St Tropez was ransacked in the 12th century and most of the population either fled or died. The Count of Provence allowed a Genoese nobleman to bring 70 families to the town in the 15th century to try to repopulate the area. They were allowed to not pay taxes, in order to encourage them to come.
Throughout the 15th century, they built defences in the place where the Citadel now stands, to try to protect the town from invading Spanish forces (the nearby towns of Hyères and Toulon were completely destroyed by invaders in the mid-16th century).
During the 16th century, the ramparts that had been built did manage to stave off attacks, but the growing population meant that something bigger was needed to protect everyone.
In 1592, the King sent his engineer, Raymond de Bonnefons, to begin fortifying the walls around the port and also to build the citadel, which was completed in the 1620s. It played an important role in protecting the town of St Tropez, as well as the coastline between Toulon and Antibes.
The citadel was designed as a circular courtyard that was only accessible by a drawbridge. It was protected by three turrets and lots of cannons. It managed to defend the city against an attack by 21 Spanish galleys in 1637.
As military weapons became more powerful at the end of the 19th century, the citadel lost its protective role because the ramparts couldn’t withstand the impact of modern artillery shells. In 1958, it became a naval museum, celebrating the role that the citadel played in defending the local people.
In 2002, the naval museum closed and extensive work was carried out on repairing the dungeons underneath the citadel. The dungeons were classified as a historic monument in 1921 and lots of work was needed to protect them. In 1995, the entire citadel was granted preservation status.
In 2013, the new Museum of Maritime History opened, allowing visitors access to the dungeons for the first time. It celebrates the lives of generations of St Tropez fishermen and sailors whose livelihoods were linked to the sea.
The admission fee is very reasonable (€3) and under 12s go free.
Opening hours: 10am to 5pm. Daily.
La Citadelle, 1, Montée de la Citadelle, St Tropez +33 (0)4 94 97 59 43