Built to protect the city from foreign invasion and piracy, Fort Saint John was designed by Italian architect Pierre Puget and is one of the most impressive military structures in France.
The site was originally used as a naval base during the reign of Louis XIV, and then became an important stronghold for Napoleon’s forces during his campaign against Austria. The fort consists of two main towers – La Tour de la Garde (the Guard Tower) and La Tour du Roi (the King’s Tower). Both are surrounded by thick walls made from granite blocks quarried from nearby islands. Inside these walls lies a series of courtyards with barracks for soldiers, armouries, stables, storehouses, and workshops – all built to withstand attack or siege.
In addition to its strategic importance during times of war, Fort Saint John also served as an administrative centre for local government throughout much of its history. It housed a prison until 1837 when it was replaced by another building on land near what is now Place de l’Horloge square. During World War II, it provided refuge for many locals fleeing German occupation before being taken back under French control at the end of 1944 when Allied troops liberated Marseille from Nazi rule.
Today, visitors can explore this fascinating piece of history through guided tours which take them inside some parts not normally open to public view, such as secret passages leading out into underground tunnels connecting different sections within the fort’s grounds. There are also several exhibitions held here throughout each year showcasing artefacts related to its past, including weapons used in battle or uniforms worn by soldiers stationed there centuries ago.