Archives mensuelles : janvier 2019

« Al di qua del mare » : a contribution to the definition of Genoa mountain

Gabriella TROTTA-BRAMBILLA, Post-doc LabEx ITEM (CRJ Grenoble) , Associate Lecturer in architectural design (ENSAG) and researcher at LabEx AE&CC

Fig 1 : The four metropolises studied in the research project (G. Trotta – Brambilla, 2018)

The paper focuses on one of the case studies (the metropolis of Genoa) resulting from an ongoing post-doctoral research project carried out within the “Territorialité, Liminalité et Métropolisations Péripheriques[1]” project of the LabEx Item. The research analyses the relationship between metropolis and mountain in the context of recent territorial reforms in France and in Italy. Four cases of metropolises are studied (Grenoble and Nice in France, Genoa and Turin in Italy), assuming that they can be representative of some “typical figures” of metropolitan cooperation with the mountains included in their respective administrative boundaries. As in France, in Italy metropolises are instituted in 2014 by the law No. 56/2014 also called “Delrio”. Ten Città metropolitane have replaced the homonymous Provinces to govern and plan vast territories, sometimes very wide, which in the case of Genoa and Turin also include mountain territories

Fig 2 : Italian metropolises instituted in 2014 (G. Trotta-Brambilla, 2018)

The French and Italian territorial reforms allow each metropolis to adopt its own legal statute and this is an element of distinction of the metropolitan territories from each other (Vandelli and De Donno, 2016). Thus, it’s interesting to understand the local specificity of each metropolis’ implementation of the national directives and especially in the case of Genoa, where the mountain, on the one hand, seems to escape the attempts of definition but, on the other hand, could find a new identity thanks to the metropolis, among others. Tight between sea and mountain, the city of Genoa (capital of the namesake Province, now transformed into a Città metropolitana) is mainly known for its harbour and its commercial and manufacturing history connected to maritime activities. But Genoa has also a wide mountainous hinterland, which is commonly called ‘entroterra’. Actually, the Città metropolitana try to overcome the opposition coast/outback.

Fig 3 : Genoa’s mountains seen from the harbour (photo G. Trotta-Brambilla, 201

But the notion of entroterra seems to be hard to define. It evokes specific territorial characteristics, but also different ways of looking at them and apprehending them. In this paper, we seek to clarify the definition of this notion and its local utilization by analysing Genoa’s mountains characteristics through social representations associated with the entroterra, in order to highlight its plural identities and to verify the hypothesis that a new and clearer identity can be defined through the cooperation’s strategies with the Città metropolitana.

Divergent definitions of the entroterra

Genoa’s mountain is part of Ligurian Apennines. It is a mainly “medium” mountain which is very close to the sea. This territory is little known and hardly frequented by tourists, especially compared to the coast. Administratively, 67 municipalities are included in the metropolis (determined by the Statuto della Città metropolitana, 2014) and 54 of them are “mountain” municipalities (according to the National law for the mountain, 1952). Despite this, the word “mountain” is very rarely pronounced in the documents and local stakeholders’ speeches. The qualification of the entroterra as a mountain territory is even questioned by some inhabitants and institutional stakeholders (according to an inhabitant, this territory “[…] is not mountain nor hill, it is a in-between. It is hard to define … it is the entroterra![2]”). So, what kind of mountainous territory is Genoa’s entroterra? What about its identity

Fig 4 : Genoa’s relevant administrative boundaries (G. Trotta-Brambilla, 2018)

Historically, it was a rural territory that was gradually abandoned (especially since the second post-war period), mainly because of the many difficulties in agricultural work and, at the same time, the attractiveness of manufacturing activities located on the coast. The terraces (called fasce) built and maintained for centuries are deteriorating more and more, causing serious problems of hydrogeological imbalance. Few farmers remain or return, although some specific policies are conducted by the Liguria Region. At present, the entroterra is mainly perceived as a territory preserved by the urbanization (which characterizes, on the other hand, the coast) and with a touristic potential which can be complementary to the sea tourism. Institutional stakeholders point out the geographical situation as the greatest obstacle to the development of the region. The territorial morphology “has historically determined a condition of evident disadvantage for the organization of the settlement system and for the development of economic activities[3]”.

