Stage town for the 31st time. Prefecture of Territoire de Belfort (90)
Population: 45,4600. 79,000 inhabitants in the conurbation.
Personalities : Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (sculptor of the lion of Belfort and Denfert-Rochereau), Jean-Pierre Chevènement (former Minister and mayor), Tahar Rahim (actor), Éric Ruf (member of the Comédie Française), Pascal and Eric Guyot, Jean-Paul and Patrick Hosotte (cycling), Tifany Huot-Marchand (short track), Thomas Koenig (archery), Alain Quittet (shooting, handisport), Aurélie Chaboudez (athletics), Olivier Schoenfelder (ice dancing, in couple with Isabelle Delobel), Philippe Héberlé (Olympic rifle shooting champion at the 1984 Olympics).
Specialities: fried carp, cheese (Munster), blueberry tart, belflore (raspberry and hazelnut cake), épaule du Ballon (lamb stuffed with blueberries), Facettes de Belfort (chocolates stamped with a monument or event).
Sport: 18,000 members in 150 associations, including Club Cycliste Belfort Miotte and Avenir Cycliste du Territoire de Belfort. Events : Lion Half Marathon, Transterritoire (mountain biking).
Cycling: La FrancoVéloSuisse (a 40km greenway linking Belfort to Porrentruy), connection with EuroVélo6, self-service bicycles in the conurbation (250 bicycles, 25 stations)
Economy: Techn'hom (urban business park with over 120 companies), future vehicle competitiveness cluster, Vallée de l'énergie cluster, university
Festivals: University Music International Festival (June), Eurockéennes (July), Mois de la Photo (July), Living History Festival (July/August), EntreVues (November)
Labels: Cycling area / Active and Sporting town / 4 Flowers / UNICEF "Child-friendly" town / Tour de France cycling town (3 bikes)
Website : www.belfort.fr / www.grandBelfort.fr / belfort-tourisme.com / https://www.facebook.com/BelfortOfficiel/ / https://twitter.com/BelfortOfficiel. / https://www.instagram.com/belfortofficiel/
BELFORT AND CYCLING
The famous Lion of Belfort, sculpted by Bartholdi, has seen many champions ride through town, which immediately followed Metz on the itinerary of the 1907 Tour. A regular stage in the pre-war Tours, the town has since been used much more as a start than a finish, although Belgian rider Marc Demeyer, Freddy Maertens' regular lead-out man, seized the opportunity to shine here in 1978. The following day, Bernard Hinault won a time-trial helping him him to dislodge Zoetemelk from the top of the general classification and begin his life in yellow at the Tour de France. In 2012, it was from Belfort that Thibaut Pinot won his first Tour de France stage in Switzerland, in Porrentruy. Belfort's best-known rider is undoubtedly Christophe Moreau, who spent his entire adolescence and early racing years in the town of the Lion. He finished 4th in 2000 in the most successful of his 15 Tours de France. Belfort is also the birthplace of two cycling siblings. Pascal and Eric Guyot took part in three Tours de France between them. Eric, the youngest, also won the Grand Prix de Plouay. Jean-Paul and Patrick Hosotte also competed together in the 1981 Tour de France. In 2019, the 7th stage of the Tour de France set off from Belfort towards Chalon-sur-Saône, where Dylan Groenewegen won the bunch sprint.
Llion of Belfort
Construction: 1876 to 1880.
History: from November 3, 1870 to February 13, 1871, Belfort, then a sub-prefecture of Alsace, was besieged by the Prussian army. Although Napoleon III's generals had been swept aside in the first few weeks of the war, Denfert-Rochereau, a mere colonel, was in charge. Belfort did not abdicate and only surrendered on the orders of the French government. Thanks to its courageous resistance, Belfort remained French while part of Alsace and Lorraine was annexed to Germany. In December 1871, while the enemy troops were still in the town, the Belfort town council voted a loan to erect a monument in memory of and in gratitude to the victims of the siege. It was a modest project: a simple stele or column erected in the Mobiles cemetery. The budget allocated was 2,000 francs. Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi was asked to take part in the project. The Colmar native, who had been deeply affected by the annexation of his region, was all the more motivated as he had served during the conflict as squadron leader in the National Guards and then as aide-de-camp to Giuseppe Garibaldi. He already had an idea, far from a simple stele... He imagined, erected against and under the limestone rock of the citadel, a colossal lion "harassed, cornered and still terrible in its fury".
