The citadelle in Briançon is just one example (albeit a spectacular one) of the many fortifications built on France’s eastern borders by Sébastien Le Preste de Vauban (1633–1707), a Marshal and engineer in the army of Louis XIV. In all, Vauban built 33 fortresses and strengthened countless others in order to defend the new lands won by Louis, the so-called “Sun King”, during the wars of the seventeenth century. Vauban was highly innovative in the design of his fortresses, which were often built in the shape of a star so that the various defensive bastions could defend each other with covering fire. The other spectacular fortifications planned and constructed by him in the Alps and Franche-Comté are the citadelles at Besançon and Mont-Dauphin. Twelve of Vauban’s fortresses, dotted around France, are now included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

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