Belfort

Belfort watchers

Until September 17, and for a year, 731 persons have been watching over the city of Belfort from the terrace of the Citadel. The idea behind this performance known as “Les Veilleurs de Belfort” (Belfort Watchers) was to turn two different citizens everyday into wardens of the city.

The original project aims at leading each watcher to take part in a collective adventure and go through several states of mind and feelings in an exceptional setting and rediscover the gorgeous view in different times of the day, at sunrise or sunset.

Watchers are posted in a shelter dubbed the 22nd window and designed by artists Benjamin Tovo and Nounja Jamil. It allows a 360 degrees vision of the town. The protagonists are filmed and their impressions are collected. 

Website : http://lesveilleursdebelfort.ccnfc-belfort.org/fr

The 22nd window of the Belfort watchers - © Samuel CarnovaliColoured façades - © Ville de BelfortFloodlit fortifications - © Ville de Belfort
29previous stages
Population: 51,500
Prefecture of Territoire de Belfort (90)Economy : industry  (Alsthom, General Electric, Usine à Gaz), high technologies (Techn’hom) 
Specialties : blueberry, épaule du ballon (lamb), lion’s paddle (bread), belflore, pavé de Corbis (pastries), brimbul (aperitif). 
Sport : ASM Belfort (volleyball)
Celebrities : Denfert-Rochereau, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, Jean-Pierre Chevenement. 
Festivals : Eurockéennes, TGV Generiq

Timeline

  • 58 BC

    Julius Caesar invades Alsace by the Belfort Gap to repel the Germanic tribes
  • 1226

    Treaty of Grandvillars: the name of the city appears for the first time, it probably refers to the town’s castle
  • 1307

    The Count of Montbéliard, Reginald of Burgundy, grants a charter to the town of Belfort freeing its inhabitants from all servitudes.
  • 1350-1359

    Belfort becomes Austrian thanks to the marriage of Jeannette, daughter of the countess of Montbeliard, with Duke Albert of Austria.
  • 1431

    Philip the Fair, King of France, conquers the town
  • 1525

    German Peasants War.
  • 1563

    Emperor Ferdinand of Austria buys back Belfort from the lord of Morimont.
  • 1632-1636

    Thirty Years’ War. The town is besieged and ravaged by the Swedes.
  • 1648

    The Treaty of Westphalia ends the conflict. Belfort becomes French again. It is fortified by Gaspard of Champagne
  • 1687-1703

    Construction of the fortifications supervised by Vauban and engineer Jacques Tarade. Belfort becomes a stronghold watching over the Belfort Gap between the Jura and the Vosges.
  • 1800

    Belfort becomes a sub-prefecture of Haut-Rhin.
  • 1814

    First siege of Belfort one century after the Vauban works. Commandant Legrand resists for 113 days to a coalition of Austrians, Bavarians, Cossacks and Hungarians.
  • 1815

    General Lecourbe, heading an 8,000-men force, resists for 15 days against an army of 40,000 Austrians.
  • 1817-1842

    Reorganisation of the fortifications and the camp by General Haxo.
  • 1870-1871

    Third siege by the Prussians during the1870 War. The heroic resistance during 103 days by the population and a garrison led by Colonel Pierre Denfert-Rochereau earns Belfort the right to remain French.
  • 1871

    Belfort becomes the prefecture of the Territoire de Belfort.
  • 1879

    Several Alsatian companies install branches in Belfort, one of which, SACM, was to become Alsthom.
  • 1880

    The Lion of Belfort, sculpted by Bartholdi, symbolises the glorious resistance of the town during the 1870-1871 siege.
  • 1922

    Territoire de Belfort becomes the 90th French department.
  • 1944

    The French Army takes the Fort du Salbert and liberates Belfort.
Vue de Belfort après le siège de 1871Colonel Denfert-Rochereau defends Belfort during the 1870-1871 siegeFrederic-Auguste Bartholdi
29previous stages
Population: 51,500
Prefecture of Territoire de Belfort (90)Economy : industry  (Alsthom, General Electric, Usine à Gaz), high technologies (Techn’hom) 
Specialties : blueberry, épaule du ballon (lamb), lion’s paddle (bread), belflore, pavé de Corbis (pastries), brimbul (aperitif). 
Sport : ASM Belfort (volleyball)
Celebrities : Denfert-Rochereau, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, Jean-Pierre Chevenement. 
Festivals : Eurockéennes, TGV Generiq

Belfort and cycling

The renowned Lion of Belfort, sculpted by Bartholdi, has seen many champions pass by in the long history of the city, which was the next stage after Metz on the Tour’s route in 1907. A very regular stage of the Tour in the years before the war, the city has often served more often as a stage start than a finish, although Marc Demeyer, the official trailblazer of Freddy Maertens, seized the opportunity in turn to excel there, in 1978. The next day, Bernard Hinault, won the time-trial which allowed him to oust Zoetemelk from the top of the general classification and to wear the Yellow Jersey on the Tour de France for the first time.

