Briançon

Briançon

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)


The following years saw prosperous times, with the organisation of famed fairs, known as far as Provence and Lombardy, however the plague of 1348 wiped out 73% of the population.

The valley of Serre Chevalier joined the French kingdom in 1349. Many famous people stayed in Briancon, including Fran ois 1st in 1537, Louis XIII and Richelieu in 1629.

The Utrecht treaty of 1713 would destroy the Briancon region. It was divided in two: a Savoyard part (now Italy)and the other in the French Kingdom. “It would be an insult to the people of Oulx (Italians today) and the valley to deny them the French privilege”. If you take a walk towards the Rochilles or the Galibier threshold between Névache and Valloire, and you’ll find old road-signs with the French lily on one side and a Savoie cross on the other… but not at all in the direction you’d expect.

The decision to divide the Escartons into two different countries was little appreciated. The first Italian teacher arrived in Oulx in 1850, because all the people in the Susa valley (Venue of the Olympic Winter Games in 2006) perpetuated the French language and the Briancon dialect. On the other hand, the treaty agreed to maintain ancestral rights.

Men Universal suffrage was adopted. The French Revolution put an end to all hope and the loss of privileges. In 1789, la Grave and Villar d’Arène asked to be attached to the Hautes Alpes.

In 1815, Briancon resisted a siege of 4 months against the Austrians, who finally had to pull back.  The end of the 19th century were the golden years with the development of ironworks, tanneries and mills.  1884 saw the arrival of trains, 1894 the arrival of electricity, in 1897 Briancon became a sous prefecture, 1902 the first ski school, 1907 the first competitions in Montgenèvre, 1912 the Lycée d’Altitude, 1919 the first winter Sports Club.

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 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 ‘Maginot Alpine’
Concrete works, built in the thirties to protect the Alps against the aggressive attitude of the fascist Italy.

Religious architecture 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.