Haiti has a rich history. It achieved famed because of its highly successful slave revolt in the New World. The success of the revolt against the French colonial rule during early 19th century finally resulted in making Haiti an independent nation in 1804. This also simultaneously brought the leader of revolt Jean-Jacques Dessallines to power as the emperor of newly-established nation of Haiti. The emperor ordered the construction of a huge fort atop Laferrière, near Milot town. The majestic fort remains intact and survives even today. This national monument of Haiti along with the Sans-Souci Palace nearby has now been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Whenever visiting Port Au Prince, the capital city of Haiti, to spend your holidays in this beautiful Caribbean nation, do remember to visit the iconic fortress Citadelle Laferrière. Also known as Haiti’s “8th Wonder of the World”, the Citadelle Laferrière mesmerizes the visitors with its fabulous defensive works that are aptly reflected through hundreds of cannonballs and cannons. It seems as though these cannons are still ready for action to defend Haiti and repulse any attempts by the French to take over the island nation once again.
Location and Brief History
The Citadelle Laferrière, also called Citadelle Henri Christophe, or only the Citadelle, is situated in the northern part of Haiti, nearly 17 miles south of Cap-Haïtien and 5 miles uphill from Milot town. This large mountaintop fortress is also the largest of its kind in Western Hemisphere. It was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. The Sans-Souci Palace situated close by the Citadelle Laferrière was also made a UNESCO World Heritage Site during the same year.
The massive Citadelle Laferrière fortress was built of stone by about 20,000 enslaved workers. The construction took place between 1805 and 1820. The Citadelle Laferrière was a part of fortifications system created to keep the new nation of Haiti safe and well guarded from French incursions. The fort was built atop the 3,000 feet high Bonnet a L’Eveque mountain several miles inland. The purpose of the fort was also to keep a keen watch into the nearby valleys and ward off attacks from the enemies. A climb on the roof of the fortress offers a fascinating glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean and Cap-Haïtien. When you are on the fort’s rooftop on a clear day, the eastern coast of Cuba can also be clearly seen.
The design of the Citadelle Laferrière looks quite imposing like you will discover in many pre-20th century fortresses. Every aspect of this impressive, grand fort amply demonstrates its wonderful defense strategy mechanism. It is also a striking example of architectural innovation. The huge fort complex comprises of cisterns, residential quarters and storage space that could effectively sustain 5,000 defenders for a whole year. The Citadel doesn’t look like a box-shaped castle. This is evident as you travel along the road circling up the mountain. All sides of the citadel are unique in themselves.
A classic cylindrical rampart is featuring the rear of Citadelle Laferrière. The curved walls have been specifically designed to keep off the enemy from scaling the walls and thwarting any kind of attacks. The sides have also been constructed in a unique way dropping off directly into sheer mountainside, thus completely making an attack impossible from that angle. The front wall of the Citadel is also quite impressive. The front wall faces the road, it is triangular and sharp looking as though the side of the mountain has been punctured resembling it as the tip of a spear. The design is such that the potential attackers don’t have much possibility to effectively attack the fort.
The location of the Citadelle Laferrière is also quite strategic. The high ground of mountaintops in a small island nation like Haiti was strictly required as it is considered ideal for defense. Nations like Haiti can’t afford to have traditional coastal fortresses which were quite exposed to attack by ships at sea.