Briançon (Latin: Brigantium) is a commune in the Hautes-Alpes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France. It is the sub-prefecture of the department.
At 1,350 meters it is the second highest city in Europe after Davos. It is built on a plateau nucleated around confluence of the Durance and the Guisane.
Briançon was the Brigantium
of the Romans and formed part of the kingdom of King Cottius
. Brigantium was marked as the first place in Gallia
after Alpis Cottia (Mont Genèvre). At Brigantium the road branched, to the west through Grenoble
to Vienna (modern Vienne
), on the Rhone
; to the south through Ebrodunum (modern Embrun
), to Vapincum (modern Gap
). Both the Antonine Itinerary
and the Table
give the route from Brigantium to Vapincum. The Table places Brigantium 6 M.P. from Alpis Cottia. Strabo
(iv.) mentions the village Brigantium, and on a road to the Alpis Cottia, but his words are obscure. Ptolemy
mentions Brigantium as within the limits of the Segusini
, or people of Segusio (modern Susa
), in Piedmont
; but it seems, as D'Anville
observes, to be beyond the natural limits of the Segusini. Walckenaer (vol. i. p. 540) justifies Ptolemy in this matter by supposing that he follows a description of Italy made before the new divisions of Augustus
, which we know from Pliny
. Walckenaer also supports his justification of Ptolemy by the Jerusalem Itinerary
, which makes the Alpes Cottiae
commence at Rama
(near modern La Roche-de-Rame
) between Embrun and Briançon.
About 1040 it came into the hands of the counts of Albon (later dauphins of the Viennois) and thenceforth shared the fate of the Dauphiné. The Briançonnais included not merely the upper valley of the Durance (with those of its affluents, the Gyronde and the Guil), but also the valley of the Dora Riparia (Césanne, Oulx, Bardonnèche and Exilles), and that of the Chisone (Fénestrelles, Pérouse, Pragelas)—these glens all lying on the eastern slope of the chain of the Alps. But by the treaty of Utrecht (1713) all these valleys were handed over to Savoy in exchange for that of Barcelonnette, on the west slope of the Alps. In 1815 Briançon successfully withstood a siege of three months at the hands of the Allies, a feat which is commemorated by an inscription on one of its gates, Le passé répond de l'avenir.
The historical center is a strongly fortified town, built by Vauban
to defend the region from Austrians
in the 17th century. Its streets are very steep and narrow, though picturesque. Briançon lies at the foot of the descent from the Col de Montgenèvre
, giving access to Turin, so a great number of other fortifications have been constructed on the heights around it, especially towards the east. The Fort Janus is no less than . above the town.
The parish church, with its two towers, was built 1703-1726, and occupies a very conspicuous position.
The Pont d'Asfeld, east of the town, was built in 1734, and forms an arch of . span, thrown at a height of . across the Durance.
The modern town extends in the plain at the southwest foot of the plateau on which the old town is built and forms the suburb of Ste Catherine.
Briançon is located close to the Parc National des Ecrins.
On 8th July 2008, several buildings of Briançon were classified by the UNESCO as World Heritage Sites, as part of the "Fortifications of Vauban" group. These buildings are: the city walls, Redoute des Salettes, Fort des Trois-Têtes, Fort du Randouillet, ouvrage de la communication Y and the Asfeld Bridge. Along with Briançon, 11 other sites of fortified buildings in France were classified. Among them is the place-forte of Mont-Dauphin, also in the Hautes-Alpes department. These pieces of art were designed by Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban (1633-1707), a military engineer of King Louis XIV.
Natives of Briançon
- Oronce Fine (1494-1555), mathematician and cartographer
- Luc Alphand (born 1965), ski racer (Serre-Chevalier), won world cup (overall title) in 1997; won French Paris-Dakar as race driver in 2006. His best positions are winner in Men's Downhill, 1995 (races in Austria, Italy, USA, France), in Men's Downhill, 1996 (races in Germany, twice in Italy), in Men's Downhill, 1997 (races in Austria and Germany), in Men's Super G, 1997 (races in Switzerland, Germany). Scores in 23rd position of the Super Rank points’ classification from 1966 till now.
- Jules Melquiond (1941- ), ski racer, 10th position in the overall World Cup in 1966/67, scored 2 world cup podiums during his career. His best position is second in Men's Slalom race in 1967 in Germany (Berchtesgaden). He was a very good friend of Jean-Claude Killy.
- Henry Bréchu (1947- ), ski racer; 11th position in the overall World Cup in 1969/70, winner of Men's Slalom World Cup race in 1970, scored 5 world cup podiums during his career. His best position is winner of Men's Slalom in 1970 in Italy (Campiglio).
- Benjamin Melquiond (1975- ), ski racer, 79th position in the overall World Cup in 1996/97 (Luc Alphand winning this season). His best position is 8th in Men's Super G in 1996 in Japan (Happo One)
- Starting with Jacques Challiol, members of the Challiol family served as the Vice Bailiffs of the region of Briançonnais for more than 400 years.
Briançon is twinned
Briançon has often been a start or a finish of Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Dauphiné Libéré
Briançon has featured regularly as a stage start or finish in the Tour de France and is thus a popular base for cyclists. Since 1947, the town has been the start point for a stage of the tour 22 times, and has also been the stage finish 22 times.
In 2007, the town was the finish of the 159.5 km stage 9 on 17 July from Val-d'Isère crossing the Col de l'Iseran, the Col du Télégraphe and the Col du Galibier with a 37 km downhill finish in Briançon.
Briançon is the base and lowest altitude station of the large Serre Chevalier
ski resort. Most of the town's accommodation is used exclusively in the winter season, the population tripling during that period.