Heritage of briançon, let's go back in time

 

Roman the valley of Serre Chevalier, (the baths in Sanatio (Monêtier/Serre Chevalier 1500) confirms this) was intersected by the Via Domitia linking Milan and Arles (you can still find some remains of this ancient Roman road below the Lautaret pass).

After the Visigoths, the Francs and the Lombards, the valley Serre Chevalier belonged to the Dauphiné from 1024, and was part of the Briancon principality. In 1339, Briancon even equalled Grenoble in size with 2000 inhabitants.

The valley of Serre Chevalier, in the  heart of the Escartons. In 1343, Briancon  became the capital of “the  Republic of the Escartons”. Admittedly  not completely independent, this young  “republic” consisted of five “Escartons”  (from the French “escarter”: to share the  cost) or provinces, and of 51  municipalities. (Presently straddling  France and Italy)

 

Patrimoine à Briançon
Briançon Serre Chevalier - Patrimoine UNESCO

L’étymologie du mot « escarton » vient de son rôle essentiel qui était de répartir l’impôt, la part de chaque communauté étant un escart. Cette fédération est rendue possible grâce à la prospérité que connaît le Briançonnais à partir du début du XIVème siècle. A cette époque se déroulaient à Briançon des foires célèbres.

La vallée de Serre Chevalier entre dans le Royaume de France en 1349.
Quelques personnages célèbres séjournèrent à Briançon : François 1er en 1537, Louis XIII et Richelieu en 1629, Vauban en 1692 et 1700.

Le Traité d’Utrecht de 1713 va diviser le Briançonnais
. Il se trouve coupé en deux : un côté au Duché de Savoie (Italie aujourd’hui) et un autre dans le royaume de France. Si vous vous promenez vers le seuil des Rochilles entre Névache et Valloire, vous trouverez des bornes frappées d’une fleur de Lys sur une face et d’une Croix de Savoie de l’autre.

Mais couper les Escartons en deux pays différents ne fût guère apprécié : du côté du Val Susa tous les gens perpétuèrent la langue française et le dialecte briançonnais pendant longtemps. Et de l’autre côté, le traité accorda le maintien des privilèges ancestraux. La Révolution Française anéantira l’Escarton et entrainera la perte de ses valeurs. En 1789, La Grave et Villar d’Arène demandent leur rattachement aux Hautes-Alpes.

Tout au long du XIXème siècle, l’exploitation des sources d’eau chaude du Monêtier connait son apogée : on venait de Provence, du Dauphiné et du Piémont pour profiter de ses bienfaits. Cette époque connut aussi le développement des forges, tanneries et filatures ainsi que l’exploitation semi-industrielle des mines d’anthracite, tout au long de la vallée de la Guisane.

Patrimoine militaire et religieux à Briançon

Geology
In the Guisane valley, in Serre Chevalier, the ‘Rocher blanc’ is an extraordinary spot. You’ll find more than 300 million years of earth’s history on a difference in height of 300 metres.

Militaire architecture / The fortresses of the region of Briançon  

  • The fortified town of Briançon is composed of :  
  • The town fortified by Vauban (1962)  
  • The ‘fort des Têtes’  
  • The ‘fort du Randouillet’  
  • The ‘Pont d’Asfeld’ : bridge finished in 1734, it crosses  the  gorge of the river ‘La Durance’ at a height of 60  metres
  • The ‘Communication Y’ is an arched passage of 200  metres which is bombproof and uphill defended  
  • The ‘Fort Dauphin’- the ‘Fort des Salettes’


The fortification ‘Séré de Rivière’
These are altitude fortresses, batteries, redoubts of infantries but also some true military villages built at the end of the 19th century.

  • The ‘Fort de l’Olive’   
  • The ‘Fort des Gondrans’ and the ‘Fort de L’infernet’  
  • The ‘Fort de la croix de Bretagne’ and the ‘Batterie de la Lauzette’
  • The ‘Maginot Alpine’
    Concrete works, built in the thirties to protect the Alps against the aggressive attitude of the fascist Italy.


Religious architecture

  • The ‘Collégiale de Briançon’ (started in 1703)
  • Chapel ‘St Arnould’ (11th century) and its frescos in Saint Chaffrey  
  • Church ‘St Marcellin’ and Baptist chapel ‘St Jean’ in La Salle les Alpes.  
  • Church ‘du Bourg’ in Monêtier les Bains  
  • Listed churches of the 18th century in Les Guibertes  
  • Chapels decorated with frescos of the 15th century: chapel ‘Saint Martin’ and ‘St André’ (Monêtier les Bains)
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Ville de Briançon

Fauna and flora
Scots pine forests, glaciers, humid zones and altitude rocks; the region of Briançon houses a wide variety of natural environments that shelter a wide diversity of animals and plants. The cries of the nutcracker echo in the larch- and silver pine forests. Many insects, under which the butterfly ‘Apollon’, marmots, voles and their main predator, the ermine, live in the mountain grasslands.

During your hikes in the mountains, you’ll maybe have the luck to encounter some chamois. Birds like the golden eagle, the owl ‘grand duc’ and the peregrine falcon make their nests in the cliffs. On the steep rocky gradients the alpine ibex sometimes appears. Even in the screes, you can encounter animals like the ptarmigan (white partridge) that changes its plumage according to the seasons.

The old mines
The mining heritage of the region of Briançon is exceptional. The working techniques have remained traditional until the closing of the installations in the 1960. Here, you can find several objects that have disappeared from the other mining areas since the 19th century.

Hydraulics
For centuries, people in the region of Briançon have known how to exploit all the natural resources in order to affront the hard living conditions. Long before the apparition of electricity, many factories functioned thanks to the only energy that existed: hydraulic energy.

The agricultural life
Southern district, the region of Briançon experiences a summer drought which has required, since the Middle-Ages, a very well organised irrigation of the land under cultivation. Today, the 120 kilometres of canals in the region and the many traces of the traditional agriculture make up a very important patrimonial wealth.

The lime kilns
As a walker or a skier, you will have certainly passed next to a lime kiln without realising it. The cause is the small seize of the drystone kilns which were used by the farmers of the region to produce lime. The size, 3 metres across, is a specificity of our region: everywhere else, they have much more imposing dimensions.