Sans-Souci Palace and Citadelle Henry: the striking monuments of liberties built by freed slaves of Haiti

Stephen Nartey October 13, 2022
Sans-Souci palace. Image: Wikimedia Commons/Didier Moïse

In 1804, revolutionary leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines declared the Caribbean Island community of Haiti independent. The struggles for independence had paid off for the guerillas. Sans-Souci Palace and Citadelle Henry: the striking monuments of liberties built by freed slaves of Haiti

But, Jean-Jacques also thought about how to immortalize their freedom. He entrusted that duty to General Henri Christophe to erect fortresses on the Pic Laferriere to commemorate the newly independent nation’s status. 

One of those monuments is Citadelle Henry which measures 970 meters tall, according to UNESCO. It is considered one of the masterpieces of military architecture built in Haiti in the 19th century. 

Another monument engineered under the revolutionary leader was the National History Park – Citadel, Sans-Souci, Ramiers. The drawings were the handiwork of Henry Barre, a Haitian. What is significant is that these monuments of liberty were built by black slaves who had gained their freedom. The need to construct these fortresses was to consolidate the defenses of the young nation against internal and external aggression.

In 1978, a presidential decree was announced to make the citadel a belt to protect the natural environment of Haiti’s mountainous region. Acclaimed as the monumental ensemble, the imposing structure comprised the Palace of Sans-Souci and the Citadelle Henry and the Ramiers site. 

The Citadelle Henry stretches a large swathe of land with four towers protecting the structure built around a central courtyard, with military garrisons situated at vantage posts. The citadel is seen as one of the most impenetrable fortresses of its time because of the military architecture surrounding it. It can accommodate an average of 2000 military officers and a maximum of 5000.

When the revolutionary leader died in 1806, Haiti was however divided into two parts, the southern section controlled by Peton and, the north, supervised by Christopher who declared himself as king in 1811.

However, these tyrants did not disturb the architecture of the citadel. In fact, Christophe inaugurated the military base in 1813. He beautified the citadel by erecting an imposing palace surrounded by gardens at the route leading to the fortress. The structure became the de facto seat of government where the king discharged his mandate and ruled the new nation from. The structure which housed the palace became the royal residence of King Henry until he passed on in 1820. 

The fanciness of the edifice lay in the gardens, fountains and basins that adorned it. The Palace Sans-Souchi was commissioned in 1813 but was disturbed after the death of the king in 1820. It was further devastated by an earthquake in 1842 which destroyed its original outlook.

It still remains striking despite the ruins. This is partly because of the mountainous setting that is situated in.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 13, 2022


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