Fort Boyard is a famous fortification located between the two islands of Aix and Oléron in the Charente-Maritime department, on the west coast of France (Poitou-Charentes region).
The fort is 68 m long, 31 m wide, and its walls are 20 m high. It has a total surface area of 2 689 m². Today, the fort belongs to the Conseil général of Charente-Maritime.
The fort can be seen from Fouras, from the bridge that connects the island of Oléron to the continent (south of the island), from the lighthouse of Chassiron when the sky is clear (located in the extreme north of the island), and also from the city of La Rochelle. Each summer, for the festival of the “Sites en Scènes”, fireworks are organized. They can be seen from all the surrounding beaches. These fireworks contain thousands of explosives and usually last 30 minutes.
- The fort history:
The construction of the fort was first considered during a build-up of the French armed forces undertaken by king Louis XIV between 1661 and 1667, but Vauban, his leading military engineer, famously advised against it, saying “Sire, it would be easier to catch the moon with the teeth than taking on such an endeavour in such a location.”
Its construction only started in 1801, under Napoleon Bonaparte, in order to protect the coast (and especially the arsenal of Rochefort) from possible incursions by foreign navies (especially the British ones). At that time, cannons only had a limited range, and the distance between the two islands of Aix and Oléron was too large to block the passage.
Following difficulties in establishing a firm base (stone blocks had to be installed on the sandy sea bed during low tide, where they could still sink under their own weight), the project was suspended in 1809. Construction resumed in 1841, under king Louis-Philippe, following renewed tensions with the United Kingdom. The fortress was completed in 1857, with sufficient room for a garrison of 250 men.
Under the Commune of Paris of 1871, the fort was briefly used as a prison, before being abandoned a few years later. Over time, the fort started crumbling and deteriorating into the sea as it was left unmaintained.
In 1989, the fort was sold to the Charente-Maritime department, which undertook its total renovation. Since then the fort has been used for a television game show, also named Fort Boyard, which is one of the most popular TV programs in France during the summer. Fort Boyard has remained as the set for the TV show even today. To make the filming possible, the fort was electrified and a contraption similar to an oil rig has been installed on the side of the fort to facilitate access to television crews. Filming commenced in 1990.
Many famous personalities take part in the Fort Boyard TV game show (singers, actors, actresses, sport professionals…) to raise funds for the charity they support. Eva Longoria and her ex husband Tony Parker came in 2009.
Click on the following link to listen to the Fort Boyard theme :