Saturday 13 February 2010

The French Alcatraz

If I asked what Alcatraz and the Château d'If had in common (and if you couldn't see the illustration) you might not know.  If I then added in Robben Island, more recently in the news in connection with Nelson Mandela, you now could make a very good guess.  They are all islands and have all been prisons.

The Château d'If was built on one of the four islands off Marseille, in the Mediterranean Sea.  It was built by François I between  1527 and 1529 to control Provence.  The fortress covers the island completely.  There are no trees, no animals apart from birds.

It became a prison in 1540 when two fishermen from Marseille were incarcerated.  Political and religious prisoners were left there, in effect to rot.  The poorest, who couldn't afford one of the better cells, had a life expectancy of nine months.  No one ever escaped.

Its greatest fame, though, is entirely fictional.  It features in the novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas.  In it, the Count makes an escape after 14 years, although in reality there have been no successful escapes.  Mainly because of the fictional connection, the Château has become a popular tourist destination.

The card has never been through the mail, nor written.  It doesn't show up on the picture, but it has a perforated edge so it has been one of a book of postcards. The only printing on it is CARTE POSTALE.  It does have a divided back so it dates from after 1909.
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  1. As always, I discover that there is a whole sub-culture involved in hobbies and you have shown me a new one! How clever to be able to date postcards by such a simple filter. Absolutely wonderful!
    I think the cats in your older post are either the same cat or at least litter-mates - I suspect the former. It would be fun to find out (and discover another sub-culture . . . )

  2. Photo on card looks like Alcatraz after reading it is not what great history in postcards.

  3. Thanks for sharing this, also the explanation on dating postcards. I love "The Count of Monte Cristo" and learning about this place makes me want to visit it one day. :)

  4. @jabblog, the dating of postcards is something like detective work, with different "clues" for different countries. :) I think you're right about the cats, though he looks happier in the second that the first, I think.

    @Patricia, I think it's the history/geography that interests me most, not to mention the detective work.

    @spinninglovelydays, I have to confess I haven't read the book.

  5. It's quite eery actually. I am very familiar with the stories of the Count of Monte Cristo and I was just reading about this prison somewhere.

  6. Counte of Monte Cristo is one my favorite stories! I had believe the Chateau d'If to be fictional! I had no idea it truly existed.


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