Neuf-Brisach is a fortified town intended to guard the border between France and the Holy Roman Empire and, subsequently the German states. It was built after the peace of Ryswick, in 1697, that resulted in the loss to France of the town of Breisach, on the opposite bank of the Rhine. The town's name means New Breisach.
Work began on the fortified town in 1698, to plans drawn by Vauban, a military engineer at the service of Louis XIV. Vauban died in 1707 and this, his last work, was completed by Louis de Cormontaigne. The city's layout was that of an 'ideal city', as was popular at the time, with a regular square grid street pattern inside an octagonal fortification. Generous space was given to a central square across the four blocks at the middle, flanked by an impressive church. Individual blocks were offered for private development, either as affluent houses in private gardens, or as properties for commercial rent. Simpler housing was provided in long tenement blocks, built inside each curtain wall, which also had the effect of shielding the better houses from the risk of cannon fire. Access was provided by large gateways in the principal four curtain walls.
The fortifications are Vauban's final work and the culmination of his 'Third System'. There are two lines of defence, the bastion wall around the city, and an outer enceinte de combat, a system of concentric star-shaped earthworks. The curtain wall was largely octagonal, with each flank separated roughly into three and the outer bastion projecting slightly, so as to flank the centre of the walls. Each corner had a raised outwardly projecting pentagonal bastion tower, the highest points of the system. The outer earthworks were deep and occupied a greater area than the city itself. The inner walls were surrounded by tenailles before the centres of the curtain walls and counterguards before the bastions. In front of the centre of each curtain face was a large tetrahedral ravelin, those in front of the gateways also being topped by a reduit to the rear. Outside all of these earthworks was a covered way.
The city suffered damage in World War II, but still represents a very clear example of the latest in fortification work at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
In 2008, Neuf-Brisach was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the Fortifications of Vauban group.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.