Castles - Palaces - Manor Houses

Château d'If

by Bert Schwarz

This photogenic island fortress, which guards the entrance to the Old Port of Marseille, was immortalised in Alexandre Dumas' classic "The Count of Monte Cristo" from 1844.

The historical truth is that many political prisoners were imprisoned here, including the revolutionary hero Mirabeau and the Communards of 1871. Apart from the island itself, there is not much to see, but it is worth visiting just for the view of Vieux Port.

Château d'If

Story, Camera, Editor : Bert Schwarz

© travel-magazine TV 2020

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A key fortress. Francis I assigned a threefold purpose to the Château d'If: to protect the coasts from invasion, to cover the exits and anchorages of the brand new fleet of royal galleys, and to guard Marseille, which was annexed to the Kingdom of France in 1480.

Château d'If © Bert Schwarz
Château d'If © Bert Schwarz

A state penitentiary. From 1580 to 1871 government opponents were imprisoned there under the leadership of Protestants and Republicans.

This place has been renovated in recent years. There are very few places left on this island that are closed to visitors - because the restoration continues there. But here we have a very big But... In 2011 the work outside was still in its infancy and in the interior the cells were visibly old, gloomy, and we could understand the frustration of the Count of Monte Christo and the real prisoners - especially when the old town of Marseille shines through the small windows in the evening light.

Now we found the (ronovated) cells almost neat and appealing, as if waiting for the next guest.

Too bad.