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Fort du Château

Historic site and monument, Military Patrimony, Fort, Town of Art & History in Briançon
  • Built on the rock overlooking the Vauban city, this structure has undergone numerous modifications over the centuries. Initially a medieval fortress at the time of the Dauphins, it was the subject of numerous projects that led to its transformation in the 19th century.

  • In the 14th century, the medieval construction, built by the Dauphin lords, included a 240 m perimeter wall with four towers, a large square keep, a housing building and a chapel dedicated to Saint Stephen. The work was first modified at the beginning of the 17th century, under the Duke of Lesdiguières (leader of the Protestant army of the Dauphiné who took Briançon in 1590), with the addition, on the north-east front, of a horned work (two half-bastions enclosing a curtain wall).
    During his...
    In the 14th century, the medieval construction, built by the Dauphin lords, included a 240 m perimeter wall with four towers, a large square keep, a housing building and a chapel dedicated to Saint Stephen. The work was first modified at the beginning of the 17th century, under the Duke of Lesdiguières (leader of the Protestant army of the Dauphiné who took Briançon in 1590), with the addition, on the north-east front, of a horned work (two half-bastions enclosing a curtain wall).
    During his first trip in 1692, Vauban gave this description of the castle: "The castle sits on a very high rock above the town, naturally steep..., its old enclosure is only two and a half feet thick, it is not terraced... the four towers are quite good (....) In the castle (...) there is only a large old square tower of three storeys which serves as a storehouse and an arsenal, (...) a guardhouse, a small and rather bad cistern, two or three old outbuildings which are ready to fall into ruin, ten old barracks rooms and six modern ones, no wells or latrines, a very bad gate which has neither a board nor a drawbridge.On his second visit in 1700, he envisaged destroying it rather than "patching it up": "Rase consequently all the bad little buildings that are ruined and leaning against the covering, which are worthless, the square tower that serves as a shop, (...) the little chapel and all the buildings that are in ruins.) the little chapel and all the other bad, spoiled and rotten little buildings, as well as the corridor which is nothing but rotten floors, commonly called "casse-cous", and all the bad wooden ladders as stairs to go up them, as well as the old roofs of the towers, gatehouses, latrines, corridors which are worn out and in great disorder...."
    Post-Vauban, proposals and counter-proposals followed one another, but nothing saw the light of day before the 19ᵉ century and the July Monarchy. Between 1845 and 1855, the medieval structure was completely destroyed. Cavaliers were built, platforms allowing artillery to be placed high up. Casemates, underground shelters for the cannons, and a barracks were built. Since 1932, the "Grande France", a statue by Antoine Bourdelle, has stood at the top of the fort.
    The only element of the Château fort listed on the World Heritage List is the powder magazine commissioned by Vauban. Designed to house 60 tons of black powder, it takes the form of a rectangular building, surrounded by a protective wall. It is vaulted in a round arch and supported by powerful buttresses. Two windows and a door provide access and lighting. The interior space is divided in two by a solid wooden floor.
  • Tips
    Splendid panorama of Briançon and the fortified complex at the crossroads of the valleys. A climb that is well worth it!
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