Characteristics: Bartholdi's proposals, accepted as early as 1873, underwent a number of changes, mainly relating to the attitude of the lion, which should "glorify the energy of defence" rather than recall a victory or defeat. However, the estimated cost of 50,000 francs far exceeded the initial budget. A national fund-raising campaign was launched, which proved highly successful, and work finally began in 1876. The work was delayed by material difficulties (extracting, cutting and laying the stone) and the harshness of successive winters. The people of Belfort had to wait until 1880 to admire the finished lion. Made entirely of pink Vosges sandstone, it is 22-m long and 11-m high.
Special feature: a replica of the lion can be seen in the Denfert-Rochereau square in Paris. As for Bartholdi, who already enjoyed international renown at the time, he was soon to create an even more striking work, the Statue of Liberty.
Listed as: Historical Monument since 1931.
Construction: 17th century.
History: a strategic site since the 12th century, the citadel of Belfort was built by the Count of Suze from 1648. Louis XIV commissioned Vauban to fortify the town in order to secure its passageway against numerous foreign invasions. In 1687, he proposed a pentagonal urban wall, protected by advanced works and reinforced at the corners by bastioned towers. This is the only example in France of Vauban's second fortification system. From 1817 onwards, General Haxo transformed the château into a modern fortress, in particular by replacing the barracks built under Vauban with a bomb-proof barracks, which can now be seen above the Lion. Since July 2007, a historical discovery trail (La Citadelle de la Liberté) has offered a different way of visiting the citadel in Belfort, with illustrated terminals, an audio-guide, a video projection and lights in the Grand Souterrain (underground).
Listed as: Historical Monument since 1903.
Belfort museum and Espace Bartholdi
Created in 1872 by the Belfort Emulation Society, the Belfort museum is organised around an archaeological collection: these include exhibits reflecting daily life in the region from prehistoric times (the sepulchral caves at Cravanche) to the period of the invasions (the Burgundian necropolis at Bourogne), via the Roman conquest (the pottery workshop at Offemont and the Villa at Bavilliers), and memorabilia linked to the military figures who defended Belfort on numerous occasions (General Lecourbe's sword, Denfert-Rochereau's personal effects). In February 2011, to mark the anniversary of the Lion of Belfort and as a tribute to its creator, the town decided to make six rooms of the History Museum permanent. Espace Bartholdi is devoted to statuary and features a collection of sculptures, engravings, old photographs, archives and original documents.
On the town's agora are the town hall (originally the private residence of François Noblat in 1724, lord and king's adviser, the building was converted into a town hall in 1786), the bandstand and Saint-Christopher’s cathedral (built in the first half of the 18th century, this Vosges pink sandstone edifice houses monumental organs built by famous organ builder Joseph Valtrin).
Erected in 1687 by Vauban, this royal gateway is adorned with the emblem of King Louis XIV: a sculpted sun with his motto Nec Pluribus Impar (No one can be compared to him). In the centre, fleurs-de-lys and the royal crown are surrounded by trophies and flags.
Place de la République
Developed at the beginning of the 20th century, after the demolition of the western front of the Vauban fortifications, this square became the new centre of the town with the construction of the courthouse, the Prefecture, the Caisse d'Epargne building and the Festival Hall. The town of Belfort is carrying out a major transformation project for this square, which will be completed in 2024.
The lion in all its forms
Belfort's chefs and pastry chefs have put the town's famous lion to good use. Local bakeries sell Patte du lion (Lion’s paw), a cereal bread, while delicatessen shop Le Goût d'ici has made a sausage nicknamed La Lionne. The Purement Chocolat chocolate factory has sculpted a 250-kilogram copy of Bartholdi's lion, which cannot be eaten. But confectioner Ludovic Marie has also made small chocolate copies of the statue, called Les Crocs du lion (Lion’s fangs).