A silo converted into a gaol
In actual fact, the existence of the Tour Jarlier dates back to the 16th century. Its construction, which began in 1542, was completed in 1569, integrated into the village's defence plan: with the two coastal towers and the disappeared tower of the fish market, they form a quadrilateral, surrounded by ramparts.
Before that, the ground floor of the Tour Jarlier was used for crops. "Jarlie" in Provençal designates a cellar where jars are stored.
On the courtyard side, the facade reveals some screened openings and old cells. In fact, during the revolution, the Tour Jarlier was converted into a gaol.
After the Second World War, the municipality surrendered the tower.
The restoration work, which has preserved spirit of the fortress, began in 2012 and took three years.
In the 14th century, the town of Saint-Tropez was ravaged by further wars between Provençal princes. In 1441, the governor of Provence entrusted the reconstruction of the town to a Genoese architect by the name of Raphaël Pomazio de Garezzio. At that time, Saint-Tropez became an autonomous republic and a renowned port, notably for the quality of its sailors.
The construction of the Tour Jarlier, which began in 1542, was completed in 1569. It was integrated into the defence plan of the village, which was soon to be fully fortified. The Porte de la Ponche, the Tour Jarlier, the Tour Veille and the Tour du Portalet, which date from this time, form the four corners of the ramparts.
The Citadel was built outside the walls on the orders of King Henry IV to house a garrison of soldiers tasked with coming to the rescue of the town in case of siege. Until the 19th century, Saint-Tropez depended mainly on maritime trade and sent boats loaded with cork, wood, oil, wine and chestnuts to Africa and Turkey, aboard the famous tartanes.
While the hill country was prosperous, the coast remained deserted and unproductive. Fundamentally, politicians and leaders understood that the only way to put an end to this devastation was to restore the village of Saint-Tropez. The undertaking was difficult. This place was the habitual meeting place for pirates, and the guards placed in the tower had been massacred so frequently that no-one wanted to take up position there anymore. There were, however, sixty heads of households who did not fear involvement, despite the confiscation of all their property. They agreed to settle down here for ten years and defend it against the threats of the enemy, if consent was given to exonerate them from all the taxes collected by the counts of Provence and all the feudal charges.
Many were Genoese, but not all were, contrary to common wisdom. Among the 20 who stipulated the exemptions of the new town was Joannes Calvi, a descendant of Bertrand Calvin or Calvinus, a man who in 1235 was in dispute with Durand, prior of Saint-Tropez. Antonius Molo, Joannes Martin and Joannes Lamberty, who signed the charter of February 14, 1470 with him, were also, in all likelihood, the descendants of Imbertus Mola, W. Lambertus, and P. Martinus, named in the charter of 1235. After the destruction of Saint-Tropez, these families, like many others, mentioned in this same charter and whose descendants live in Ramatuelle, had to settle in the other villages in the gulf. Baron de Grimaud's project presented them with a favourable opportunity to return to Saint-Tropez. Garezzio, a Genoese gentleman, became their interpreter. Cossa welcomed their claims and bestowed upon Garezzio the lordship of Saint-Tropez, subject only to an annual tribute of 40 florins, the right of jurisdiction over foreigners who would later settle in Saint-Tropez , feasting and shipwrecks.
René, who was convinced by the benefit of having a settlement located here which defended the gulf of Saint-Tropez against the Catalan invasions, exonerated Garezzio and his companions from all the fees which they would usually pay in tax. As the barons of Freinet and especially Antoine de Castellane heaped frustration and worry on the new settlement, René, by letters patent of 51 August 1474, forbade them, by means of a fine of 200 marks of fine silver, from claiming rights over the land of Saint-Tropez.
Garezzio and his companions had earned this act of grace. In less than two years they had raised the old tower of Grimaldus, built their town – which they had encased inside a perimeter wall – and provided it with an abundance of arms and ammunition. This perimeter wall still exists today, it begins at the tower adjoining the Château Suffren, goes along the port, rises up to the fish market and ends by following the curving coastline to link up with the château. The wall is almost universally 75 centimetres thick and at some points, like at Jarlier, is seven or eight metres high. Even today it is so robust that a pickaxe is required to make new openings. The necessity was not solely to form respectable defences, as the charter states, but rather the walls had to make Saint-Tropez one of the most strongly fortified places on the coast.
The result met everything that could be expected of this dynamic natural environment. From then on, as a matter of fact, the invasions of the Moors and Catalans crumbled against the ramparts of the new town. Within a few years the countryside, previously abandoned, was covered with crops once more, the galleys of our shipowners sailed right across the Mediterranean waving our municipal banner and when the wars of religion bloodied Provence, Saint-Tropez made the authority of Henry IV prevail in the Viguerie (medieval administrative court) of Draguiguan. Historically speaking, this community, a kind of bourgeois oligarchy – which, relying on its own strength, triumphantly resisted all Spanish threats for two centuries, and which was ceaselessly surrounded by perils – has nevertheless enjoyed constant and significant growth and prosperity.