Briançon Fortress

Briançon, France

The historical centre of Briançon is a strongly fortified town, built by Vauban to defend the region from Austrians in the 17th century. Its streets are very steep and narrow, though picturesque. Briançon lies at the foot of the descent from the Col de Montgenèvre, giving access to Turin, so a great number of other fortifications have been constructed on the surrounding heights, especially towards the east.

The Savoyards made two raids into French territory in 1691 and 1692. As a result, Vauban was dispatched to inspect the frontier defences, which had been ill-equiped to deal with the attack from Savoy. He returned to the area in 1700 to check on the progress that had been made since his first visit. When Vauban visited Briançon, work on the defences had already started under a local engineer, Monsieur d'Angrogne in 1692. His work was a crude adaption of the medieval walls, but the flanks of the bastioned trace he attempted to create were very short, being severely restricted by the terrain. Always ready to be flexible, Vauban abandoned conventional principles and his own usual design, and created a layered defence with a Spanish-style false bray for the Embrun front. The defences of the Embrun front are unusual for Vauban in that they employ a tenaille trace in places.

The Pignerol front used a more conventional bastioned trace with demi-lunes and a covered way. High above the town was the citadel, which formed part of the defences. The citadel was practically unapproachable most of the way round, so its defences did not need to follow a bastioned trace - walls and the cliffs would be sufficient to prevent an assault.

Over the course of the 18th century, various other fortifications were constructed at Briançon to protect the nearby heights. These include the Fort des Salettes (originally built in 1700, but much enlarged in the 18th and 19th centuries), Fort des Têtes (a massive fort that is bigger than the town itself, first thought of by Vauban but built after his death), the Fort du Dauphin, the Fort Randouillet and the Fort d'Anjou.

In 2008, several buildings of Briançon were classified by the UNESCO as World Heritage Sites, as part of the 'Fortifications of Vauban' group.

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Founded: 1692
Category: Castles and fortifications in France

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4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

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User Reviews

Jeremy Guilfoyle (32 days ago)
Lovely place to visit on a midweek afternoon after a morning on the slopes. Great views of the town and the mountains.
George Murphy (2 months ago)
Lovely views, and a few nice shops, make sure you make a reservation for restaurants here
Elena Ferraro (2 months ago)
A magnifique experience! I did enjoy the historical center of Briancon!
Dmitry Shemet (2 months ago)
Good place to walk and see the fortress walls and small streets. Some viewpoints are available. We have found a lot of cozy restaurants at the central street
Andrew Whelan (7 months ago)
Stunning walled city and fortress. Lots of narrow streets to explore, plenty of shops and eating places. Best part is wandering the walls and exploring the views looking into the gorge. Breathtaking, and not only due to the steep path to climb back up from the bridge. Fortress is €6 to enter but even without this there is plenty to explore and enjoy.
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