The forts of Esseillon

The forts of Esseillon are made up of 5 19th century forts built on a natural rocky barrier between Aussois and Avrieux. These 5 forts constitute "La Barrière de l'Esseillon" whose purpose was to protect the Kingdom of Piedmont Sardinia against the French invasions. This military place was not the place of fights but it remains nevertheless charged with history and is classified "Historic Monuments". It is now a site not to be missed with treasure hunts for the whole family, via-ferrata routes, exhibition and restoration areas... A must see!


Places full of history!

The forts of Esseillon were built between 1815 and 1830 at the time of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia according to the plans of the Marquis de Montalembert.

The glacial lock of the Esseillon (ladder in Piedmontese) lent itself perfectly to the conception thought by the architect who advocated a mutual defense of each fort by crossfire.

These buildings bearing the names of the sovereigns of the royal family: Victor Emmanuel and Marie-Thérèse, Charles-Félix and Marie-Christine, Charles-Albert locked the access to the main passage between France and Piedmont, thus controlling the royal road of Mont Cenis.

A bit of architecture...

Montalembert" forts

The fortified complex of Esseillon is linked to the conceptions of the Marquis de Montalembert (1714-1800) whose theories are opposed to those of Vauban.

The various structures are named after members of the royal family. Marie-Christine, Marie-Thérèse, Victor-Emmanuel, Charles-Albert and Charles-Félix, but none of these forts has been tested by fire.

It was in 1860, when Savoy was annexed to France, that they became national heritage. Three of these forts have been restored to date, one of which houses a restaurant and the other, a fortified heritage interpretation center.

AU_village-incontroversial-forts esseillon

History explained to all

Treasure hunts, escape games, museums... the forts can be visited in a playful way

Still being restored, the forts can be visited all year round (free or guided tours). In winter, access on foot or with snowshoes from Aussois (the road is closed from Aussois).

In the biggest fort of l'Esseillon (the Victor Emmanuel fort), a treasure hunt offers children and families a scripted visit. Children can put themselves in the shoes of a 19th century French spy to try to find out more about this fort built by the Kingdom of Piedmont Sardinia. Clue after clue, game after game, they can discover the mysteries of the Esseillon.

To learn even more about the history of the Forts, the Marie-Thérèse Redoubt houses an Interpretation Center of the fortified heritage. A museum that allows you to know everything about the origin of the forts, their construction, their use... Treasure hunts and escape games are also offered by the Redoubt. You can also eat at "La Gamelle du Soldat", located in the heart of the Redoubt.

La Redoute Marie-Thérèse

To do near the forts

Via-ferrata, tree climbing and zip lines

On the Marie-Thérèse Redoubt side (access by the RD 1006, on the La Norma resort side), you can enjoy a large accrobranche course: the Parc du Diable. A site accessible all year round (open to all in summer, to groups in autumn, spring and winter).

Between the Marie-Thérèse Redoubt and the Victor-Emmanuel Fort, the Arc River has carved a deep gorge. The two forts are linked by a pedestrian bridge (the Pont du Diable) and it is therefore possible to go from one fort to the other (count 30 minutes of walking). This gorge has also allowed the installation of the magnificent via-ferrata of the Diable. 7 routes for all levels. Some via-ferrata even start directly from the "mouths" of the Victor-Emmanuel fort. These via-ferrata are accessible all year round.


Via ferrata in Aussois

Access to the forts by car

By car, you can reach the forts all year long by the RD1006, 5 km from Modane: parking in front of the Marie-Thérèse Redoubt. It is then possible to walk down to the "Devil's Bridge" and then up to the Victor-Emmanuel fort.

Also accessible via Aussois: Fort Marie-Christine Charles-Albert, Charles-Félix and Victor-Emmanuel, on the old route des forts (note: in winter, only Fort Marie-Christine is accessible by car).

Access by Avrieux and the Saint-Benoît waterfall: old road of the forts between Avrieux and Aussois (attention, road closed in winter).