See you on the slopes from 16 December


Monday 04 December updated on 12-04-2023 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

Souvent considérées comme un rempart naturel, les Alpes ne sont cependant pas infranchissables. Par la présence des cols du Petit-Saint-Bernard, du Bonhomme et de l’Iseran, la vallée de Haute-Tarentaise regroupe d’importants lieux de passage depuis la Préhistoire. Dès l’Antiquité, le col du Petit Saint-Bernard constitue un trait d’union entre les populations alpines locales. Lors de la conquête romaine, l’Empereur Auguste termine l’aménagement de la voie romaine. Troupes, souverains, pèlerins, marchands, banquiers ou colporteurs se croisent sur les routes tarines. À la fin du Moyen-âge, le Comté de Savoie contrôle cinq cols cruciaux, dont le Petit et le Grand Saint-Bernard.


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

This place was home to the Blue Devils of the 7th Battalion of the Chasseurs Alpins (Alpine Hunters) (7th BCA) until 2012. This memorial site offers an overview of the Haute Tarentaise valley and the defences built to protect and control the routes to Italy. An opportunity to discover the area’s military past, its organisation, how fortifications were built, the battles that were fought and the men who gave their lives for our freedom and peace.

«I am Paul, a geographer, I like to look at this valley and think about its evolution and development. A place of passage during the Roman period, it evolved in the Middle Ages with the appearance of seigneuries and borders, becoming a focus of tension and rivalry. I can still make out the scattered remains of the various fortifications. I would like to think that thanks to the unification of Europe, its vocation is once again to link people and facilitate communication.»


Around the year 1000 the House of Savoy was founded during the feudal period when many fortified castles were being built. In the Haute Tarentaise, the role of these fortifications was to control the roads and passes. In Bourg Saint Maurice you can still see the 12th century Châtelard Tower, it occupies a strategic position on a rock at the lower end of the Chapieux Valley facing the Petit Saint-Bernard Pass. Built between the 12th and 13th centuries, the Rochefort Tower is the only remnant of a feudal dwelling once surrounded by ditches and towers. In the 17th century, Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu built an earthwork fort to protect the valley from Piedmontese threats, it is no longer visible today.


After the secession of Savoy to France in 1860 and the 1870 War, the newly unified Italy represented a new threat. In 1888 France established the Alpine Hunters and a fortified defensive system from the Jura to Nice: the Séré de Rivières Line.


At the beginning of the 20th century the use of reinforced concrete led to new types of forts and allowed old structures to be strengthened.

At the end of the 1920s, the creation of the Alpine section of the Maginot Line gave rise to several new works:

The Seloge work at the foot of the Col de la Seigne and lines of small blockhouses around the Petit Saint-Bernard and Mont passes.

The Cave-à-Canon work at the foot of the Malgovert forest, the Châtelard work at the foot of the medieval tower, the Versoyen anti-tank defences, now disappeared.

Barely completed, they saw action in Second World War battles. At the end of hostilities some forts were sold off by the army.


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.


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.

 Dis you know? 


In the Gallo-Roman era Bourg Saint Maurice was called Bergintrum. It was already an important town in the Roman Empire, as evidenced by its presence on Peutinger’s Map, which shows the entire road network of the Roman Empire: the cursus publicus. Reproduced at the end of the 12th century on a large parchment, it resembles the maps displayed in European metro stations. To this day it still serves as a guide for archaeologists studying the remains of Roman roads and sites.