Sunday, May 19, 2013

Vauban's Legacy

The other day an article in the Badische Zeitung informed readers about a plan of the Consortium for the Revitalization of Freiburg's Schlossberg to make a part of Vauban's fortifications, the Fort Carré, visible again. When thinking about Schlossberg many of my Madison friends know Toni's place, the Greiffenegg-Schlössle, that due to its diminutive form neither sounds nor looks like a fort.

The Greiffenegg-Schlössle above Freiburg
and its chestnut-shaded beer-garden behind
Well, the Greiffenegg-Schlössle is like the tip of an iceberg where more than 90% of what once existed on Schlossberg is no longer there or rather invisible.

Without going back in history to the Romans it was Bertold II, Duke of Zähringen, who in 1091 decided to build his Castrum de Friburch on the strategically important hill above the future city of Freiburg. No pictures exist but Hartmann von Aue ought have written songs about the most beautiful castle in the region.

Over the centuries buildings and fortifications on Schlossberg were frequently destroyed but just as frequently reconstructed.

The Burghaldenschloss at the time of the Thirty Years War
In Merian's Topographia Germaniae, volume Alsatiae, a copperplate print of Freiburg in 1644 shows a building on Schlossberg called Burghaldenschloss. This castle was destroyed in the Thirty Years War but rebuilt at the order of Emperor Leopold in the 1670ties as a stronghold against French aggression.

The Leopoldsburg in 1670 looks like a stronghold
All in vain. In 1677 Louis XIV's marshal François de Créqui besieged the city and eventually took it. The subsequent Nijmegen Peace Treaty required Leopold to hand Freiburg over to the French crown.

Genius Vauban
Immediately Louis XIV ordered his fortress architect Vauban to embattail the city according to modern standards as a French fort on German territory. Genius Vauban considered incorporating the Vieux Château (Burghaldenschloss) into the new fortification not as a problem but rather took it as an opportunity. In enlarging the existing installations on Schlossberg he transformed them into a refuge. Should Freiburg be taken by an enemy the city's troops would initially retreat to Fort de l'Aigle - due to its form also called chamber pot - then in case of need move even higher up into Fort de St. Pierre, and eventually as a last resort pull back to Fort Carré.


Vauban's fortification around Freiburg and on Schlossberg:
Fort de l'Aigle, Fort de St. Pierre
, and at the far end Fort Carré.
When in 1745 the French definitely had to leave Freiburg they blew up Vauban's fortifications and leveled the buildings. Over the years nature took over and the last vestiges of Vauban's work disappeared. Now the Consortium would like to make the foundations of Fort Carré visible as an historical heritage.

The Fort Carré, the last resort (©BZ)
In Freiburg Vauban had to construct his fortification into and around existing structures. His masterpiece, however, he could build from scratch a few kilometers away from Freiburg: Neuf Brisach.

Vauban's masterpiece: Neuf Brisach

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