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.References:
The St Sophia's Cathedral was built between 1045-1050 inside the Novgorod Kremlin (fortress). It is one of the earliest stone structures of northern Russia. Its height is 38 m. Originally it was taller, for during the past nine centuries the lower part of the building became concealed by the two-metre thick cultural layer. The cathedral was built by Prince Vladimir, the son of Yaroslav the Wise, and until the 1130s this principal church of the city also served as the sepulchre of Novgorodian princes. For the Novgorodians, St Sophia became synonymous with their town, the symbol of civic power and independence.
The five-domed church looks simpler but no less impressive than its prototype, the thirteen-domed St Sophia of Kiev. The cathedral exterior is striking in its majesty and epic splendour evoking the memories of Novgorod's glorious past and invincible might. In the 11th century it looked more imposing than now. Its facade represented a gigantic mosaic of huge, coarsely trimmed irregular slabs of flagstone and shell rock. In some places (particularly on the apses), the wall was covered with mortar, smoothly polished, drawn up to imitate courses of brick or of whitestone slabs, and slightly coloured. As a result, the facade was not white, as it is today, but multicoloured. The play of stone, decorative painting and the building materials of various texture enhanced the impression of austere simplicity and introduced a picturesque effect.
The two-storied galleries extend along the building's southern, western and northern sides, with a stair-tower constructed at the north-eastern corner. The cathedral has three entrances - the southern, western and northern, of which the western was the main one intended for ceremonial processions. A gate standing at the entrance is known as the Sigtuna Gate (mid-12th century); according to legend, it was brought from the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187. The second name of the gate derives from the town of Magdeburg, where it was made. The two leaves are decorated with biblical and evangelical scenes in cast bronze relief. In the lower left corner there are portraits of the craftsmen who created this superb specimen of medieval Western European bronze-work. An inscription in Latin gives their names, Riquin and Weissmut. The small central figure - judging from an inscription in Slavonic - is a representation of the Russian master craftsman Avraam, who assembled the gate.
There is yet another bronze gate in the cathedral, called the Korsun Gate. Made in the 11th century in Chersonesos, Byzantium, it leads from the southern gallery into the Nativity Side-Chapel. Legend has it that the gate was handed over to Novgorod as a gift of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (c. 978 - 1054).
The interior of the cathedral is as majestic as its exterior. It is divided by huge piers into five aisles, three of which end in altar apses. In the south-western corner, inside the tower, there is a wide spiral in relatively small, modest buildings of the 12th - 16th centuries.