So this particular day we decided to have a look at this building and try to discover its reason for being there in the middle of the town. It turns out that this was originally built over 600 years ago (yes it’s old) and was used as a lighthouse. There was an actual fire burning at the top in order to guide fishermen home to the Port. Makes sense based on the tower being built right in the middle of the bay.
Over the years it’s purpose changed and due to its location in the centre of town, this tower was made into the village’s customs checkpoint. What better spot since it was positioned perfectly for the travelers who would use the coastal road to work their way to and from Spain? After the 1659 Treaty when Collioure became part of France, it was very common for people to smuggle wine from Spain. This was a regular occurrence until the locals were finally encouraged to plant and grow their own grapes. Judging by the terraces that stretch as far as the eye can see – plant they did! During the time that the tower was a checkpoint there was a small house and office building adjoining the structure. These extra buildings are no longer there now, however they are visible in some of the early paintings and sketches by Matisse. Apparently they were removed in the 1950’s.
So after a little digging, we now know the history of the Tour D’Avall or Customs Tower. Interesting that a tower that stands so tall and majestic had such an important function in the past. This is just one of the many reasons why we love this town. There is always something to explore or a puzzle to solve – almost like a great big treasure hunt in our backyard! Next time you are travelling, take some time to check out a non-descript building that you see. You might be surprised by what you discover.