Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Historic Haiti: The Citadelle-Part II

King Henri Christophe was quite the ruler. He accomplished great things, but like most kings was despotic, or as our guide Eddie put it, "a megalomaniac."

This king had his unlikely start as a slave, probably in Grenada. Before becoming a military leader in the Haitian Revolution, Henri may have fought in the American Revolution in Savannah, Georgia. During the political infighting that occurred after Haiti won its independence from the French in 1804, Henri declared himself king of the northern region of the country. Nice work, if you can get it. He set about constructing large and impressive buildings to both protect Haiti from foreigners and to impress them with Haitian know-how.

While we know who designed the Citadelle--a Haitian architect named Jean Etienne Barre--we have no idea how it was constructed. Even the Haitians don't know. What we do know is that it took thousands of tons of stone and brick to build the fortress. Huge stones were plunged into the mountainside to provide the foundation and likely kept the Citadelle from being destroyed in the earthquake of 1842.

We also know that it took tens of thousands of men--forced labor--to build the Citadelle, and not a few of them died during its construction. King Henri was not known for his kind and gentle ways.

During our tour, we took a restroom break. After we finished, John told me he wanted to show me something in the men's restroom. I reluctantly followed him in, and he pointed to a sliding glass door. The door was unlocked and led to part of the Citadelle that probably isn't open to the public--high ten-foot wide walls with no railings. Of course, we couldn't help ourselves and Eddie indulged us.

The views were magnificent and reminded me a little of Ireland.

We were very careful not too get too close to the edge.

Eddie was careful, too.

Though we did let our camera peek over.

It was vertiginous experience.

But worth it.

1 comment:

John A. Carroll said...

The Citadelle is nice but your husband looks like a trained circus bear. Was he there when it was built?