Fort Saint-Jean

Castle in Marseille

Marseille - Fort Saint-Jean
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Christophe.Finot

Fort Saint-Jean, established in 1660 by Louis XIV at the entrance of Marseille’s Old Port, stands as a historic fortification built on centuries of legacy. Its construction incorporated two earlier structures: a 12th-century Commandry of the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem, initially a monastic hospice during the crusades, and a 15th-century tower erected by René I, King of Provence.

In April 1790, amid revolutionary fervor, the fort was seized by a mob who executed the commander of the royal garrison. During the French Revolution, it was repurposed as a prison, detaining notable figures including Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, and his sons, Louis-Charles, Count of Beaujolais, and Antoine Philippe, Duke of Montpensier. The fort’s grim history deepened when, following Robespierre’s fall in 1794, around a hundred Jacobin prisoners were massacred within its walls.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the fort was utilized by the French Army as barracks and a transit point for the Army of Africa. World War II brought further strife when Fort Saint-Jean was occupied by German forces in November 1942 and was heavily damaged during the liberation of Marseille in August 1944, due to an explosion in a munitions depot.

Declared a historical monument in 1964, Fort Saint-Jean underwent extensive reconstruction from 1967 to 1971. It now houses the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations, serving as a custodian of both its own storied past and the broader narratives of the region. Today, Fort Saint-Jean not only showcases historical exhibitions but also offers panoramic views of the city and sea, continuing its long-standing watch over the port of Marseille.

Note: Fort Saint-Jean is part of the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM).

The Fort Saint-Jean appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Marseille!

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Visiting Fort Saint-Jean


Daily 10 a.m. — 6 p.m.

Closed Tuesdays



Address: Fort Saint-Jean, Promenade Louis Brauquier, Marseille, France
Duration: 20 minutes

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