Givet – Charlemont

History and description

The town of Givet was founded along la Meuse, where the latter merges with the Houille river. The town of Charlemont was constructed by the Spanish from 1555. Finally conquered by the French in 1684, the fortifications of Charlemont were restored and a watchtower (known as the tower of Marcq), situated to the North, was replaced by an redoubt trimmed in the rock (the Fort Condé). Two barracks (including the world’s longest at four hundred metres) and a military hospital were also constructed at the foot of the fort.
On the right bank, the Notre-Dame district was surrounded by a new urban wall and expanded up to the base of the Mont d’Haurs by town planning which centred on the rue Royale (what today is rue Oger). The protection of the higher areas was ensured by an entrenched camp: that of Mont d’Haurs, designed by Vauban in 1697, following the end of the war of the League of Augsbourg. This camp included two fronts of ramparts: one to the east, equipped with two bastions, a low tenaille, a ravelin and two lunettes and a second front to the south west, including two bastions, a ravelin and the main gate. The remainder of the rampart covered the flanks to the south west and west of the plateau, its protection ensured by the sheer cliffs. Twenty thousand men and three thousand horses are believed to have been accommodated at this site. A settlement project and one to expand the urban wall towards the north did not come to fruition and the camp, which was first established in 1699 and remained incomplete (only including the curtain walls, ravelins and bastions as well as the access road), finally abandoned in 1706.
In the town of Givet, a large cavalry barracks was constructed at the base of Charlemont from 1675. At five hundred metres long, it was one of the biggest barracks in France. Two churches were also reconstructed at this time. The first was Notre-Dame, constructed from 1676 to 1680. The second was that of Saint-Hilaire. Construction started in 1680 and was completed in 1702. Vauban was not responsible in this case.
The site was briefly reconquered by Napoleonic troops in 1815 but remained largely unchanged, except for the access gates, all of which were walled. At Charlemont, a third front, towards the West and the North was partially completed by Vauban’s successor: the Asfeld Crown.

Current state

The centre of the town still retains a medieval tower. The Fort de Charlemont, the exterior of which was designed by Vauban, is still well preserved and in the process of being sold by the Army. The Condé outwork, designed by Vauban, is open to the public in summer. It is also protected as a site of hibernation for bats. At the base of the fort, on the left bank of the Meuse, the remains of city curtain walls created by Vauban still stand. The barracks, however, disappeared in the 15th century. For the entrenched camp of the Mont d’Haurs, only the entrenched camp of Vauban remains, and the main gate, namely the gate of Secours, is overgrown with vegetation. A few existing tunnels, communication galleries and some stock rooms remain. Included in the National nature reserve of the Pointe de Givet, the site is not protected for its historical interest. The ramparts have been abandoned to vegetation and have become dilapidated following use as a quarry. In terms of the urban wall, all that is left is the Rancenne gate. The remains of streets of the Notre-Dame district can still be traced based on the orthogonal outline but hardly anything remains of the constructions of the time. The two churches reconstructed during the period of Vauban, however, still stand. Even though he was not responsible for them himself, they retain something of his spirit. The example of Saint-Hilaire, for example, resembles that of Briançon in terms of its shape and aspect.

Givet - Charlemont

Givet - Charlemont
50° 8' 20" N, 4° 49' 30" E

urban wall, citadel, town planning, entrenched camp
Jacques Van Oyen, Sébastien le Prestre de Vauban, Claude François Bidal Marquis d’Asfeld
  • BERTRAND (P.), « Givet-Charlemont, seul camp retranché réalisé », dans Vauban, entre Sambre et Meuse, Namur, 2007, p. 65-72.
  • BOTTINEAU-FUCHS (Y.), « Les camps retranchés chez Vauban » in Vauban réformateur, Paris, p. 55-70.
  • BOTTINEAU-FUCHS (Y.), « Ce terrible commandement, Vauban et la Montagne d’Haurs », in BRODIER (S.), L’histoire d’une place forte à l’époque moderne : Givet, Reims, Université Champagne-Ardenne, 2004, (thèse).
  • DE ROUX (A.), Villes neuves : urbanisme classique, Paris, 1997, p. 47-48.
  • Ouvrage collectif, Charlemont, Ardennes wallonnes, Cercle d’histoire régionale de la Pointe de Givet et terres limitrophes, Givet, 1993, in 4°, n° spécial.
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