History and description

A town founded by the Romains under the name Collis Martis (following the presence of a temple dedicated to March), Colmars (or Colmars-les-Alpes) was nothing more than a village when the first fortifications were constructed in 1382, following the inclusion of the neighbouring village of Allos in the Duchy of Savoy. An initial restoration of this urban wall was achieved under King Francis I, who proclaimed the village to be a town in 1527. The most significant work was the repair work on the two gates. The remainder of the urban wall was completed by the barbicans and machicolations.
In 1692, following the inclusion of the Duchy of Savoy in the League of Augsburg, Louis XIV tasked Vauban with reviewing the defensive system of the town. Vauban then delegated the architect Niquet and engineer Richerand on site. Niquet restored the medieval urban wall and added five bastioned towers to the same. Richerand, meanwhile, constructed two forts detached from the urban wall: the fort de France in 1693, along the Verdon and upstream of the town, and the fort de Savoie in 1695, still along the Verdon, but downstream. In 1700, Vauban arrived on the scene and criticised the construction of the two forts. He put forward new plans for the defence of the town but his disgrace and death in 1707 meant he was unable to see them realised. Moreover, in 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht saw the Franco-Savoy border displaced and relegated Colmars to a second grade location, behind Briançon. With effect from the end of the 18th century, the urban wall was progressively abandoned and given to the town. The final garrisons left the town in 1920.

Current state

The ramparts and the two forts have been entirely preserved. Since 1890 and 1900, the town has been open for tourism, following the emergence of the first winter sports resorts and the mountaineering of the region. The creation of the national park of Mercantour boosted the role of Colmars as a venue for hiking tourism in the region. The urban wall can be visited (year round) and the fort de Savoie (during the summer). The fort de France is not open to visitors.


44° 10' 56" N, 6° 37' 38" E

urban wall and detached forts
Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, Antoine Niquet, Guy Creuzet de Richerand
Alpes de Haute-Provence
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
  • BERTRAN DE BALANDA (S.), « Colmars-les-Alpes, Le Frioul, Martigues : trois sites fortifiés, trois ouvertures différentes pour le XXIe siècle » in Vauban et ses successeurs en Provence Occidentale, Paris, 2009, p. 23-52.
  • BORNECQUE (R.), FAUCHERRE (N.), La route des fortifications dans les Alpes, Paris, 2006.
  • BORNECQUE (R.), Vauban et les Alpes, Saint-Léger-Vauban, 1995.
  • JOSEPH (O.), Colmars et ses fortifications au temps de Vauban, Colmars, 2013.
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