The fortress was built very quickly between 1497 and 1502 by the great Spanish architect Francisco Ramiro Lopez for King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Spain to control the narrow route between the Corbières Hills and the coast on the old border between France and Catalonia.
The architecture and layout of the Fortress of Salses were innovative at the time. It is a transition in military architecture between medieval castles and modern fortresses.
The fortress at Salses cost 500 kg of gold, 20% of the budget of Castile. It faced the French fortress of Leucate, now destroyed. Salses was besieged, conquered and reconquered in 1503, 1639, 1640. Finally, in 1642 the French took control of the fortress.
After the treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659, the new borders between Spain and France meant that Salses lost its strategic importance. Plans to demolish it were dismissed as too expensive. It was partially restored by the famous French military engineer Vauban from 1691.
Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois to the Fortress of Salses takes about an hour by car (42 miles, 68 km). The fortress is clearly visible from the A9 motorway. Around 100,000 people a year visit the fortress.
The listed monument is managed by the Centre des monuments nationaux. Information on opening hours, directions and entry fees is available at www.forteresse-salses.fr.