Defining Genoa’s metropolitan mountain

To better understand Genoa’s entroterra, the research aims to compare different social representations about it. Speeches are collected in order to compare the point of view of the city looking at the mountain to that of the mountain (re)looking itself in the new institutional framework. The analysed corpus consists of:

  • “official speeches” : stakeholders websites, town and territory planning documents, laws, etc.;
  • “unofficial speeches”: semi-directive interviews with institutional and economic stakeholders, associations, inhabitants, researchers, tourists, grey literature (especially for trekkers, climbers, bikers), etc.

First analysis reveal that two main notions are evoked to describe the entroterra:

  • otherness : the entroterra is often described for what it is not (“it is not mountain, strictly speaking[4]”, “I do not define it ‘mountain’, the only true mountain is Santo Stefano d’Aveto[5]”, a little ski resort) or in comparison with other territories (often with the Alps, but also with other Ligurian entroterra: “the entroterra di Ponente, Sanremo, […] seems more dynamic to me[6]”; “there is not an image of the Ligurian Apennines, it is not like Emilian or Tuscan Apennines […][7]”, “the business is on the sea because 90% of the population is on the coast[8]”);
  • interiority : the word entroterra evokes an “inside” (entro-), an “inner land”, something hidden and to be protected if compared to the coast, more visible and accessible, but also more exploited; the idea of interiority is also expressed by the administrative subdivision of the metropolitan territory into homogeneous zones, distinguishing the city of Genoa from the “inner valleys”, as well as by the existence, within the boundary of the Città metropolitana, of two “inner areas” (“In Genoa we do not talk about ‘mountains’, but rather of ‘inner areas’[9]”, explains a planner of Città metropolitana), which are defined as remote areas, far away from essential services and looking for a strategic vocation for their development.

A relational identity

If we consider the identity of a territory in a relational sense, as a construction of distinction from the other, but also as an “articulation between community networks and global networks” (Bonomi and Borghi, 2002), we can better understand the discourses concerning Genoa’s entroterra. In the analysed corpus, three main relationships or comparisons are evoked: with the sea, with other mountains (especially Alps) and with the city of Genoa or other Institutions (see examples below).

entroterra & the sea entroterra & other mountains entroterra & Genoa

I monti del mare / sea’s mountains” (two climbers and writers)

“walking between sea and mountains” (Beigua Regional Park)

“we have the climate impact of thesea” (an inhabitant):

“from the Monte Antola you can see the sea and the snow at the same time” (touristic association Tra l’Antola e il mare

“from the ice waterfalls one can watch the sea” (touristic association Consorzio Accoglienza Diffusa nel Parco dell’Aveto

“It is not the same mountain as in Turin” (a planner of Città metropolitana)

“The landscape, dominated by the highest peaks of the Ligurian Apennines, between 1600 and 1800 m above sea level, remind us alpine areas […], also for pastures, maintained by cattle breeding activities, with the production of a typical cheese […]” (Aveto Regional Park)

(reffered to Apennines in general) ” I monti invisibili” / The invisible mountains (a climber and writer)

“It’s not really mountain” (a planner of Città metropolitana)

Una campagna abitata / An inhabited countryside”(Strategic Metropolitan Plan)

“The city is trying to spread to the mountain because of lack of space pn the coast (…) while penetrating into the main valleys (…). The relationships with the entroterra are complex and unavoidable for Genoa (a local researcher)

Ligurian Apennines (and Apennines in general) are not really considered as a tourist destination and they are rather known for the serious phenomenon of depopulation and for the earthquakes, even if they are also defined as “authentic” and rich in historical heritage. The mountain character of Genoa’s entroterra seems to be emphasized only by Regional Parks, mainly in order to protect it (“an important orographic node”, Antola Regional Park[10]; “a territory whose geological heritage is protected by UNESCO”, Beigua Regional Park[11]). On the contrary, the Città metropolitana’s definition of the entroterra (“an inhabited countryside[12]”) tends to hide or underestimate its “vertical dimension”, even if mobility and hydrogeological risk are declared as priority policies.

