Belfort: Wikis


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Coordinates: 47°38′30″N 6°51′00″E / 47.641667°N 6.85°E / 47.641667; 6.85

Commune of Belfort

France-90-Belfort-Belvedere ouest.jpg
Belfort is located in France
Country France
Region Franche-Comté
Department Territoire de Belfort
Arrondissement Belfort
Canton Cantons of Belfort-Centre, Belfort-Est, Belfort-Nord, Belfort-Ouest, and Belfort-Sud
Intercommunality Belfortaine
Mayor Étienne Butzbach
Elevation 354–650 m (1,160–2,130 ft)
(avg. 358 m/1,170 ft)
Land area1 17.10 km2 (6.60 sq mi)
Population2 52,342  (2006)
 - Density 3,061 /km2 (7,930 /sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 90010/ 90000
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.
2 Population sans doubles comptes: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Belfort (German: Beffert) is a commune in the Territoire de Belfort department in Franche-Comté in northeastern France.

It is the prefecture of the department.

It is located on the Savoureuse, on the strategically important natural route between the Rhine and the Rhône - the Belfort Gap (Trouée de Belfort) or Burgundian Gate (Porte de Bourgogne).



Belfort's strategic location, in a natural gap between the Vosges and the Jura, on a route linking the Rhine and the Rhône, has attracted human settlement and made it a target for armies.

The site of Belfort was inhabited in Gallo-Roman times and was subsequently recorded in the 13th century as a possession of the counts of Montbéliard, who granted it a charter in 1307.

Previously an Austrian possession, Belfort was transferred to France by the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), that ended the Thirty Years' War. The town's fortifications were extended and developed by the military architect Vauban for Louis XIV.

Until 1871, Belfort was part of the département of Haut-Rhin, in Alsace. The Siege of Belfort, between 3 November 1870 and 18 February 1871, was successfully resisted until the garrison was ordered to surrender 21 days after the armistice between France and Prussia. Because this part of Alsace was French speaking, while the rest of Alsace was German speaking, the area around Belfort was not annexed by the Prussians. It formed, as it still does, the Territoire de Belfort. The siege is commemorated by a huge statue, the Lion of Belfort, by Frédéric Bartholdi.

Alsatians who sought a new French home in Belfort made a significant contribution to its industry.

The town was bombarded by the Germans in World War I and occupied by them in World War II. In November 1944 the retreating German army held the French First Army before the town until French Commandos made a successful night attack on the Salbert Fort. Belfort was liberated on 22 November.


Belfort is a trading centre for wine and grain and its industries include chemicals, engineering, plastics and textiles. Belfort is also the hometown of Alstom where the first TGVs (Trains Grande Vitesse) were produced. As well as of the GE Energy European headquarter and centre of excellence for the manufacturing of gas turbines.


Lion of Belfort
  • Belfort is the home of the Lion of Belfort, a sculpture by Frédéric Bartholdi expressing people's resistance against the siege in the Franco-Prussian War (1870) — who shortly afterwards built the Statue of Liberty in New York.
  • The Belfort Cathedral, 18th century
  • There are also plenty of other things to see in a city that is trying and showing better its heritage, mainly the citadel, the old town and its museographic riches:
    • In 2007, the Belfort city museums are to be completely restructured within three main poles: history (from archeology to military) in the old barracks on the top of the citadel, arts (mainly from 16th to 19th century) in the Tour 41 and modern arts in the Donation Jardot.
    • Since July of the same year, a new touristic sight of the citadel has been opened to the public - with a sound-, video- and light-animated trail in the moats and the big underpass of the citadel. Its name: "La Citadelle de la Liberté" (Citadel of Liberty)


Belfort is also well known for organizing a large-scale music festival in May each year. The Festival International de Musique Universitaire (FIMU) is home to nearly 2500 musicians, most of them students, from many different countries. The musicians give more than 250 concerts in the course of the 3-day festival in a wide variety of styles (classical, jazz, traditional, experimental, etc.). All of the concerts are free of charge and are performed at 14 different locations in the old city (the vieille ville) of Belfort. In 2004 more than 60,000 people attended the festival. In 2005 the festival was held on 14–16 May.




