museo.
totaly loved the fort. best ever place to visit. its a life changing thing to see. i will never forget it.
.I make many regular trips through Somport (the last on 2 October 2008), unfortunately, the Fort is still not open, though there are many signs of work being carried out.
Good it's been spotted! Pity it weren't Spaniards. Would've been another twist in a twisty history
I'll correct it. Indeed, the fort was liberated in August 1944 by the French Resistance...
Sorry for the big mistake...
Where does the information "The fort is liberated by the Spanish army in August 1944." come from? As far as I know, no regular Spanish, ie General Franco's, army could have acted as liberators, since its engagement was at best "no beligerancia", or clandestine cooperation the the Axis countries. What might have been the case is the Spanish guerrilla resistance, as they did fight in the Pyrenees. Does anyone know about it? Or was it the French Maquis who liberated the Fort Portalet?
PS Thanks Slyv for your comment.
Myself and 3 others discovered the Fort while on assingment in Spain spring of 1997. We drove by and saw the magnificence of the place. Not able to read the postings in French we crawled over the locked gate, ran accross the bridge and spent 3 hours exploring this awesome, forboding and exciting place. I still have photos and we still reminice of our adventure. Thanks for the memories rekindled by this site. As I still do not read French, I gather from Slyv's comments visitors are allowed...about time.
No, it is not a "forbidden place" anymore. See the french version of this page here, I scanned an article from a local newspaper saying it has been reconverted. Now you can visit it legally!
I'd rather use the word awesome. Has anyone been there recently? Is it still "a forbidden place" or can you enter legally? I'll be in the vicinity before long and absolutely have to see it at close quarters and take some photographs. How can you approach it? Is there a waymarked footpath or trail leading up to the bridge in the pic (good one!!) published here?
Oh wow! I would buy that in a heartbeat if I had the means to restore it to life. It must have been so beautiful...what a waste.
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