However, if for the Città metropolitana the vocation of the entroterra is an “inhabited countryside”, it should not be seen as a desire to reduce these territories to their residential function, but rather as the concern to maintain the population in these areas that may be increasingly destitute of services and resources. Thus, the traditional rural character of the entroterra is also highlighted, but it remind at the same time the difficulties related to mountain agricultural activities (mainly due to orography, fragmentation of land property, abandonment context, wild animals, etc.) and the distance of the institutions perceived by the farmers (“too little incentives”, “the municipal administrations should force the owners to maintain their land”, “more support for young people who want to start”[13]). They ask for support because they know that their activity can also constitute a “presidio territoriale” (a protective action for the territory) against the hydrogeological risk.

Building a new identity through the territorial cooperation?

As we can see from previous examples, there are many definitions and visions for the future of Genoa’s entroterra. On the one hand, we can suppose some lack of identity and sense of belonging, probably due to the depopulation and repopulation cycles that characterized this territory and, on the other hand, we can point out the need to build a shared territorial identity to define a common vision. Can the recent territorial reform, and in particular the institution of the Metropolis, represent a pertinent framework to design the cooperation between complementary metropolitan territories?

Towards a “metropolitan” entroterra?

The main mission of the Città metropolitana is to “coordinate territorial, economic and social resources for the cooperation between the administration and private stakeholders contributing to the territorial development[14]”. The Metropolitan Strategic Plan highlights how, before the “Delrio reform”, the governance of the Province was more hierarchical and the strategic vision more centralized, whereas at present the Città metropolitana advocates a networked territorial development and a more horizontal and participative governance, more suitable to increase the feeling of belonging, as well as the attractiveness of the metropolis for inhabitants, tourists and economic activities (Metropolitan Strategic Plan, April 2017, p.8). Territorial morphology (a system of interconnected urbanized valleys converging on Genoa and the secondary towns located on the coast, fig.5) is potentially conducive for networked development and the overcoming of the traditional coast/entroterra opposition. The Città metropolitana recognizes, however, that some of the essential conditions (i.e. structural interventions on mobility, resources for the most disadvantaged territories, as well as more equity in sharing and making use of resources themselves) remain to be met (Metropolitan Strategic Plan, April 2017, p.20).

Fig 5 :Metropolis of Genoa’s urbanization (G. Trotta-Brambilla, 2018, based on Strategic Metropolitan Plan, avril 2017

Furthermore, the question may be asked as to whether the subdivision of the territory into homogeneous zones (provided for in the National Reform and the Statute of the Città Metropolitana), as well as their coexistence with other administrative boundaries like the four Regional Parks (Antola, Aveto, Beigua, Portofino) and the two “inner areas” (Antola-Tigullio et Beigua-SOL), does not contradict the desire to overcome the classic dichotomy between the city and the mountain (fig.4).

In the same way, we can question the new distribution of competences between the Metropolises and the Regions which, in a concern of preventing overlapping of tasks, requires the separation of some public policies that it is essential to coordinate: Metropolises must deal with economic development while losing, for example, the competences of tourism and agriculture that previously were due to the Provinces. Finally, if we can consider that the coincidence of the metropolitan mayor with the city of Genoa’s mayor is an advantage from the point of view of territorial cohesion (a hinterland more linked to the city) and public economy (less expenditure for politics), this also means a problem of representativeness, since the mayor is elected only by the inhabitants of the main town

The “inner area” strategy: a prototype for a new medium-mountain identity ?

Two of the mountain regions of Genoa’s entroterra were considered eligible to participate in a national program (National Strategy for Inner Areas) financing innovative local development experiences to fight the decadence of areas characterized by depopulation, aging and economic decline, by primarily acting on essential services such as health, education and mobility (Calvaresi, 2015). In particular, the Antola-Tigullio inner area is a prototype to test the design of specific guidelines promoted by the Region with the support of the Città Metropolitana.

