Château d’If – Between Myth and Reality

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Twenty minutes by sea off the coast of Marseille, on the smallest island in the Frioul archipelago, the island of If displays its three hectares of limestone rock…

 

Until the 16th Century, If was a wild islet, an occasional refuge for pirates and smugglers, or fishermen caught out by storms. In 1516, François 1st became aware of the place’s strategic importance and decided to build a fortress there as an outpost of the town, designed to control entry into the Phocean port. Work began in 1524 and was completed in 1531. The fortifications consisted of ramparts erected on the white rocks, and a keep flanked by three round towers, linked by high walls and equipped to house a defensive system composed of heavy artillery.

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The structure still retains the oppressive appearance of a feudal chateau of pre-bastion craftsmanship, but it is definitely a fortress, most notably because of its corner towers, which are more compact than medieval towers. Housing canons whose range was no more than 150 metres, the château d’If could not fulfil its defensive duty during the siege of Marseille in 1536 by Charles Quint’s troops. Having never experienced war, the fortress was converted into a state prison at the end of the 17th century. From 1689 onwards, many protestants died within the damp walls of its terrible dungeons, whilst more favourable conditions of imprisonment were offered to eminent prisoners, wayward women or the bad boys of the family, such as the young Mirabeau.

The insurgents of 1848, the communards: the château d’If held political prisoners before losing its prison status in 1890, when it was opened to the public. Today, within the compound’s walls, commemorative plaques still evoke the memory of the thousands of protestants and political internees of 1848.

Contrary to the legend, the Iron Mask and the Marquis de Sade were never incarcerated at the château d’If. Between myth and reality, the château d’If also conjures up images of Alexandre Dumas’ “Count of Monte-Cristo”, although José Custodio Faria and Edmond Dantès probably never stayed there.

During the First World War, Germans and then French draft dodgers were detained there. Classified as a historic monument in 1926, the château was taken over by German troops during the Second World War.

To see more about the Château d’If, check this video.

 

Cédric – Citibreak

 

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The magic of the “Great Waters” of Versailles

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Versailles, a place “without water”

To animate the fountains of French gardens, the fountain of the 17th century used the force of gravity. Therefore they needed to have significant water resources located in height relative to the garden.

The Versailles Castle, built on a hill without sources and surrounded by swamps, does not lend to the creation of fountains. In 1661, Louis XIV began to embellish his father’s domain. He dreams of creating gardens with water games surpass those that he has admired in vaux-le – Vicomte.

 

The battle for water

Providing water to the ever more numerous fountains and store it in tanks at a higher altitude than the gardens, are the two challenges facing the engineers working in the king’s service.

To raise the water to tanks, different systems are used : operated rides horses, windmills or watermills. The more the water needs increase, the more the techniques employed are ambitious. Pierre Paul Riquet even offers to divert the Loire.

In 1684, the King inaugurates the Marly machine, designed by Arnold de Ville and Rennequin Sualem. This gigantic hydraulic pump brings water from the Seine to the Aqueduct of Louveciennes, located 165 meters above.

To carry out the creation of hydraulics, Louis XIV appealed to members of the Royal Academy of Sciences. In 1666, the brothers Francine test the first cast iron pipes.

 

The magic of Fountains

Happy marriage of science and art, the fountains of Versailles are the pride of Louis XIV. They decorate the promenade of the king, contribute to the success of outdoor festivals, testify to the power of the monarch.

When the King wants to personally honor a distinguished guest, he invited him to visit the gardens and presents his “Fountains”. As there is not enough water for all the fountains operate simultaneously, an ingenious scheme was developed: the fountain guardians will warn each other of the approach of the king by whistling. At the signal, they open the floodgates fountains with large keys.

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The “Great Waters” today

Today from April to October a show is organized and allows you to discover the magic of the waters of Versailles. The spectacle of the great waters is a fairy fountains and jets of water with background music to discover while walking in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles. Eight courses or sound zones were delineated and each were assigned one or more works, mostly from Lully but also Desmarest, Gluck and Rameau.

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Click on this video link to discover a teaser about the Versailles great waters show.

 

 

Cédric – Citibreak

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