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Fine Art Travel Photography

Image of Historic Landmark, and Written & Cinematic Plot Setting

Château d'If: Marseille, France

Château d'If in the Bay of Marseille, France, in the Mediterranean Sea.

Château d'If at Marseille, France

This island prison actually exists, and became internationally famous in the 19th century when Alexandre Dumas used it as a setting for "The Count of Monte Cristo," in his novel published to widespread acclaim in 1844. It gained contemporary fame again in the 2002 movie adaptation starring Jim Caviezel. In the movie, the main character Edmond Dantès (a commoner who later purchases the noble title of Count) was imprisoned in it. After fourteen years, Dantès 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 ever done this.

The isolated location and dangerous offshore currents of the Château d'If made it an ideal escape-proof prison, very much like the island of Alcatraz in California was in more modern times. Its use as a dumping ground for political and religious detainees soon made it one of the most feared and notorious jails in France.

The château was built in 1524-31 on the orders of King Francis I as a defence against attacks from the sea. The castle's principal military value was as a deterrent; it never had to fight off an actual attack. The closest that it came to a genuine test of strength was in July 1531, when the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V made preparations to attack Marseille. However, he abandoned the invasion plan, perhaps deterred by the presence of the castle.

The Château d'If is a fortress (later a prison) located on the island of If, the smallest island in the Frioul Archipelago situated in the Mediterranean Sea about a mile offshore in the Bay of Marseille in southeastern France. The château is a square, three-story building 28m long on each side, flanked by three towers with large gun embrasures. The remainder of the island, which only measures 30,000 square metres, is heavily fortified; high ramparts with gun platforms surmount the island's cliffs.

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