The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Citadel in Northern Haiti

I recently returned from Haiti where I participated in a mission to provide eye care  near the city of Cap Haitien. Our group took an R&R day and made an excursion to the Citadel, a fortress in the mountains of northern Haiti, a symbol of Haiti becoming the first black republic when African slaves gained their independance from the French in 1804.

The leader of Haiti at the time of the revolution, Jean-Jacques Dessallines, entrusted one of his generals, Henri Christophe, to build a network of fortresses to defend Haiti from the French. The Citadel was the most impressive fortress, taking 14 years to complete, and was constructed from local stone. Our guide informed us that a mixture of molasses, goat and cow blood, and cow hooves were used as mortar.

The citadel contains a series of cisterns and storehouses designed to provide a year's supply of food and water for up to 5,000 soldiers within its colossal walls. It boasts over 365 cannons imported from England and Spain. The fortress took 20,000 workers nearly 14 years to complete. Countless workers lost their lives during the construction. Interestingly, the French never returned to reclaim Haiti and the Citadel was never put to use to protect Haiti. The Citadel has survived numerous earthquakes and remains a symbol of liberty for all Haitians.

The Citadel as seen from our hotel atop the 3000 ft Bonnet a L'Eveque Mountain (the rectangular structure on right central peak).


  1. I find it telling that we were never taught Haitian independence in public school. I had to wait until college. Perhaps it was too "subversive" of a topic for southern schools that had been recently and reluctantly integrated. The Citadel is strikingly beautiful and an important part of world history.

    1. The Citadel is beautiful, Les. It is hard to believe that it was only a quarter of a century after the colonies got their independence from Great Britian that Haiti became free from France.



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