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Location of the Vosges
Typical landscape of the Vosges (Chajoux valley, La Bresse, France)
Waterfall in the eastern Vosges

For the department of France of the same name, see Vosges.

The Vosges (French pronunciation: [voːʒ]) are a range of low mountains in eastern France, near its border with Germany. They extend along the west side of the Rhine valley in a north-north-east direction, mainly from Belfort to Saverne.

The elongated massif is divided south to north into three sections :

  • the Higher Vosges (Hautes Vosges), extending in the southern part of the range from Belfort to the valley of the Bruche. The rounded summits of the Hautes Vosges are called ballons in French or "balloons".
  • the sandstoned Vosges (31 miles), between the Permian Basin of Saint-Die including the Devon-Dinantian volcanic massif of Schirmeck-Moyenmoutier and the Col de Saverne
  • the Lower Vosges (30 miles), between the Col de Saverne and the source of the Lauter.

In addition, the term "Central Vosges" is used to designate the various lines of summits, especially those above 1000 meters of altitude. The French department of Vosges is named after the range.


Geology and topography

From a geological point of view, a graben in the beginning of a Tertiary area provoked the formation of Alsace and the surrection of the plates of Vosges now in eastern France and Schwarzwald or Black Forest now in Germany. Strictly speaking scientifically, the Vosgian mountains are not true ones, but they are a western bordure of the alsatian unfinished graben, stretching continuously as part of the larger Tertiairy formations. Erosive glacial action was the primary means by which the representative high lands massif feature developed.

Notice Geographically, the Vosges mountains are completely located in France far above the Col de Saverne separating it from the Palatinate Forest in Germany, which logically continued the same Vosgian geologic structure but traditionally received this different name because of his historical control by count of the Carolingian Palace and theirs heirs.

The Vosges in their southern and central parts called Hautes Vosges could show old rocks of the reel a big Carboniferous mountain eroded just before the Permian aera :gneiss, granites,porphyritic masses or other volcanic intrusions. but in the north, south, west, we find especially places not too much eroded by glaciers, and here Vosgian Triassic and Permian red sandstone remains in large beds. The grès vosgien, French name for a Triassic rose sandstone are embedded sometimes up to more than 500 metres in thickness. The Lower Vosges in north are dislocated plates of various sandstone, ranging from 300 to 600 m (1000 to 1850 ft.) high.

The highest points are located in the Hautes Vosges: the Grand Ballon in ancient times called Ballon de Guebwiller or Ballon de Murbach rises to 1424 m (4,670 ft), the Storckenkopf to 1366 m (4,481 ft), the Hohneck to 1364 m (4,475 ft), and the Ballon d'Alsace to 1247 m (4,091 ft). The Col de Saales, between the Higher and Central Vosges, reaches nearly 579 m (1,900 ft), both lower and narrower than the Higher Vosges, with Mont Donon (1008 m, 3307 ft.) being the highest point of this Nordic section.

There is a remarkable similarity between the Vosges and the corresponding range of the Black Forest on the other side of the Rhine: both lie within the same degrees of latitude, have similar geological formations and are characterized by forests on their lower slopes, above which are open pastures and rounded summits of a rather uniform altitude; furthermore, both exhibit steeper slopes towards the Rhine and a more gradual descent on the other side. This occurs because both the Vosges and the Black Forest were formed by isostatic uplift, in a response to the opening of the Rhine Graben. The Rhine Graben is a major extensional basin. When such basins form, the thinning of the crust causes uplift immediately adjacent to the basin. The amount of uplift decreases with distance from the basin, causing the highest range of peaks to be immediately adjacent to the basin, and the increasingly lower mountains to stretch away from the basin.


Meteorologically, the difference between the eastern and western mean slopes of the range is very marked. The main air streams come generally from west and south-west, the Alsatian central plains just under the Haute Vosges received much less water than the south-west front of the Vosgian mountains. The high lands of the arrondissement of Remiremont received as annual rainfall or snowfall more than 2 meter water yearly as some dry country near Colmar less than 500 mm water in case of insufficient storms. The temperature is much lower in west front of mountains than in the low plains behind the massif, especially in summer. On the eastern slope economic vineyards reach to a height of 400 m (1300 ft.); on the other hand or in the mountain, it was a land of pasture and forest.

Only rivers in Alsace are the Ill coming from the south Alsace or Sundgau, Bruche d'Andlau and Bruche receive others shorter but sometimes powerful streams coming as the last two ones from Vosgian mountains. The Moselle, Meurthe and Sarre rivers and theirs numerous affluents all rise on the Lorraine side.

