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All about Vauban

Vauban in Finistère

The Brittany coast, particularly the Finistère coast, has several reinforcements and protective structures to guard against invaders - notably the Dutch and the English.

Tour Vauban à Camaret-sur-merIn this historic context, you'll find many traces of a man called Vauban throughout our coastlines.

Sébastien Le Prestre, marquis de Vauban (1633-1707), was responsible for fortifications during the reign of King Louis XIV and was charged with reinforcing France's defences. There are 130 strongholds, forts, guard houses, bastions and defensive structures bearing witness to Vauban's productivity and dedication.

Camaret, the ‘Tour Vauban’ and its battery

The only site where Vauban was present during a battle is the Tour Vauban. Its mission was to watch the entrance of the narrow strip of water known as the Goulet de Brest, and to stop anyone landing in the cove of Camaret. Even before its construction was complete, it was under attack on the 18th June 1694. Here, Vauban broke up the assault of 147 Anglo-Dutch vessels that tried to disembark.

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Concarneau and its fortified town

The town’s original ramparts, erected in the 14th century and rebuilt in the 16th century, were modified by Vauban. This is absolutely one of the must-see sites in Finistère!

Château de Brest

This 15th-century château was successively modified and improved during the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1668, Colbert entrusted the port’s defences to Clerville, and a fortified enclosure was begun. In 1683, Vauban corrected the outline of the urban enclosure, setting up a detailed project of modernisation for the Château de Brest. Above all, he focussed on the defence of the Goulet waterway and on the north coast he set up an ingenious system of coastal batteries.

The Château du Taureau (in Morlaix Bay, facing Carantec)

When construction began in 1542, the role of this seabound stronghold was to defend Morlaix from enemy attack by sea. Vauban found it to be ‘poor and of little knowledge in its fortifications’, so he turned it into an unconquerable fortress.

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Château du Taureau

Bertheaume Fort in Plougonvelin

This medieval château was also remodelled by Vauban. It is built on an island that has been fortified, and only connects to the mainland by a bridge. You can even arrive James-Bond-style via a zipwire if you dare – now that’s something you don’t see every day!

Other sites of interest

  • The Fort Cézon in Landeda and its artillery tower
    Built by Vauban in 1694 on the island of the same name, to defend the entrance to the Aber Wrac’h.
  •  The Guard house at Ménéham (Kerlouan) : this house with its stone roof was part of a long coastal defence system put into place by Vauban during the 17th century. The principle was to have a continuous chain of look-out post that could connect to each other, to protect the coast from English raiders.
  • Le Conquet (defences and trenches)
  • L'île d'Ouessant and its fort project


Portrait de Vauban"A town built by Vauban is a saved town; a town attacked by Vauban is a lost town."

More than 300 years after he died, Vauban’s legacy remains impressive, especially from an architectural and a strategic point of view. Finistère is proud to have so many examples of his work.

Portrait of Vauban : Ecole du génie / musée du génie, Angers.

Key Vauban Sites listed by UNESCO

In 2005 a network of Vauban's major sites was established in order to acknowledge his contribution to French history and to submit them for consideration as world heritage sites.
This network of 12 sites spreads along the East, North and West frontiers and include some of the best examples of the work done by this great man. Each site is representative of his work and shows how his defensive systems evolved. The Tour Vauban in Camaret is one of the best examples of his "standardised sea fort".

In 2008, this network of 12 key sites was indeed included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Camaret-sur-Mer is the only community in Brittany that is on this prestigious list.

Vauban in Brittany and Finistère

It was only following Colbert's death in 1683 that Vauban took charge of Brittany's defences. Other engineers helped him in his work, both colleagues and students, including Garangeau in Saint-Malo and along the north coast, du Couësnon in Morlaix, Mollart and Sainte-Colombe in Brest, Traverse and Robelin on the southern coast of Cornouaille.

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Top-of-the-range places
Finistère trails

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