Château d’If

Chateau d'If panorama

Château d’If is a famous castle in southern France. It stands atop a small limestone island opposite the harbor of Marseille, and its terrace affords a splendid view of the port.

Château d’If History

Chateau d'If view

Built by Francis I in 1524, the castle was used for several centuries as a state prison. Its inmates included the regicide Philippe Égalité and the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask imprisoned by Louis XIV.

In Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Count of Monte Cristo, the two heroes, Edmond Dantès and Abbé Faria, are confined in the Château d’If.

Chateau d’If Prison

Originally built as a naval fortress, Château d’If was converted to a prison for the city of Marseilles in 1516 and became infamous for the exclusivity of its guest list. Common criminals were imprisoned on the mainland, and in the Chateau d’If only important persons were incarcerated, the celebrated Marquises, Chevaliers, and Comptes, as well as many Protestants or Huegenots.

the Chateau d'If walls

The cells are small, drafty, and dismal, the only view looks inward toward fellow unfortunates and a tiny cobbled courtyard, its well, and stone staircase. The cells are far from uniform, save for being uniformly grim. Each of the cells in the two-tiered prison is of an oddly-angled configuration, some with recesses for sleeping, or a fireplace, and accouterments included wall rings for fastening shackles.

Notable detainees are identified by small fading signboards affixed by the windowless doors of their former cells. One renowned prisoner was The Man in the Iron Mask, reputed to be Phillippe, twin brother of King Louis XIV. His suite was in a corner, a vaulted brick tomb with a small fireplace, a table and chair, a bitter breeze for companionship, and no hope of escape. His fate was later popularized in a novel by Alexandre Dumas.

Chateau d'If panormaic view

Dumas also had his fictional character, Edmund Dantes, the Count of Monte Cristo, held in the dungeon of the chateau for five years before a harrowing escape. One non-fictional unfortunate was a ship’s captain imprisoned when it was determined that his ship was responsible for bringing the plague to Marseilles, wiping out half the population. Another noble was sentenced to six years in the chateau for failing to doff his hat when the king passed.

Chateau D’If didn’t do rehabilitation; it did retribution. Prisoners died of neglect. They went insane. Once a week, they were allowed to visit the vault-like Chapel of Notre Dame de Passion. There they thanked God that they were still alive and prayed for forgiveness.

The prison visit ends at a small museum that centers on a small fissure, through which the Count of Monte Cristo was said to have escaped to freedom.

Château d’If – Visitor info

Opening times

Chateau d'If boat trip

15th of May to 20th of September, every day between 9,40 – 17,40
21st of September to 14th of May, daily between 9,00 – 15,30 pm

Closed: The castle is closed each Monday from the 15th of September to the 31st of March, the 1st of January, and the 25th of December

See the official website for more information about ticket prices and visit:

Chateau d'If walls

Getting there
Ferries to Château d’If run from the Quai des Belges at the foot of La Canebiere in the old harbor of Marseilles.

A combined ticket to the Isles de Frioul with a stop at Chateau D’If costs about $15 and for Chateau D’If only, about $10.

Ferries depart every half-hour from 6:45 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. during the summer.

Château d’If Location

Château d’If Address: Embarcadère Frioul If , 1 Quai de la Fraternité, 13001 Marseille, France.

Château d’If Map

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