The strategy for this inner area foresees a greater specialization of this metropolitan territory (in addition to a better services endowment) by focusing mainly on the enhancement of the environmental aspect in order to constitute and promote a district for tourism and outdoor sports. If we consider the notion of “industrial district” forged by Italian economists (in particular G. Becattini), this economic model adapted to the tourist vocation envisaged by the local stakeholders refers, once more, to the question of the territorial identity because the fundamental character of the Italian districts is the incorporation of knowledge and productions into local identity, environment and lifestyles (Magnaghi, 2015).

However, one can wonder if this tourist specialization of the territory will not hide or stifle the old rural character of Genoa’s entroterra and how these two identities can coexist. The main contribution of the Città metropolitana, which can not take action in tourism or agricultural policies in the strict sense, is therefore to implement instruments to improve the in-depth knowledge of the territory in order to better anchor local and metropolitan strategies.


Less than three years from the institution of the Metropolises in Italy, it is difficult to take stock of the cooperation strategies put in place.

Some innovations in metropolitan governance seem a priori favourable to cooperation between the city and the mountains. In this context, the different territories of Genoa’s entroterra should be able to define their territorial projects and their identity also in relation to their new membership of the metropolis. Anywhere, there remain fundamental inconsistencies, such as the relevance of the new redistribution of administrative tasks or the mode of election of the metropolitan mayor. The Città metropolitana of Genoa seeks to compensate with the implementation of a model of networked governance and voluntary actions to support projects concerning the metropolitan territory but which are not the competence of the Metropolis (instruction, tourism, etc.). The Antola-Tigullio inner area can be a prototype for future territorial cooperation inside the Metropolis if the approach implemented, concerning several local administrations, will listen and value all the expressions of the various territorial identities that have been stratified in the entroterra.


Bonomi, A. & Borghi, E. (2002). La montagna disincantata. Turin : Cda&Vivalda Editori.

Burlando, R., editor (1999). Al di qua del mare : itinerari alla ricerca di un entroterra da scoprire e da conservare. Genoa: Provincia di Genova.

Calvaresi, C. (2015). Una strategia nazionale per le aree interne : diritti di cittadinanza e sviluppo locale. Territorio, n°74, pp.78-79.

Città metropolitana di Genova (2017). Piano Strategico della Città Metropolitana. Il primo passo per costruire insieme il territorio metropolitano (April 2017)

Magnaghi, A. (2015). La lunga marcia del ritorno al territorio. In G. Becattini, La coscienza dei luoghi. Il territorio come soggetto corale (pp. VII-XVI). Rome: Donzelli.

Vandelli, L. & De Donno, M. (2016). Évolutions de la décentralisation en France et en Italie: un regard comparé, Istituzioni del Federalismo, n°4, pp.867-883.

[1]     Directors : S. Gal, N. Kada, R. Lajarge, P.A. Landel.

[2]     Interview (february 2018) with Mr. M. Mantilero, inhabitant, B&B owner, president of a local tourist association.

[3]     Strategic Metropolitan Plan, April 2017, p.19.

[4]     Interview (december 2017) with Mrs. A. Garbarino, strategic and territorial planner at Città Metropolitana of Genoa.

[5]     Interview (february 2018) with Mr. M. Mantilero.

[6]     Interview (february 2018) with Mr. M. Mantilero.

[7]     Interview (mars 2018) with Mr. R. Meraviglia, Director of Santo Stefano d’Aveto ski resort.

[8]     Interview (february 2018) with Mr. M. Mantilero.

[9]     Interview (december 2017) with Mrs. A. Garbarino.



[12]     Strategic Metropolitan Plan, April 2017.

[13]     Città Metropolitana di Genova, Agricoltura di montagna, la fatica contro il dissesto,

[14]     Strategic Metropolitan Plan, April 2017, p.43.


