©©Fanny Sabatier

The urban enclosure

The urban enclosure, this imposing military fortification of several kilometers in circumference, protected Belle-Île which was threatened by the British throughout the 19th century. Today, the layout of the urban enclosure offers a green promenade all around the Port of Le Palais.

A project initiated by Vauban

Related to the British invasion of 1761

In the past, Belle-Île was a strategic military position, facing the southern Breton coasts and the mouth of the Loire River. Its agricultural production and freshwater resources made it a privileged home base for the navy. The building of the citadel, in the 16th and 17th centuries, redesigned by Vauban, engineer of the fortifications of Louis XIV, at the end of the 17th century, testifies to this. Vauban had initially planned the construction of a fortified enclosure on the heights of Palais to support the citadel. He had even drawn the outlines, but due to a lack of funds, the work could not be carried out.

When the British invaded in 1761, they installed their cannons in the place where the city wall should have been built. Its construction was then considered essential to ensure the security of Belle-Île.

According to Philippe Prost, Historian of Fortifications

One of the most beautiful examples of urban enclosure designed and built under the First Empire that we have in France

A testament to the First and Second Empires

Inscribed to the supplementary inventory of historical monuments

Work began in 1802, with the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte and the First Empire. The companies of sappers working on its construction were soon replaced by a company of convicts, a less expensive labor force. The fall of the Empire in 1815 suspended the work for a while and from 1820 to 1861, many projects were under study to complete the construction of the city’s fortifications. Finally, the work resumed under the Second Empire and was completed in 1877, shortly after the fall of Napoleon III.

Of neo-classical architecture, the urban enclosure of Palais was completed while modern artillery was already being developed and the mobility of armies was preferred to the construction of strongholds: it was therefore never tested. As a unique and intact testimony of the military architecture of the nineteenth century, it benefits as such from a registration in the supplementary inventory of historical monuments.