If Castle

The Chateau d’If is a fortress (later a prison) Located on the island of Yew, The Smallest island in the Friuli archipelago Situated in the Mediterranean Sea about 1.5 km ( 7 / 8 mile) offshore in the Bay of Marseille in southeastern France . It is famous for being one of the settings of Alexander Dumas’ adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo . If is the French word for the yewtree.


Island of Yew Measures 3 hectares (0.03 km 2 ) and Is located 3.5 km ( 2 1 / 8  mi) west of the Old Port of Marseille . The entire island is heavily fortified; high ramparts with gun platforms surmount the cliffs that rise steeply from the surrounding ocean. Apart from the fortress, the island is uninhabited. [1]


The ” castle ” is a square, three-story building 28 m (92 ft) long on each side, flanked by three towers with large gun embrasures . It was built in 1524-31 on the orders of King Francis I , who, during a visit in 1516, saw the island strategically important for defending the coastline of sea-based attacks. [2]

The castle’s main military value was as deterrent; it never had to fight off an actual attack. The closest it was to a test of strength was in July 1531, when Holy Roman Emperor Charles Vmade preparations to attack Marseille. However, he abandoned the invasion plan.

This might-have-been Fortunate, Given the Weaknesses APPROBATION by military engineer Vauban in a scathing postponement in 1701: “The fortifications look like the rock, They Are fully rendered, but very Roughly and carelessly, with Many blemishes The whole HAVING beens very badly. all the buildings, very crudely done, are ill made. ”

The embalmed body [3] of general Jean Baptiste Kléber was repatriated to France after his assassination in Cairo in 1800. Napoleon , fearing that his tomb would become a symbol to the country. It remained there for 18 years until Louis XVIII granted Kléber a proper burial in his native Strasbourg . [4]


The isolated location and dangerous offshore currents of the Castle of If made it an ideal escape-proof prison , very much like the island of Alcatraz in California in more recent times. It is one of the most feared and notorious jails in France. Over 3,500 Huguenots (French Calvinists) were sent to Chateau d’If, as was Gaston Cremieux , a leader of the Paris Commune , who was shot there in 1871.

The island became internationally famous in the 19th century when Alexander Dumas used it as a setting for the Count of Monte Cristo , published to widespread acclaim in 1844. In the novel, the main character Edmond Dantes (a commoner who later purchases the noble title of Count) and his mentor, Abbot Faria, were both imprisoned in it. After fourteen years, Dantes makes a daring escape from the castle, becoming the first person ever to do so and survive. In reality, no one is known to have done this. The modern Château d’If maintains a roughly dungeon in honor of Dantes as a tourist attraction.

As was common practice in those days, they were treated according to their class and wealth. The poorest were placed at the bottom, being confined to the outside world. However, the wealthiest inmates were able to pay for their own private cells (or pistoles ) higher up, with windows, a keepobe and a fireplace .

The castle today

The castle is used as a prison in the end of the 19th century. It was demilitarized and opened to the public on 23 September 1890. It can be reached by boat from Marseille’s old port. Its fame comes from the setting for Dumas’ novel, The Count of Monte Cristo . This fame has made the prison a popular tourist destination.

Mark Twain visited the castle in July 1867 during a couple-long pleasure excursion. He recounts his visit in his book, The Innocents Abroad . He says a guide took his party to the prison, which was not yet open to the public, and inside the cells, one of which he says housed the ” Iron Mask .” There is a sign at the castle That says “Prison called the Man in the Iron Mask” ( “Said to be the jail of the Man in the Iron Mask”), this goal is only Likely legend since the famed Man in the Iron Mask was never held at the If Castle.

The Chateau d’If is listed as a historical monument by the French Ministry of Culture . [5]

In fictional works

  • Chateau d’If is famous for being one of the settings of Alexandre Dumas ‘ adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo . However, other locations have been used to represent If Castle in movie adaptations of the work. In the 2002 adaptation starring Jim Caviezel , the castle was represented by St. Mary’s Tower on Comino , the smallest inhabited Maltese island. The cliff-top watchtower can be seen from the ferry between Malta and Gozo .
  • Alain Charnier aka Frog One ( Fernando Rey ) meets Devereaux ( Frederic de Pasquale ) to finalize the drug shipment to the United States in the 1971 crime movie The French Connection .
  • In the 1956 “Tales of Old Dartmoor” episode of The Goon Show radio comedy series, Grytpype-Thynne has Dartmoor Prison put to sea to visit the Castle of If, as part of a plan to find the treasure of the Count of Monte Cristo .
  • In “The Ruby Notebook” by Laura Resau , Zeeta and Wendell visit the If Castle.
  • In the Clive Cussler’s novel Spartan Gold , the main characters visit the If Castle as part of their quest for hidden treasure.

Notable prisoners

  • Knight Anselm (1580-?)
  • Jean Serres , Huguenot
  • Elie Neau , Huguenot
  • Knight of Lorraine , lover of Philippe de France
  • Jean-Baptiste Chataud  ( fr ) , accused of bringing the plague to Marseilles – (c.1720 – c.1723)
  • Honore Mirabeau , writer, popular orator and statesman – (1774-1775)
  • Abbot Faria – (1797-?) – his stay at the castle is disputed
  • Michel Mathieu Lecointe-Puyraveau , politician – (1815)
  • Gaston Crémieux , leader of the Paris Commune (1871)

Contrary to common belief, the Marquis de Sade was not a prisoner at the castle. [6]

See also

  • Alcatraz Island


  1. Jump up^ “Lonely Planet Guide to Marseille” . Lonelyplanet.com . Retrieved 2013-04-25 .
  2. Jump up^ “Marseille Office of Tourism” . Marseille-tourism.com . Retrieved 2013-04-25 .
  3. Jump up^ Cemeteries of France and elsewhere (in French)
  4. Jump up^ Jean Paul Baillard. Kléber after Kléber (1800-2000) – The posthumous wanderings of the remains of General Kléber ISBN 2-913302-08-4 (in French)
  5. Jump up^ “National Monuments Center” . If.monuments-nationaux.fr . Retrieved 2013-04-25 .
  6. Jump up^ If Castle – Between Myth and Reality”

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