The history of Briançon is long and turbulent. Already known to the Romans as Brigantium it became part of the lands of the counts of Albon in the early middle ages. They changed their name later to the Dauphins de Viennois and the land was called Dauphiné. With the treaty of Utrecht in 1713 the land across the col du Montgenèvre became part of the Savoie, in effect making Briançon a border village. The historical centre of Briançon is therefore a strongly fortified town.
The fortifications in and around Briançon were designed by Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban (1633 - 1707), a French military engineer under the reign of Louis XIV. Though he designed the fortifications he did not live to see them all completed. Nevertheless, the fortifications of Brainçon are part of the "Fortifications of Vauban", classified by UNESCO as belonging to the World Heritage Sites.
Between 1721 and 1734 no less then four fortifications were build in and around Briançon. Together they covered all roads and valleys surrounding Briançon and controled all possibilities of attack on the city from the surrounding heights. The construction of these four fortifications and supporting buildings was a impressive technological and logistical accomplishment.
On the hill dominating the city and its citadel from the east the largest of these fortifications was build, called Fort des Têtes. To connect the Fort des Têtes to the city, Vaudan wanted to build a bridge across the deep river gorge on that side of the city. Though Vaudan did envision this bridge, it was not until 1729 that the bridge was actually designed and the building of it started.
After the death of Vauban he was succeeded by the marquis d'Asfeld as supervisor of the fortifications. As the marquis initiated the build of the bridge, it is nowadays called after him as the Pont d'Asfeld.
The bridge crosses the rivier with one single arch and can be considered a small technological marvel. To build it the foundations had to be blown out of the rock with explosions. The arch of the bridge is 40 meter wide and spans the river Durance at a height of 56 meter. Though the height and the steepness of the rock make it a dangerous place to build something not a single worker fell to his death during the construction of the bridge. The bridge was finished and inaugurated in 1734.
The bridge is a must-see for anyone who visits Briançon. It is also nice to plan a walk with the bridge as a goal. When you plan your walk along Fort les Salettes, one of the other fortifications of Briançon, you get a great a view of the city of Briançon, Fort des Fêtes and the Pont d'Asfeld between them.
It is best to approach the bridge from the side of the old citadel, because that offers the best view of the bridge.
The bridge itself is an easy and comfortable walk across the river.
However, if you peer down the bridge to the river below it is best to keep a tight grip to the bridge because the height is a bit nauseating.
Not surprisingly, the bridge is used for bungy jumping for the dare-all. Equally not surprisingly: you won't see me doing it. I prefer to stay firmly on the ground. Even if the ground is no more than a rock at 3000 meter altitude.
(All pictures were made by me)