Following invasions of Provence by Savoy in 1691 and 1692, Louis XIV dispached Vauban to put the frontier in a better state of defence. In 1692 he came to the Plateau de Mille-Aures, which overlooks both of the invasion routes used by the Savoyards, to fortify it.

The ground in question was on a high hill, roughly four-sided and only readily accessible on one side, another side being steep but passable and the further two sides being cliffs. This meant that the place would only require a short amount of bastioned front, the remainder only requiring a basic wall.

A map of Vauban's plans for Mont-Dauphin. In reality, few people came to live in the town and only part of the northern side (on the right of the map) was built up.
Relief map of Mont-Dauphin when it was first built, showing the small number of houses in the foreground (the buildings towards the background are barracks).

The plateau was previously uninhabited, so it was decided that a new town would be built within the fortifications. Plans were made for a front of three arrow headed bastions and two demi-lunes in the north, where the defences were most approachable.

To the south, Vauban planned a trace of smaller bastions, this approach being all but inaccessable. The entrance here was carried over a small demi-lune. Later in the 18th century, the trace of the southern defences was altered, but this demi-lune remained, leaving it oddly skew from the wall.

The 'old' demi-lune to the south, which is no longer lined up with the wall, because the trace here has been altered.
The porte de Brianšon, or Brianšon gate, in the northern defences.

Although Vauban was enthousiastic about the project, the work did not proceed smoothly. Firstly, the plateau was subject to high winds (Mille-Aures means a thousand winds), which made it an unattractive place to live.

Secondly, a famine in the region drove up prices, and there were serious problems obtaining enough stone for revetting the ditches and ramparts. Thirdly, the threat of invasion from Savoy subsided before the fortifications were completed and the fortress lost its immediate importance.

Despite this, Mont-Dauphin was strengthened after French troops suffered a defeat nearby in 1745. For the rest of the century, the barrack buildings multiplied, but some elaborate and extensive plans for extra layers of defence drawn up in 1747 were shelved.

A demi-lune in the northern defences.

One of the additions that was actually realised is a lunette called the lunette d'aršon, which is an advanced work in the north, but is connected to the fortress by an underground passage.

Visiting Mont-Dauphin

The eastern end of the northern lines of Mont-Dauphin.

The fortifications at Mont-Dauphin are in very good condition, and were undergoing restoration when I visited (summer 2004). The best parts are the northern front and the lunette d'aršon. Even today the area within the ramparts is not filled with houses, and only the northern section is inhabited.

There is an interesting museum in the arsenal of the fortress, which contains various relief maps and other exhibits. The nearest station is at Eygliers, at the bottom of the hill - just about walking distance, but quite steep.

Mont-Dauphin, Vauban fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site

Condition Access to fortifications Size of fortress Accessability of town Museum/Info Overall score
9 9 7 6 8 7.8
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