Blaye is located on the Gironde estuary, just north of Bordeaux. Its ancient Gaulish name was Blavia. There was once a Gothic château there where Charibert II, King of Aquitaine, was buried in 632 A.D. A basilica was later built at the site, which is said to be the burial place of 8th-century Frankish hero Roland, one of Charlemagne’s most capable generals who has taken on mythic qualities in the centuries since his death.
In the 17th century Louis XIV approached his military engineer, Sébastian Le Prestre de Vauban—generally known simply as Vauban—and ordered him to strengthen the fortifications at Blaye to protect the city of Bordeaux, upstream on the Garonne River. Vauban created the current Citadelle de Blaye, incorporating the old château, the basilica, a parade ground, a monastery and several army barracks. The entire arrangement, including the citadel and two forts, comprises a UNESCO World Heritage Site.