  • The Belfort Tattoo Convention which remains after 14 years of existence is the oldest convention of France. Official Website



Belfort was the birthplace of:


  • Leon Delarbre [painter - know from his drawings for the shoa camps]

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Belfort is twinned with:

See also


External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BELFORT, a town of eastern France, capital of the Territory of Belfort, 275 m. E.S.E. of Paris, on the main line of the Eastern railway. Pop. (1906), town, 27,805; commune, 34,649. It is situated among wooded hills on the Savoureuse at the intersection of the roads and railway lines from Paris to Basel and from Lyons to Mizlhausen and Strassburg, by which it maintains considerable trade with Germany and Switzerland. The town is divided by the Savoureuse into a new quarter, in which is the railway station on the right bank, and the old fortified quarter, with the castle, the public buildings and monuments, on the left bank. The church of St Denis, a building in the classical style, erected from 1727 to 1750, and the hotel de ville (1721-1724) both stand in the Place d'Armes opposite the castle. The two chief monuments commemorate the defence of Belfort in the war of 1870-1871. "The Lion of Belfort," a colossal figure 78 ft. long and 52 ft. high, the work of F. A. Bartholdi, stands in front of the castle; and in the Place d'Armes is the bronze group "Quand Meme" by Antonin Mercie, in memory of Thiers and of Colonel Pierre Marie Aristide Denfert-Rochereau (1823-1878), commandant of the place during the siege. Other objects of interest are the Tour de la Miotte, of unknown origin and date, which stands on the hill of La Miotte to the N.E. of Belfort, and the Port de Brisach, a gateway built by Vauban in 1687. Belfort is the seat of a prefect; its public institutions include tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a chamber of commerce, a lycee, a training-college and a branch of the Bank of France. The construction of locomotives and machinery, carried on by the Societe Alsacienne, wire-drawing, and the spinning and weaving of cotton are included among its industries, which together with the population increased greatly owing to the Alsacian immigration after 1871. Its trade is in the wines of Alsace, brandy and cereals. The town derives its chief importance from its value as a military position.

After the war of 1870-1871, Belfort, which after a diplomatic struggle remained in French hands, became a frontier fortress of the greatest value, and the old works which underwent the siege of 1870-1871 (see below) were promptly increased and re-modelled. In front of the Perches redoubts, the Bosmont, whence the Prussian engineers began their attack, is now heavily fortified with continuous lineslcalled the Organisation defensive de Bosmont. The old Bellevue redoubt (now Fort DenfertRochereau) is covered by a new work situated likewise on the ground occupied by the siege trenches in the war. Perouse, hastily entrenched in 1870, now possesses a permanent fort. The old entrenched camp enclosed by the castle, Fort La Miotte, and Fort Justice, is still maintained, and part even of the enceinte built by Vauban is used for defensive purposes. Outside this improved inner line, which includes the whole area of the attack and defence of 1870, lies a complete circle of detached forts and batteries of modern construction. To the north, Forts Salbert and Roppe form the salients of a long defensive line on high ground, at the centre of which, where the Savoureuse river divides it, a new work was added later. Two works near Giromagny, about 8 m. from Belfort itself, connect the fortress with the right of the defensive line of the Moselle (Fort Ballon d'Alsace). In the eastern sector of the defences (from Roppe to the Savoureuse below Belfort) the forts are about 3 m. from the centre, the works near the Belfort-Miilhausen railway being somewhat more advanced, and in the western (from Salbert to Fort Bois d'Oye on the lower Savoureuse) they are advanced to about the same distance. The fort of Mont Vaudois, the westernmost, overlooks Hericourt and the battlefield of the Lisaine: farther to the south Montbeliard is also fortified. The perimeter of the Belfort defences is nearly 25 m.


Gallo-Roman remains have been discovered in the vicinity of Belfort, but the place is first heard of in the early part of the 13th century, when it was in the possession of the counts of Montbeliard. From them it passed by marriage to the counts of Ferrette and afterwards to the archdukes of Austria. By the treaty of Westphalia (1648) the town was ceded to Louis XIV. who gave it to Cardinal Mazarin.

In the Thirty Years' War Belfort was twice besieged, 1633 and 1634, and in 1635 there was a battle here between the duke of Lorraine and the allied French and Swedes under Marshal de la Force. The fortifications of Vauban were begun in 1686. Belfort was besieged in 1814 by the troops of the allies and in 1815 by the Austrians.

The most famous episode of the town's history is its gallant and successful defence in the war of 1870-1871.

The events which led up to the siege are described under Franco-German War. Even before the investment Belfort was cut off from the interior of France, and the German corps of von Werder was, throughout the siege, between the fortress and the forces which might attempt its relief. The siege corps was commanded by General von Tresckow and numbered at first io,000 men with twenty-four field guns - a force which appeared adequate for the reduction of the antiquated works of Vauban. Colonel Denfert-Rochereau was, however, a scientific engineer of advanced ideas as well as a veteran soldier of the Crimea and Algeria, and he had been stationed at Belfort for six years. He was therefore eminently fitted for the command of the fortress. He had as a nucleus but few regular troops, but the energy of the military and civil authorities enabled his force to be augmented by national guards, &c., to 17,600 men. The artillery was very numerous, but skilled gunners were not available in any great strength and ammunition was scarce. Perhaps the most favourable circumstance from a technical point of view was the bomb-proof accommodation of the enceinte.

