Historical forts vie for World Heritage listing

13th April 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 12, 2006 (AFP) - Some of France's most stunning 17th century citadels and mountain forts, built by the military engineer Marshal Vauban, are vying to be listed as World Heritage sites, organisers said Wednesday.

PARIS, April 12, 2006 (AFP) - Some of France's most stunning 17th century citadels and mountain forts, built by the military engineer Marshal Vauban, are vying to be listed as World Heritage sites, organisers said Wednesday.

If they are accepted they would join some 812 sites already listed by the UN organisation around the world including such wonders as the Giza pyramids in Egypt and the Great Wall of China.

Vauban (1633-1707), who was born Sébastien Le Prestre, was the foremost military engineer of his age devising strategies for both defending and attacking towns around the country under the Sun King, Louis XIV.

His legacy can be seen across the country in France's famed fortified towns, such as the citadels of Besançon in the east and Arras in the north as well as bridges and coastal observation towers.

But he was also a great thinker and humanist, and sought to minimise losses and the sufferings of soldiers in battle.

He also wrote innumerable treatises including the 'Dime Royale', a controversial plan for a universally equitable tax system for France, from which the privileged classes were not exempted.

"The great diversity of this man must be appropriated for everyone. We have the human, cultural and economic responsibility to preserve what this genius gave us," said Paulette Guinchard, a member of the national assembly from the Doubs region which includes Besançon.

She was speaking at a press conference organised by the 'Network of Major Vauban Sites' which, after extensive studies by technical experts, has selected 15 out of the surviving 150 Vauban sites around France to be put forward for a World Heritage listing.

Under UNESCO rules each country can put forward only one project for consideration every year. Thus the association is competing against some 30 other French projects, of which three or four are thought to stand a real chance, which are all hoping to be chosen by the French culture ministry.

"The sites are spread across the whole of French territory and that is a strong point in our case," Besançon mayor, and president of the network, Jean-Louis Fousseret told a news conference.

If chosen, France would present the project to UNESCO in January with a final decision not expected until 2008.

But Fousseret said he thought their project had another advantage as 2007 marked the tri-centenary of Vauban's death and exhibitions and conferences on the man and his genius were planned around the country.

"We won't get anything unless we win the huge support of French citizens," he added, urging the French people to get behind the plan.

Praising Vauban as a man of great compassion and humanity, who sought to minimise the suffering of war as much as possible, the president of the National Library, Jean-Noël Jeanneney, said: "I think among the pantheon of greats of this nation there are few men who merit to be hailed with such gratitude."

France's ambassador to UNESCO, Jean Gueguinou, told the press conference that he thought the project was a good one but he warned that they faced stiff competition.

But the rewards, especially in terms of increased tourism could be great for France.

Arras, which in 2005 saw its belfry among 23 across the Nord-Pas-Calais and Picardy regions added to the UNESCO list, has seen a 25 percent boost in tourists, said deputy mayor of Arras François-Xavier Muylaert.

"Some of the little villages were suddenly seeing tourists for the first time, and having to give them guided tours. The impact for the image of the Nord-Pas-Calais region has been huge," he told AFP.  

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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