Belfort’s most famous cyclist is undoubtedly Christophe Moreau, who spent most of his youth and his first years as a rider in the city of the Lion. He finished 4th in 2000 for the most successful of his 15 Tours de France.

Belfort is also the hometown of two cycling families. Brothers Pascal and Eric Guyot rode three Tours between them. Eric, the younger one, won the Grand Prix de Plouay. Jean-Paul and Patrick Hosotte also took part in the same Tour de France in 1981. 

Eddy Merckx definitely took the yellow jersey in the Mulhouse-Belfort stage of the 1969 Tour de France - © Presse SportsBallon d’Alsace in the 1907 Tour de France - © Presse Sports
29previous stages
Population: 51,500
Prefecture of Territoire de Belfort (90)Economy : industry  (Alsthom, General Electric, Usine à Gaz), high technologies (Techn’hom) 
Specialties : blueberry, épaule du ballon (lamb), lion’s paddle (bread), belflore, pavé de Corbis (pastries), brimbul (aperitif). 
Sport : ASM Belfort (volleyball)
Celebrities : Denfert-Rochereau, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, Jean-Pierre Chevenement. 
Festivals : Eurockéennes, TGV Generiq

What to see

The citadel

A strategic place since the 12th century, Belfort’s citadel was built in 1648 by the Count of the Suze. To put an end to several invasions by the Belfort Gap, King Louis XIV asked Vauban to fortify the city. In 1687, Vauban unveiled his plan of a pentagonal urban compound, which is unique of its kind in France. From 1817, general Haxo transformed the castle into a modern fortress by replacing the Vauban barracks by bomb-proof quarters now visible above the Lion statue. Since 2007, a tourist path gives visitors a new vision of the citadel thanks to audio and video guides and a game of light in the Great Underground.

Belfort museum and Bartholdi space

Founded in 1872, the Belfort Museum is first of all noted for its archaeological collection: from the daily life in the prehistoric times (caves of Cravanche) to the period of the invasions (Bourogne necropolis) or the Roman conquest (Bavilliers villa), the museum also displays the belongings of the famous soldiers who defended the town. In 2011, to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the Lion of Belfort, six rooms were entirely devoted to the works of celebrated sculptor Bartholdi. 

The Brisach gate

Built in 1687, it is the only remaining gate from the old fortifications. On a fronton topped by King Louis XIV’s blazon, his motto is engraved: Nec pluribus impar (Nothing compares to him). 

The Lion and the citadel - © Ville de BelfortBrisach gate - © Ville de BefortFortifications - © Ville de Befort
29previous stages
Population: 51,500
Prefecture of Territoire de Belfort (90)Economy : industry  (Alsthom, General Electric, Usine à Gaz), high technologies (Techn’hom) 
Specialties : blueberry, épaule du ballon (lamb), lion’s paddle (bread), belflore, pavé de Corbis (pastries), brimbul (aperitif). 
Sport : ASM Belfort (volleyball)
Celebrities : Denfert-Rochereau, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, Jean-Pierre Chevenement. 
Festivals : Eurockéennes, TGV Generiq

Lion of Belfort

Between November 3, 1870 and February 13, 1871, Belfort was besieged by the Prussian army. While Napoleon III generals had been scattered in the first weeks of the war, a young colonel named Pierre Denfert-Rochereau was leading the resistance. Belfort refused to yield and only surrendered by order of the French government. Thanks to its brave resistance, Belfort remained French while Most of Alsace and Lorraine were annexed by Germany.

As early as December 1871, while the enemies were still around, the town council voted for a monument to be erected in homage to those deceased during the siege. It was first thought to be a simple memorial stone in the cemetery.

Sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi was called to take part in the project. The Alsatian-born artist, shocked by the annexation of his native region was all the more concerned as he served during the war as an aide to Giuseppe Garibaldi. His own project was far more ambitious than a simple memorial. The sculptor vowed to build a giant lion “harassed, cornered yet still terrible in his rage”. His plan, accepted in 1873, was altered many times to avoid celebrating what remained a defeat. However the scheduled budget of 50,000 francs was 25 times higher than what was originally planned. A national subscription was organised to cover the costs. Work started in 1876 and after considerable delays due to harsh weather and technical problems, the lion was finally unveiled in 1880.

Entirely made of sandstone, it is 22 metres long and 11 metres high. A copy was placed in Paris on the Denfert-Rochereau Square. As for Bartholdi, already a world renowned architect, he would enjoy an ever greater fame with another one of his works, the Statue of Liberty. 

Lion of Belfort - © Ville de Belfort
29previous stages
Population: 51,500
Prefecture of Territoire de Belfort (90)Economy : industry  (Alsthom, General Electric, Usine à Gaz), high technologies (Techn’hom) 
Specialties : blueberry, épaule du ballon (lamb), lion’s paddle (bread), belflore, pavé de Corbis (pastries), brimbul (aperitif). 
Sport : ASM Belfort (volleyball)
Celebrities : Denfert-Rochereau, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, Jean-Pierre Chevenement. 
Festivals : Eurockéennes, TGV Generiq

Jersey wearers after the stage 5

Classifications after the stage 5

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