Visiting a Vauban Fortress

We’ve been living near some of the most spectacular Vauban fortresses for years and never managed to make the trip. However, the fascinating series of articles on Gravelines by Henry Hyde in Miniature Wargames finally inspired me to rent a car. K. was willing to come along, so shortly before we moved house, we headed for Neuf-Brisach, which is considered to be Vauban’s master piece.

Aerial image of Neuf-Brisach.
Aerial image of Neuf-Brisach.

While the fortress was planned by Vauban, the construction was overseen by Tarade. It was built ex nihilo on a flat piece of ground from 1698-1708. The reason for its existence was the loss of the old fortress of Breisach, which is located on the other side of the Rhine, after the War of the League of Augsburg.

Apart from one futile attempt by the Austrians to take the town in 1743, it was never besieged. However, it did play an important function in the system of fortification that surrounded France like a chain and that served the French well up until the napoleonic period.

Map of Neuf-Brisach.
Map of Neuf-Brisach.

For today’s visitors, the appeal of Neuf-Brisach is its good state of preservation. Walking around the town, one can see all the different elements of a Vauban fortress – a fascinating way to get a feeling for the dimensions.

I’ll just share some photos from our trip, for a detailed description of all the different elements of such a fortress have a look at Henry’s articles.

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The Porte de Colmar.
The Porte de Colmar.

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Views from the ditch.
A ravelin.
A ravelin.
Tunnel through a hornwork.
Tunnel through a hornwork.
View along the covered way.
View along the covered way.

There is also a small museum where you can find maps, documents and a couple of weapons. The main attractions are the three models: One old plan relief, a modern model and one for the kids to play with.

Neuf-Brisach is well worth a visit if you are around, and if not, why not look if there is a Vauban fortress in your vicinity?

Of course, such a trip may make you want to have such a structure on the tabletop. If you don’t have the Sun King’s money to spend, wargaming with a Vauban fortress is probably better suited for the smaller scales. Irregular Miniatures offers elements for building a fort or a fortress in 2mm as well as in 6mm. JR Miniatures and Stone Mountain Miniatures offer complete sets in 15mm, while Total Battle Miniatures makes elements for building a fort.

Less expensive is the paper kit by PaperTerrain, which is available in different sizes, even in 28mm if you feel up to it. However, the cheapest variant is building one from scratch – the Age of Eagles webpage has a good tutorial.

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3 thoughts on “Visiting a Vauban Fortress

  1. Phil July 17, 2015 / 9:11 am

    Nice pictures, thanks for sharing…

  2. henrywargamer July 17, 2015 / 12:52 pm

    Lovely piece, Thomas, and cracking photos! I’ve never been to Neuf-Brisach, but clearly I shall have to make the effort. Thanks so much for getting in touch.

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