Fortifying a castle in the French Alps between the XIIIe and the XVIe centuries

Loïc Benoit, Archéologue, Doctorant CIHAM UMR 5648

Construction’s methods during the medieval times have always been a central question for the medievalist archeologists and historians. But over the last few years, several new geographical areas have been discussed more deeply about these issues. One of them is the Haute-Savoie department which was barely studied (Baud, Schmitt, 2014 ; D’Agostino et alii, 2010-2012). This area, full of historical events, have a complex history and geographical context. Indeed, this mountainous land possesses some singularities which tend to change the manner of build households, churches or even castles.

The Haute-Savoie correspond to the former Geneva diocese, an ancient religious entity which was replaced in the late sixteenth century by the Annecy diocese because of the Protestant Reformation among others events (Blondel, 1956 ; Corbière, 2002 ; Duparc 1955). The Geneva diocese appears during the fourth century, probably at the end of it. It will grow to become one of the biggest diocese during the medieval period [Fig 1]. In fact, its territory reach at its peak Nyon (Switzerland) in the north, almost Nantua in the west, Aix-les-Bains and Ugine in the south and Chamonix in its eastern part (Lullin, Le Fort, 1866). Between the thirteenth and the sixteenth centuries, which correspond to the last part of the middle age, the Geneva diocese, is a religious entity. But at that time, this territory is divided between three major families namely the Counts, then Dukes, of Savoy, the lords of Faucigny and the Counts of Geneva. The three of them appear at the end of the reign of the Burgundy empire when this last became weak. They will gain lands and powers over the the Bourgogne legacy. But the many conflicts between those three families make the borders really unstable. Between 1268 and 1355 burst the « delphino-savoyard » conflict between the counts of Savoy and the Faucigny – Viennois family. In 1355 this last is defeated and the Faucigny territory became a Savoy possession (Corbière, 2002 ; Duparc, 1955). At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the Counts of Geneva are ruined by the so many wars and they sold their territories to the new Duke of Savoy Amédée VIII. Peace will settle until the sixteenth century. But the Protestant Reformation will lead to a war against the Berneses (inhabitant from Berne) then against the French the next century. At last, the Savoy will become a French possession during the nineteenth century.

Fig 1 : Former Geneva diocese. Map : L. Blondel, 1956. DR

I -Allinges-Neuf and Châtillon castles : A brief history.

This presentation of problematics related to the construction in mountain environment will rest on two concrete cases, namely the castles of Allinges-Neuf and Châtillon. Both are located on the territory between the Chablais and the Faucigny (corresponding to the south-east of Lake Geneva), a mountainous land shared by the Lords of Faucigny and the Counts of Savoy until 1355.

The site of Allinges has been known by the texts from the eleventh century (Blondel, 1956 ; Lullin, Le Fort, 1866). Its history quickly became a bit complicated since we shifted, during the XIIth century, from one castle linked to the lords of Faucigny (Château-Vieux), to the presence of two castles each belonging to a rival family : Château-Vieux for the Faucigny and Château-Neuf for the savoy (Benoit, 2014 ; D’Agostino et alii, 2010-2011). Both have been built on a rock at 800 meters of altitude. A period of conflicts began in 1268 between these two buildings separated only by a ditch of 150 meters and it lasted for approximately a century, until 1355. Because of its eventful history between the twelfth century and 1355, the site of Château-Neuf underwent many modifications of its fortifications [Fig 2]. Besides, the castle knew four major steps of construction, stages documented by medieval accounts as well as archeology (Benoit, 2014 ; D’Agostino et alii, 2010-2011). These phases emphasize the evolution of the site’s status, going from a residential fortress to a military building. This knowledge also makes it possible to document the evolution of regional defensive and building technics (Benoit, PhD on going). The second case is the castle of Châtillon. It is seated on a rocky hilltop at approximately 800m altitude, nearby the end of the Arve valley and in front of the Giffre valley (Benoit, Ceci, 2016 ; D’Agostino et alii, 2010-2012) [Fig 3]. It seems to be known by texts from the twelfth century and was one of the main residences of the Lords of Faucigny for two centuries at least. It had replaced the old castle of Faucigny which was less comfortable (Le Renard, 2011). The castle of Châtillon has hosted the wedding of Pierre II of Savoy and Agnès of Faucigny, both parents of Béatrice of Faucigny-Dauphiné, one of the main characters of the delphino-savoyard war (Lullin, Le Fort, 1866). The latter was also engaged to the Dauphin of Viennois in this castle during the thirteenth century. The castle position as a stronghold for the valley entrance and its town located at a major economic crossroads down the hill made it very important.

