1600 metre high above the sea level, at the heart of the Catalan Pyrenees, the town of Mont Louis was founded in the 17th century. While Our family was waiting for the Yellow Train, we spent some time in this small town. It didn’t look so attractive like other famous French old towns when we entered the town. But soon we discovered many unique characters that other French towns don’t have. It is truly a must-see place if you are around the French Pyrenees or combine the visit to Villefranche-de-Conflent. The Mont Louis is unique because It is
- the smallest hilltop town in French Pyrenees.
- also the highest walled town in France.
- a UNESCO site.
- where the first modern solar furnace was built.
- a main stop of the famous Yellow Train.
The history of Mont Louis
Mont Louis was initially planned by Vauban to host traders, craftsmen, middle-class persons, and a barrack. Its defenses (ramparts, bastions et half-moons) were built in the same time of the Citadel.
In response to the order of King Louis to secure the area after the Treaty of the Pyrenees was signed in 1659, from 1679 to 1681, Vauban built its defense functions such as ramparts and bastions.
Because of Vauban’s fortifications, the ancient stronghold is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. We took a stroll and saw the Porte de France and the ramparts. Then we saw the next site, the military Citadel.
As a military engineer, Vauban has built many fortifications in his life. Most of them are UNESCO sites. There are two books talking about his skills and architects, how his objects influenced history:
The Citadel (the National Comnando Training Centre)
the Citadel was the defensive element of Mont-Louis. Since its creation in 1679, Mont-Louis is a place hosting the Army. Behind the secret of its ramparts, the Citadel contains some unique architectural elements, the Forçats well and its immense wheel. Because of this military fortification system, Mont-Louis is never besieged.
According to the plans established by Vauban, the Citadel is a square flanked by four bastions. Its ramparts are surrounded by a ditch. In the South, the Porte Royale, topped by a bell tower and a clock, communicates directly with the town. While in the North, it opens an emergency exit towards the road of France.
Hung on at the top of the ramparts, small towers at the angle allow you o watch in any direction.
Since 1964 it hosts the CNEC Centre National d’Entraînement Commando. The mission of CNEC is to provide the land army with the qualifying training. It also hosts courses for visiting groups and other French forces as well as journalists and top sportspeople. Besides, you can join the guided visits organized by our tourist information center to discover the historical secrets of the place and the architecture of its construction.
The first modern solar furnace
If I have ever seen this furnace, I would never imagine that France is one of the pioneers in developing solar technology and applying it for industrial and manufactured products. Because the Pyrenees has more than 3000 of sunshine hours, it was perfect for the professor Felix Trombe to conduct his solar energy tests. Therefore, he built the world’ first solar furnace with dual reflection in Mont Louis. The total construction of 1420 mirrors provides a thermal power of 50kW. And, one of
This solar furnace was first settled within the Citadel. Later it was sold to Mont Louis and moved to its today’s place. You can learn about solar energy and its effects in everyday life on a guided tour. The tour will also show how the furnace works and demonstrate some experiments, for example how the solar rays can produce temperatures between 2000 to 3000, the melting of the metal. the first commercial products was the whistle of the Yellow Train.
At the time of construction two churches were planned: one at the Citadel, the other in town. The military chapel was built first for the soldiers. In 1721, the construction of the new church in town started. Located in the center of the village, its facade opens to a small square. On each side of the door is a bull eye. Over the centuries, people donated many altarpieces to the church. Later, some elements came from the military church after the French Revolution.
Where to stay
Mont Louis is also a base for summer hiking and winter skiing. When it is the peak season, during the ski season or summer holiday season, the hotel prices tend to be very high. My selection of 3-star hotels are:
For all other hotels, please chekc the following platforms.