Château d’If is a fortress within island of If, in Marseille, which gained fame especially for its role in the Alexadre Dumas story of “The Count of Monte Cristo“.
The fortress, which was build from 1524–1531 — to protect Marseille from sea-based attacks — is heavily fortified, and its sides are dominated by three towers, with large openings for cannons.
The remaining area within the island (30,000 m2, 7.3 acres) is also very heavily fortified environment, and includes high ground-walls, surrounded by bases for cannons within the island’s rocky cliffs.
PHOTO: A closeup of If island and its square-shaped fortress. The fortress is three-stories tall and 28 meters (91 feet) long, in each of its sides.
PHOTO: The fortress, as seen from Notre Dame de la Garde church (located on the highest naturally occurring point in Marseille). If-island is the smallest island within Frioul archipelago.
PHOTO: You can get to the fortress and If island (and other islands within the Frioul archipelago) using the pictured ferries, which depart for the about 1.6 km (1 mile) journey towards If island from Marseille’s historical harbor, Vieux Port.
Due to the isolated location of the fortress and the dangerous undercurrents of the surrounding sea, Château d’If has historically been an ideal prison, similarly to how Alcatraz island was used as a prison in California, United States.
During its history, the fortress has kept imprisoned both political and religious prisoners, including over 3,500 Huguenots (French Protestants).
The island got international fame, however, only from the 19th century onward, when Alexandre Dumas used it as a central place in the events of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo‘, published in 1844.
When it was used as a prison, the prisoners at the fortress were treated differently depending on social standing, which was common at the time.
The poorest prisoners had cells within a windowless section underneath the fortress…
…whereas the more wealthy prisoners had cells on the upper floors, with the cells containing:
- a clothes drawer, and
- a fireplace.