Fort Bard was built in the 19th century by the House of Savoy on a rocky prominence above Bard, at the entrance to the Aosta Valley. It has been used for millennia to control the historic route between Italy and France.
The current fortifications were built by Charles Albert of Savoy between 1830 and 1838. It replaced a 10th-century castle that had, itself, been built on an earlier structure founded by Theodoric I in the 5th century.
The castle was under the control of the powerful local lords of Bard until the middle of the 13th century when ownership passed to the House of Savoy. Under their control, the defences were strengthened and improved.
On May 14, 1800, a 40,000-strong French army was stopped by 400 Austro-Piedmontese soldiers at Fort Bard. They held the pass for two weeks, completely ruining Napoleon Bonaparte's plan of making a surprise attack on the Po Valley and Turin. When he heard the news, he named the fort vilain castel de Bard. Bonaparte then gave the order himself, that the fort should be razed to the ground.
It was not until 1830 that Charles Albert of Savoy, fearing new attacks from the French, ordered that the fort be rebuilt. The task was entrusted to the famed Italian military engineer, Francesco Antonio Olivero.
The work, which took eight years to complete, created a fort with two distinct levels. The upper part had conventional battlements whereas the lower part had 50 gun ports in autonomous casemates that were designed to offer mutual protection if attacked. A total of 416 soldiers could now be billeted in the 283-room fort. The upper level had a courtyard which contained the arsenals and barracks. The fort had enough ammunition and food supplies for three months.
By the end of the 19th century, the fort had lost its military value and fell into disuse. However, the Italian Army did continue to use the fort as a powder magazine. When it closed in 1975, ownership passed to the government of the Autonomous Region of Valle d'Aosta. In the 1980s the fort opened as a tourist attraction despite many buildings needing urgent repair.
In the late 1990s the fort was closed. It then underwent major restoration work. In 2006 Fort Bard reopened as the Museum of the Alps. Fort Bard and its town were used as the fictional Eastern European country of Sokovia in the 2015 film Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Fort Bard has been completely restored after many years of neglect. In 2006 it reopened to tourists as the Museum of the Alps, it has additional art exhibitions and galleries. In the summer, the main courtyard is used to host musical and theatrical performances.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.