THE CITADELLE OF VILLEFRANCHE SUR MER
But the Spanish and Savoy resistance is crushed by the French ant Turkish troops. It is only around 1544 that Francois 1er gives Nice Conty back to the dukes of Savoy. Strengthened by these terrible experiences Emmanuel-Philibert of savoie orders the fortification of this strategic region in 1557, sole access to the sea for his mainly alpine territory.
The project, initiated by Emmanuel-Philibert, is led by his friend and architect André Provana de Leyni.
It includes the edification of a fort of Mont alban and of Saint Elme citadelle.
The latter is surrounded by a wide ditch dug in the rock. The citadel trapezoidal shape helps in the fight against the contemporary innovations in the field of artillery and especially the use of gunpowder in battles.
Admired by Vauban, spared by Louis XIV (who had the Château de Nice razed to the ground) these defence works have survived throught out centuries without important modifications.
The citadel was used as barracks by the Russian in 1856, then by the US navy at teh end of WWII from 1945 to 1962. In 1965 the local authorities of villefranche sur Mer bought it and installed the Town Hall in its precint in 1981.
Today, the Citadel still watches over the "Darse" and, on summer evenings, a reconstruction of the changing of the guard on the drawbridge reminds Villefranche inhabitants of their Savoy past, in a town wich has been so coveted for ever.