© Fotolia

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Alps

In the Hautes-Alpes region, the fortifications of Briançon and the stronghold of Mont-Dauphin were listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2008. These two must-see architectural feats were both designed by the Marquis de Vauban, Louis XIV’s famous military engineer.

Vauban the visionary

The Alpine monuments listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2008 – the fortifications of Briançon and Mont-Dauphin – are the work of Sébastien Le Preste de Vauban (1633-1707). Under the reign of Louis XIV, this military engineer, architect and town planner undertook to endow the ancient Kingdom of France with an « iron belt », giving rise to the construction of around 30 strongholds along its borders.

Monuments and museums

Fortifications of Briançon

Perched at an altitude of 1,326 metres, at the crossroads to five valleys, Briançon became a priority for fortification after the town was attacked by the Dukes of Savoie. Vauban’s drawings were scrupulously respected: in addition to a 3-kilometre wall, the town was encircled by 4 forts (Fort des Salettes, Fort des Trois Têtes, Fort Dauphin and Fort du Randouillet) and endowed with walkways (Pont d’Asfeld and Communication Y). Built on extremely steep slopes, these fortifications stand witness to Vauban’s engineering genius.

Stronghold of Mont-Dauphin

Built from 1693 onwards to anticipate the Italian invasions, the stronghold of Mont-Dauphin is topped with a vast lookout tower, perched at a height of 1,050 metres, standing over the valleys of Le Guil and La Durance. Built from scratch, the stronghold was designed by Vauban as a garrison town, capable of accommodating 200 soldiers and as many inhabitants. A walk along its walls and magnificently-preserved buildings (arsenal, powder room, barracks and unfinished church) promises an unforgettable voyage back in time.