The stronghold of Mont-Dauphin

Vauban was a war engineer, a visionary, and the general commissioner for the fortifications of Louis XIV’s reign. He was the one who created the king’s “pré carré” (domain), which protected the kingdom and the new borders with the Spanish Netherlands. During his career, the Marquis de Vauban built or reinforced more than 300 strongholds.

Mont-Dauphin is one of his most beautiful achievements. Since 2008, it has been one of the 12 major Vauban sites that have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The architecture of the place is exceptional. Seen from the sky, it is even more impressive with its spike-shaped bastions separated by passageways. Along the ramparts, you can discover the barracks where the soldiers of the Sun King lived and the watchtowers from which they kept watch. You can almost see them with their tricorn and musket, watching over the border. The pink marble fortifications shelter a small village with a special charm. The view from the plateau of Millaures is magnificent, it overlooks the Queyras mountains and the glaciers of the massif des Écrins.

Stronghold of Mont Dauphin

In 1692, Victor-Amédée II invaded the Dauphiné and devastated the region. Following this intrusion, Vauban proposed to the king to improve the defense of the border of the Alps. He decided to create a stronghold (a fortification housing soldiers and a civilian population) which he named Mont-Dauphin to honor the Sun King’s son, Le Grand Dauphin, heir to the throne. To do so, he selected the plateau of Millaures, which is a strategic crossroads between the Dauphiné and Provence.

The construction of the stronghold began in 1693 with great haste, as the fear of a new attack remained. The enemy being in the North, the first fortifications were built there, the other sides were protected by a natural fortification formed by a steep rock. The military buildings and most of the fortifications were built in less than 10 years, as were half of the houses for civilians. The arsenal and gunpowder magazine were deliberately built near the Durance front, far from the northern front.

In 1713, with the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht, the Italian border was pushed back, and Mont-Dauphin lost its strategic dimension. The site became the second line of defense after the Ubaye and work progressed at a snail’s pace. The construction of the stronghold was completed in the 19th century. It has never been besieged and it never came under fire except in 1940, when an Italian plane destroyed part of the arsenal.

A village in the heart of a citadel

Mont-Dauphin was built on the plateau of Millaures, also known as the plateau of a thousand winds. Living conditions are difficult in this isolated place. In order to avoid this rough life that could incite soldiers to desert, Vauban decided to create a village in the citadel. The idea was to create a comforting social life in Mont-Dauphin with a few stores and houses that could accommodate civilians. At the end of the 18th century, Vauban’s gamble was successful: 300 people lived in the village.

The village is formed by three wide and straight streets: two of them are parallel and the other one is perpendicular. The surveillance, the passage of troops and military equipment were thus facilitated. Vauban had drawn precise plans for the terraced houses of the civilians that follow one another along the streets. A garden, a vaulted cellar that could be used as a shelter in case of attack, a first floor to accommodate stores and workshops, a floor for housing and finally, a barn at the top. They were built according to his recommendations with rubble stone linked with lime, then covered with a coating. At the time, slates were used as roofing, today they have been replaced by sheet metal. Today, 170 people live in the village and stores remain open, to the delight of visitors.

The historic garden

In 2012, a historic garden was laid out behind the Saint-Louis church. The wall of the former parish that stood there now delimits this space. Emmanuel Borel, the gardener who looks after the site, planted old varieties that were used by the military and civilians who lived here in Vauban’s time. Vegetable and medicinal plants from regional varieties, such as Queyras bearded rye or orache, a pink spinach, can be found here.

During the open house, you may have the opportunity to meet this passionate gardener who takes care of the place. He will tell you about the uses and legends of these rare and forgotten plants that are still carefully cultivated at Mont-Dauphin.

Prepare your visit

The stronghold of Mont Dauphin can be discovered during guided tours which take place throughout the year:

  • January to May: at 2:30 p.m. every day (except Monday)
  • June and September: at 10:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. every day
  • July and August: at 10:00 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. every day
  • October to December: at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday


The course lasts two hours and is only offered in French. The days and schedule of guided tours may vary according to the season. Please check the website to organize your visit.

The visitor route is partially accessible to people with reduced mobility.

Dogs are accepted on condition that they are kept on a leash, calm and clean.

Website: http://www.place-forte-montdauphin.fr/