The old fortress consisted of the town enceinte, the castle (situated on high ground and fortified by several concentric envelopes), and the entrenched camp, a hollow enclosed by continuous lines, the salients of which were the castle, Fort La Justice and Fort La Miotte. These were planned in the days of short-range guns, and were therefore in 1870 open to an overwhelming bombardment by the rifled cannon of the attack. Denfert-Rochereau, however, understood better than other engineers of the day the power of modern artillery, and his plan was to utilize the old works as a keep and an artillery position. The Perches ridge, whence the town and suburbs could be bombarded, he fortified with all possible speed. On the right bank of the Savoureuse he constructed two new forts, Bellevue in the south-west and Des Barres to the west, and, further, he prepared the suburb on this side for a hand-to-hand defence. His general plan was to maintain as advanced a line as possible, to manoeuvre against the investing troops, and to support his own by the long range fire of his rifled guns. With this object he fortified the outlying villages, and when the Germans (chiefly Landwehr) began the investment on the 3rd of November 1870, they encountered everywhere a most strenuous resistance. Throughout the month the garrison made repeated sorties, and the Germans were on several occasions forced by the long range fire of the fortress to evacuate villages which they had taken. Under these circumstances, and also because of their numerical weakness and the rigour of the weather, the Germans advanced but slowly. On the 2nd of December, when at last von Tresckow broke ground for the construction of his batteries, the French still held Danjoutin, Bosmont, Perouse and the adjacent woods, and, to the northward (on this side the siege was not pressed) La Forge. Thus the first attack of the siege artillery was confined to the western side of the river between Essert and Bavillers. From this position the bombardment opened on the 3rd of December. Some damage was done to the houses of Belfort, but the garrison was not intimidated, and their artillery replied with such spirit that after some days the German commander gave up the bombardment. On this occasion the distant forts La Miotte and La Justice fired with effect at a range of 4700 yds., affording a conspicuous illustration of the changed conditions of siege-craft. The German batteries, as more guns arrived, were extended from left to right, and on the 13th of December the Bosmont was captured, ground being also gained in front of Bellevue. The difficulties under which the siege corps laboured were very great, and it was not until the 7th of January 1871 that the rightmost battery opened fire. The formal siege of the Perches redoubts had now been decided upon, and as an essential preliminary to further operations, Danjoutin, now isolated, was stormed by the Landwehr on the night of the 7th-8th January. In the meanwhile typhus and smallpox had broken out amongst the French, many of the national guards were impatient of control, and the German trenches, in spite of difficulties of ground and weather, made steady progress towards the Perches. A week after the fall of Danjoutin the victory of von Werder and the XIV. army corps at the Lisaine, in which a part of the siege corps bore a share, put an end to the attempt to relieve Belfort, and the siege corps was promptly increased to a strength of 17,600 infantry, 4700 artillery and i too engineers, with thirtyfour field-guns besides the guns and howitzers of the siege train. The investment was now more strictly maintained even on the north side. On the night of the 20th of January the French lines about Perouse were carried by assault, and, both flanks being now cleared, the formal siege of the Perches forts was opened, the first parallel extending from Danjoutin to Haut Taillis. In the early morning of the 27th a determined but premature attempt was made to storm the Perches redoubts, which cost the besiegers nearly 500 men. After this failure Tresckow once more resorted to the regular method of siege approaches, and on the 2nd of February the second parallel was thrown up. La Justice was now bombarded by two new batteries near Perouse, the Perches were of course subjected to an "artillery attack," and henceforward the besiegers fired 1500 shells a day into the works of the French. But the besiegers were still weak in numbers and their labours were very exhausting. Bellevue and Des Barres became very active in hindering the advance of the siege works, and the German battalions were so far depleted by losses and sickness that they could often muster but 300 men for duty. Still, the guns of the attack were now steadily gaining the upper hand, and at last on the 8th of February the Germans entered the two Perches redoubts. This success, and the arrival of German reinforcements, decided the siege. The Perches ridge was crowned with a parallel and numerous batteries, which in the end mounted ninety-seven guns. The attack on the castle now opened, but operations were soon afterwards suspended by the news that Belfort was now included in the general armistice (February 15th). A little later Denfert-Rochereau received a direct order from his own government to surrender the fortress, and the garrison, being granted free withdrawal, marched out with its arms and trains. "The town had suffered terribly. .. nearly all the buildings were damaged. .. the guns in the upper batteries could only be reached by ladders. The garrison, of its original strength of 17,700 officers and men, had lost 4750, besides 336 citizens. The place was no longer tenable" (Moltke, Franco-German War). Nevertheless, "the defence was by no means at its last stage" at the time of the formal surrender (British Text-Book of Fortification, 1893). The total loss of the besiegers was about 2000 men.

See J. Liblin, Belfort et son territoire (Mulhausen, 1887).

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