woensdag 9 februari 2011

The Mont Royal Fortress in Traben-Trarbach

In South-West Germany, not far from Trier, lies the wonderful village of Traben-Trarbach. Famous as a wine region and a great place to go trekking, this town also offers another remarkable point of interest: one of the largest fortifications ever build: The Mont Royal Fortress.

In support of her range of fortifications and the domination of the
Rhineland, France built the Mont Royal fortress in 1687.

Under the supervision of the famous Vauban it was, at times, built by,
up to 8.000 enforced labourers. Millions of French public funds and
German compulsory reparations were spent. With a diameter of 5 kilometres it covered the whole of the plateau with the main fortress extending over a length of 1,6 kilometres and width of 750 metres, bordered by the left bank of the Moselle all around the peninsula. The main keep with an area of 123 acres and a height of 200 metres, formed the very heart of the whole fortress and was surrounded by a main wall of 2,92 kilometres in length and 30 metres in height with 5 bastions and 3 fortified towers. In additon 3 ramparts, 5 outer walls, moats with inner walls (the so-called curtain-walls), outer works, galeries and various other stoneworks protected this fortified town. South of it there was the "Große Königliche Hauptquartier" (Grand Royal Headquarters), a fortified camp and operations centre for the Rhenish troops; with a citizenry of its own, stables for 3000 horses and barracks for 12.000 men.

Under its governor, the Earl of Montal, this gigantic works had a combat complement of 14 regiments with 8.450 men, 155 heavy ordnances
and enormous supplies, e.g. 504.000 gallons of wine. The whole installation was twice as powerful as its supporting fortresses of Saarlouis, Luxembourg and Rhinefels together.

In the long run, however, France was not able to maintain such an unrealistically expensive fortress, 100 kilometres inland of the militarized Rhineland, against a startled Europe.

The Netherlands and England alike tried to negotiate for Mont Royal
undemolished. France, however, was reluctant to let her adversaries
have her model fortification and prefered to have it dismantled after the Peace of Ryswick in 1698.

In The Thirties of this century, the local historian Ernst Willen Spies Ph.D., supervised and conducted excavations on Mont Royal by means of original plans from archives in Paris. A local history association was formed in 1930 which enthusiastically aimed at excavating the fortifications and opening up this unique attraction for tourism. The main excavations were performed during the years 1929-1937. Without exception they were merely intended for tourism. During the war years from 1939-1945, time once more spread the veil of oblivion over the ruins causing further decay. More important tasks were to be done in the post-war period. It was not until the Sixties that a flourishing tourism brought this unique site in the West of Germany back into promenance and recently steps have been taken to make Mont Royal accessible to tourism again.

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