See you on the slopes until 27 April

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Tuesday 16 April updated on 04-16-2024 at 8:06

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  1. Les Arcs
  2. To do in Les Arcs
  3. Côté patrimoine
  4. Histoire
  5. Lieu de souvenirs
  6. Bourg Saint Maurice a fortified valley
My account

Often considered a natural rampart, the Alps are however not impassable. Through the presence of the Petit-Saint-Bernard, Bonhomme and Iseran passes, the Haute-Tarentaise valley has brought together important places of passage since prehistory. Since Antiquity, the Petit-Saint-Bernard pass has been a link between local Alpine populations. During the Roman conquest, Emperor Augustus completed the construction of the Roman road. Troops, sovereigns, pilgrims, merchants, bankers and peddlers cross paths on the roads. At the end of the Middle Ages, the County of Savoie controlled five crucial passes, including the Petit and Grand Saint-Bernard.

 

 Visits 

  The rates and dates of the guided tours are presented on My week in Les Arcs, the weekly entertainments programme and in Tourist offices.


The Quartier des Alpins in Bourg Saint Maurice hosted the Blue Devils of the 7th Battalion of Alpine Hunters (BCA) until 2012. This place of memory allows you to discover the Haute Tarentaise valley and the defence works built to protect and control the communication routes to Italy. An opportunity to discover the local military past with its organization, the construction of fortifications, the battles and the men who gave their lives for our freedom and peace.

“I am Paul, a geographer, I like to look at this valley, its evolution and its development. A place of passage in the Roman era, it evolved in the Middle Ages with the appearance of lordships and borders. It becomes a place of tensions and rivalries. I can still observe, here and there, the remains of the various fortifications. I like to think that thanks to European construction, it has once again found its vocation of links and passage.”

Around the year 1000, the birth of the House of Savoy coincided with the feudal period and the multiplication of fortified castles. In Haute Tarentaise, the fortifications ensure control of the roads and passes. In Bourg Saint Maurice, you can still see the Châtelard tower (12th century), it occupies a strategic place on a rock at the foot of the Chapieux valley and facing the Col du Petit Saint-Bernard. Built between the 12th and 13th centuries, the Rochefort tower is the only vestige of a feudal residence once surrounded by ditches and towers. In the 17th century, Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu had an earthen fort erected to protect the valley from Piedmontese threats. It has now disappeared.

1860, A NEW FRONTIER

After the annexation of Savoy to France in 1860 and the war of 1870, a unified Italy represented a new threat. In 1888, France created the Alpine troops as well as a protection system stretching from the Jura Mountains to Nice: the Séré de Rivières Line.

MAGINOT FORTIFICATIONS: THE BUILD-UP TO WAR

At the beginning of the 20th century, the use of reinforced concrete gave rise to new types of forts and allowed the consolidation of old structures.

At the end of the 1920s, the creation of the Maginot des Alpes line led to several constructions:

• The Seloge structure at the foot of the Col de la Seigne and the lines of small blockhouses around the Petit Saint-Bernard and Mont passes.
• The Canon Cave at the foot of the Malgovert forest, the Châtelard structure at the foot of the medieval tower, the Versoyen rapid anti-tank dam. It has now disappeared.

Barely completed, they were used in the battles of the Second World War. At the end of the conflict, some forts were sold by the army.

THE CHATELARD TOWER

This square tower (7.60m along the sides) and curtain wall (1.80m) are the remains of an ancient defensive system dating from the twelfth century, of which the foundations probably date from the Roman era. Built on a steep promontory at the crossroads of several valleys: Beaufortain, Italy, the Petit Saint Bernard Pass and Isère, it protected all the communication routes. Like all medieval defences, the entrance was a door on the first floor accessed by a ladder to allow easy withdrawal to safety in case of danger. Arrowslits are still clearly visible in the wall.

THE ROCHEFORT TOWER

Built between the 12th and 13th century on a promontory close to the Roman road, this tower is the sole remaining part of a feudal dwelling occupied by a succession of families. Formerly surrounded by ditches and towers, the dwelling was destroyed and buried under mud slides when it was occupied by the Rochefort-Villaraymon Seigneurie.


 Did you know? 

THE PEUTINGER TABLE

In Gallo-Roman times, Bourg Saint Maurice was called Bergintrum. It was already an important town in the Roman Empire, as evidenced by its presence on the Puisinger Table. The latter represents the entire road network of the Roman Empire: the cursus publicus. Reproduced at the end of the 12th century on a large parchment, it is similar to the diagrams displayed in the metro trains of European cities. It still serves today as a guide to archaeologists who study the remains of Roman roads and sites.