Fig 2 : Castle of Allinges-Neuf. Picture : L. Benoit
Fig 3 : Castle of Châtillon. Picture : L.Benoit

II – Building a castle in the Alps : pros and cons.

The aim is not to present a detailed archeological study or every step of construction of each sites but to question the different factors to consider during constructions or repairs of a fortified place. These are general reflections and a state of knowledge on these problematics. Thus, we will try to make a comparative reflection on the construction materials and their origins : Where does it come from ? What kind of material ? What about the workforce ? Which kind of jobs ?

Concerning the methodology there are three different approaches. The first one is to consult ancient texts which gives us information on the various restauration or construction works. These are called « chatellenie accounts ». Sometimes we can find information on the nature of the materials, their sources and their costs. Then we can cross-reference theses information with toponyms in order to try to locate supply locations. This involves the analysis of the old land registries with the chance to benefit for the Savoy territory of the oldest European cadasters (Sardinian map 1730). Finally, the field observations allow us to identify the building materials still visible and if we couple these observations to a geological map we can trace some paths of the material. We will see then that our two castles observe quite different patterns.

The basic postulate is the following : building a castle in a valley or on a plain is not even close from construction in a mountain environment. Now that we have state the obvious, we can ask ourselves why. Geographical constraints are obviously numerous whether it is for the material transport or for the construction itself. Architects and builders had to think differently, to adapt the local topography. They even had to adapt the construction because of the geology which is not the same in the mountain than in the valley (Baud, Schmitt 2014 ; Carrier, Corbière, 2005 ; Mesqui 1991).

During the Middle Age, three majors materials were used in the castle construction : wood, stone and iron (Poisson, Schwien, 2003). Each of these respond to a specific use even if some exceptions exists where some replace others. In the French alps the wood is mainly used for the different parts of the roof, some walls, the floors, the door leaves, drawbridges and removable defense structures such as palisades, wooden galleries or brattices which are small overhanging defensive structure in wood often placed before the entrance of a passage way (Poisson, Schwien, 2003). Stones are used for more massive structures such as curtain walls, keep, towers, barbican, and for architectonic parts : windows, doors, vault, fireplace, etc (D’Agostino et alii, 2010-2011, De Raemy, 2004). Finally, the iron serves almost exclusively as a fixation or as a reinforcement of wooden structures like door fitting or window bars. If these three types of material are the most common, each site does not have the same remains as we will see.

