© Alban PERNET

The Esseillon fortifications

A natural rocky barrier, the glacial lock of the Esseillon was used to build fortresses whose purpose was to protect the country from the enemy. This military square was not the scene of fighting, but it is nevertheless steeped in history and is classified as a “Historic Monument”.

Sites that ooze with history!

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

The glacial rock bar of Esseillon (“ladder” in Piedmontese) was perfectly suited to the architect’s design, which advocated the mutual defence of each fort by crossfire.

The forts, which are named after the members of the royal family – Victor Emmanuel, Marie-Thérèse, Charles-Félix, Marie-Christine and Charles-Albert, closed off the main passageway between France and Piedmont, thus controlling the royal Mont Cenis road.

A spot of architecture

The design of the Esseillon fortified ensemble accommodates the theories of the Marquis de Montalembert (1714-1800) which were opposed to those of Vauban.

The different structures are each named after a member of the royal family – Marie-Christine, Marie-Therese, Victor-Emmanuel, Charles-Albert and Charles-Felix – but none of these forts were subjected to the test of fire.

It was in 1860, when Savoie was annexed to France, that they were added to the national heritage list. To date, three of these forts have been restored, including one housing a stopover gite and restaurant and another the fortified heritage interpretative centre.

History for all

The forts are still being restored and can be visited with guided or unguided tours. Families can let the children play at being soldiers and join the treasure hunt at Fort Victor-Emmanuel.

The Marie-Thérèse Redoubt houses the fortified heritage interpretative centre, while Fort Marie-Christine proposes quality accommodation and meals.

Things to see and do

around the forts

To reach the forts:

 

  • either by road D1006, 5 km from Modane, car park in front of the Marie-Thérèse Redoubt

 

  • or via Aussois: Fort Marie-Christine, Charles Albert, Charles Félix and Victor-Emmanuel, the old fort road between Aussois and Avrieux
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