Ice Age glaciers reached as far south into Provence as Sisteron and the mountain range that extends eastward from Mont Ventoux.  Here at Sisteron, glacial runoff from the River Durance eroded a path through the mountain, creating a strategically important transportation choke point.  In Roman times a town existed at Sisteron.  In the Middle Ages Sisteron was an important border town and a potential base for attacking Dauphine to the north.  In the 1300s, Dauphine became part of France, and in the 1400s, Provence also became part of France, ending Sisteron's time as a border town.  This ended for a time, however, when the area suffered in the Wars of Religion in the 1500s as Protestant Dauphine went up against Catholic Provence.  After the wars, the Sisteron defenses were improved by Jehan Serrazin, the king's engineer.  In the 1690s, the Savoyards erupted into the Durance Valley, so in 1692 Vauban planned improvements in Sisteron's defenses, but like the plans for many other locations, lack of money nixed them, although some of his recommendations were eventually acted upon in the 1800s - from 1840 to 1860.  By this time Sisteron was on the second line of defenses in the region.

In the photos below, we will briefly view remains of the city then continue up into the citadel.

Town Walls

The towers surrounding the city appear to have been modified to incorporate gunpowder artillery.

1 = Tourist Entrance
6 = Keep
7 = Chapel
8 = Vauban's Magazine

Note the high ground at upper left of the map overlooking citadel.

The side of the citadel facing the city includes two enclosures, increasing the depth of the defenses.

Above the 2nd Enclosure the defenses continue with an upper rampart, a keep, and a chapel.

The Government's Bastion includes several traverses to protect against enemy fire from the flank.

Next we continue to the stairs to the upper rampart.

From the Upper Rampart, you can see the layers of defense extending down to the city.

From the other side of the Upper Rampart you can see the two bastions facing into Dauphine as well as traverses, 19th century additions, and Vauban's Magazine.  Vauban's Magazine is unusual in that it is built on two levels.  The door at far right leads to steps descending to a lower level of the magazine.

From the Keep you can see both sides of the ridge.  Note the confluence of rivers.  Defense of this face of the citadel was aided by the existence of the river.

View Toward Sisteron

The Dauphine side includes the Devil's Sentrybox, one of a number of constructions in France made possible only because of  a deal made with the Devil.  19th Century additions includes a casemate but also steps carved down into the rock for additional galleries.

Copyright 2015 by John Hamill

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