Built by François 1er in 1524, Chateau d’If is immortalized by the legendary Comte de Monte Cristo, hero of the novel by Alexandre Dumas.
Built under the instructions of King François 1er
Taking place on the islet of If in the Frioul archipelago, this fortification was built under the instructions of King François 1er. Indeed, the sovereign, during a visit to Marseille in 1516, discovered the strategic importance of the islet, which is the smallest of the islands of Marseille. He decides to build a fortress there to defend the coasts from an invasion, to monitor the fleet of royal galleys and to monitor Marseille. The Château d’If was not built immediately after royal requests because the people of Marseilles took a dim view of this construction, which was supposed to monitor them and which symbolized royal power par excellence. Indeed, Marseille was not attached to the Kingdom of France until 1480. Until then, it was used to protecting itself with its own means and was completely autonomous. The construction therefore began in 1528 and was completed in 1531. The fortress therefore stands, protecting the port. It is then considered to be “the most beautiful window of the Kingdom of France in the Northern Mediterranean”.
Built with medieval inspirations
The Château d’If was built with medieval inspirations: it has a keep, 3 towers, high walls, a moat and a drawbridge. It is arranged to accommodate military reinforcements and heavy artillery. But little by little, moving away from its primary purpose, it quickly becomes a prison. From 1540, the first prisoners arrived on the island. The prison will house for nearly 400 years all convicts, thieves, bandits, murderers and people banished from Marseille. The distribution of prisoners in the fortress is done according to the status of each. Thus, the poor were placed in the cells located on the ground floor, which had no light and were so unsanitary that the life expectancy of the prisoners was 9 months for the most resistant! The wealthiest prisoners were placed in more spacious cells. These had a window and a fireplace, but of course they had to pay to access these cells, otherwise they would find themselves on the ground floor.
The prison of If has seen famous prisoners, such as Jean-Baptiste Chataud who is suspected of being at the origin of the Great Plague which struck Marseille in 1720, the Count Mirabeau, the Marquis de Sade but also the famous Count of Monte Cristo ! In Alexandre Dumas’ best-selling novel, the hero Edmond Dantès is imprisoned in the Château d’If with Abbé Faria. He succeeds in escaping and then recovers the hidden treasure on the island of Monte Cristo whose Abbé Faria revealed to him the existence. Over the centuries, prisoners have succeeded one another, and the prison will welcome Protestants following the abolition of the Edict of Nantes, revolutionaries, opponents of the power in place… Today, you can still see on the walls inscriptions on the walls, vestiges of the passage of some prisoners. The last prisoners left the Château d’If in 1914. Then, during the Second World War, the German army invaded the Château.
100,000 visitors each year
Today, you can visit this place steeped in history and immerse yourself in its fascinating history. Visit the Chateau d’If The Château d’If has been listed as a historical monument since 1926 and is today an essential place to visit in Marseille with an average of 100,000 visitors each year. The walkway will offer you an unobstructed view of Marseille. The entrance to the Château d’If is paying, count 6€ in full price and 5€ in reduced price or group price. Located one nautical mile from the Old Port, the crossing is quick, by shuttle, only 20 minutes, and allows you to take magnificent photos of the harbor of Marseille and the Fort du Frioul. The Frioul-If-Express shuttles provide a maritime connection 7 days a week to the Frioul archipelago from the Old Port.