Fort Saint-André is a medieval walled fortress built on a hilltop beside Villeneuve-les-Avignon, directly across the Rhône from Avignon. The fortress was built in the 12th century, surrounding the Abbey of Saint-André which had been there since the 10th century.
The hill beside Villeneuve-les-Avignon (called Mount Andaon, although only 84 m high) is flat topped, and had strategic importance, as the Rhône at that time flowed against the steep rocky sides of the hill.
There was a political importance as well, since the fortress and abbey are clearly visible from the Dom des Roches across the river in Avignon. In the 12th century the bridge Pont Saint-Bénézet, better known as the Pont d'Avignon, crossed the Rhône from Avignon to Villeneuve-les-Avignon at the place just southwest of the town where the Tour Philipppe-le-Bel still stands.
The original defensive tower was built there in 1302, along with the defensive curtain wall around the abbey. The rest of the Fort of Saint-André was built during the first half of the 14th century.
Visiting the Fort
Both the Fort and the Abbey are open for visits year-round (see below). The two sites are managed independently, as the Abbey is privately owned.
The ticket office for the Fort is just inside the main entrance (between the two towers), up a few steps on the left side of the street. The visit then consists of walking around the interior grounds and into the towers and along the tops of the western fortress walls, at your own pace and without guides.
The ticket office for the Abbey is also just inside the main entrance (between the two towers), a bit further up the street on the right. The Abbey visit is for main building and for the gardens.
Visiting the Fort entails walking up the hill over cobblestones and paths, and climbing up the interior spiral staircase of the western tower (Tour des Masques) to explore along the fortress walls with wonderful views across the town and across the Rhône to Avignon. The ground is not flat, and their are 61 stone steps to climb inside the tower.