In the High Moselle and Meurthe basins, Moraines, boulders and polished rocks testify the existence of ancient glaciers which formerly covered the top of Vosges. The lakes of mountain caused by original glaciation phenomena are surrounded by pines, beeches and maples, and green meadows provide pasture for large herds of cattle, with views of the Rhine valley, Black Forest and the distant, snow-covered Swiss mountains.


The massif known in Latin as Vosago mons or Vosego silva, sometimes Vogesus mons, was extended to the vast woods covering the region. Later, German speakers referred to the same region as Vogesen or Wasgenwald.

On the lower heights and buttresses of the main chain on the Alsatian side are numerous castles, generally in ruins, testifying the importance of this crucial crossroads of Europe, violently contested for centuries. At several points on the main ridge, especially at Sainte Odile above Ribeauvillé (German: Rappoltsweiler), are the remains of a wall of unmortared stone with tenons of wood, about 1.8 to 2.2 meters (6 to 7 ft.) thick and 1.3 to 1.7 meters (4 to 5 ft.) high, called the Mur Païen (Pagan Wall). It was used for defence in the Middle Ages and archaeologists are divided as to whether it was built by the Romans, or before their arrival.

From 1871 to 1918, the Vosges formed the main border line between France and the German Empire. The demarcation line stretched from the Ballon d'Alsace to Mont Donon with the lands east of it being incorporated into Germany as part of Alsace-Lorraine.

The Vosges were the site of brief but sharp fighting between French-American and German forces during the Second World War in autumn 1944.

References and notes


General Texts :

  • René Bastien, Histoire de Lorraine, éditions Serpenoise, Metz, 1991, 224 pages. ISBN 2-87692-088-3 (simple historic approach for children)
  • Etienne Julliard, Atlas et géographie de l'Alsace et de la Lorraine, Flammarion, 1977, 288 pages ( a geogropher's view of this part of France who gives theirs waters to Rhin)
  • Robert Parisot, Histoire de Lorraine (Meurthe, Meuse, Moselle, Vosges), Tome 1 à 4 et index alphabétique général, Auguste Picard éditeur, Paris, 1924. Anastaltic impression in Belgium by the éditions Culture et Civilisation, Bruxelles, 1978. (large and more sophisticated evenemential history)
  • Yves Sell (dir.), L'Alsace et les Vosges, géologie, milieux naturels, flore et faune, La bibliothèque du naturaliste, Delachaux et Niestlé, Lausanne, 1998, 352 pages. ISBN 2-603-01100-6 (global view of nature and land)
  • Jean-Paul von Eller, Guide géologique Vosges-Alsace, guide régionaux, collection dirigée par Charles Pomerol, 2° édition, Masson, Paris, 1984, 184 pages. ISBN 2-225-78496-5 (a precise geologic description)

List of majors periodicals concerning Lorraine and South Lorraine:

  • Annales de l'Est (et du Nord), Nancy.
  • Annales de la Société d'Émulation des Vosges, Epinal, from 1826.
  • Bulletin de la Société Philomatique Vosgienne, Saint-Dié, from 1875 to 1999 (nowdays Mémoire des Vosges Histoire Société Coutumes)
  • Publications of the Société d'Histoire et d'Archéologie lorraine, Metz (from 1890, nowdays Les Cahiers Lorrains, trimestrial review).
  • Publications of the Société d'Histoire de la Lorraine & Musée lorrain, Nancy (Lotharingist wrintings since 1820, nowdays trimestrial périodical, Le Pays Lorrain)

On the first World War :

  • Guide des sources de la Grande Guerre dans le département des Vosges, Conseil général de Vosges, Epinal, 2008, 296 pages. ISBN 978-2-86088-062-6
  • Isabelle Chave (dir.) avec Magali Delavenne, Jean-Claude Fombaron, Philippe Nivet, Yann Prouillet, La Grande Guerre dans les Vosges : sources et état des lieux, Actes du colloque tenu à Epinal du 4 au 6 septembre 2008, Conseil général des Vosges, 2009, 348 pages. ISBN 978-2-86088-067-1
  • "La guerre aérienne dans les Vosges. 1914-1919", Mémoire des Vosges H.S.C. édité par la Société Philomatique Vosgienne, [hors série n°5, septembre 2009], 68 pages. ISSN 1626-5238

External links

Coordinates: 48°00′N 07°00′E / 48°N 7°E / 48; 7

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