Very few archeological remains of wood are still in the castle of Allinges-Neuf. Remains of chestnut beams were found at Château Vieux, thus indicating the presence of this species in the construction but nothing more. In fact, we were not able to specific analysis on this because of the lack of data for this essence on our region. However, nothing was found on Château-Neuf yet. Old texts are hardly more loquacious concerning the provenances or the varieties of wood used with only one mention of a piece of wood bought in Lausanne. But, they tell us more about the use that is made of it. Also, most of the mentions are related to the castle’s roofs. Those are shake roof, a kind of roof made with wood shingle which are made of thin slats of wood. They are assembled by thousands then fixed on the frame with nails. This kind of roof is quite typical of mountain areas (Alps, Jura, Pyrénée). In the castle, the wood is also used for entire room constructions « camera or gardam robam » or the doors and windows. We also buy wood for construction scaffolding. For Allinges-Neuf, the stone using is better documented thanks to the still important remains but also thanks to the various field investigations carried out between 2010 and 2014. Five different kinds of stone were identified on the site : it is sandstone, gray limestone, granite, gneiss and shale. The proportions observed are as follows: 70% sandstone, 20% limestone, 5% granite, 5% gneiss and shale. Petrographic studies have been done to know the original provenance of these stones. Moreover, pedestrian surveys were conducted to locate possible quarries all around the castle. Six building stones quarries have been identified plus four quarries for grinding wheels [Fig 4]. From this come the following outcomes: the supply of stone for the construction of the castle is very predominantly local. The rocky hill on which the castle is built directly serves as a quarry for sandstone. Moreover, several size fronts have been observed for both uses : building stone quarry under the castles and millstones quarries between Allinges-Neuf and Allinges-Vieux. The gray limestone can be find at the bottom of the hill. The other types of rock can’t be find in nature all around the castle site. Are they imported ? they could have been, but their low presence rate on site does not allow to imagine a dedicated transport for such a small amount. Also, the most likely hypothesis is that they came from a turnover of the geological evolution of the landscape and that it is in fact pickup stones (Baud, Schmitt, 2014). With the proximity of the materials comes low transport costs and shortened delay for the construction. The sandstone has the advantage of going out by bed relatively regular which simplifies from the beginning the implementation. Also, we observe walls with good foundations although irregular.

Fig 4 : Potentials quarries for Allinges. Map : D’agostino. DR

The workforce is another main entrance in the construction problematic. We find mainly two trades namely carpenters and masons, but we also have some carrier, blacksmiths or simple workers. By consulting the texts, we realize that the workers came from a lot of different places and not only from the village beside the castle. Indeed, the latter is not really occupied by civilians outside wartime as stated in the charters. Among the labor-generating villages we can mention among others Allinges, Avonnay, Thonon, Evian, Morges, Boege or Villeneuve and moreover [Fig 5]. These workers came sometimes from afar and they probably housed on site the time of work. We can therefore ask ourselves the question of the itinerant work during the Middle Ages. This first quick chart already plans a mode of operation and construction in an alpine territory.

Fig 5 : Poles of workforce for Allinges. Map : L.Benoit

The castle of Châtillon being still under study, analyzes have not yet been pushed as much as for Allinges-Neuf. No evidence of wood remains have been find yet on the castle site. But the mentions in the old texts are numerous. The oak completely dominates the wooden construction, the other species being absent here. In the same way, several places of supply are known: the goytroussa forest, the Leyrons pasture, the Cheveriis pasture as well as at least 4 others. It is now difficult to locate them following the actual map, but work is underway on the subject which will allow us to refine the routing area. However, some of these sites appear to be around Taninges and St. Sigismund. The usefulness of the material remains the same as for the other castles and we find it in the shake roofs, in the doors, the walls, the floors or the paneling. At Allinges-Neuf the majority of building stones were taken from the site, here it is more nuanced. Two main materials have been observed: limestone and tuff. The proportions are as follows: 70% limestone, 20% tuff. Unfortunately, we could not do petrographic analyzes to determine the provenance of the stones. However, ancient texts fill this gap a little. Also, we learn that the sand, lime and tuff come from the river Giffre while the limestone comes from the hill of Châtillon and the valley of the Arve around Cluses. Although it is possible that the rocky hilltop on which the castle is built has been used as a quarry, but there is no longer any face in this area. If we look at these provenances as well as the local topography we quickly realize that the costs and transport times of building materials have been significant for this site. Also, in this case, the budget allocated to the transportation of materials in the accounts is more important than in Allinges. Another rather curious import is observed. Indeed, while there must have been a blacksmith on site or at least in the town of Cluses, we can see that nails are often imported from Geneva either at the other end of the current department of Haute-Savoie. We do not have an explanation for this phenomenon yet. Perhaps it is simply linked to an acquaintance or offer more attractive than local manufacturing.

The workforce scheme is quite similar to the previous one [Fig 6]. They came from many different places, but a particular example challenges us. A master digger who lived in Ayse, not too far from the castle is known to have been debauched from Burgundy. We have observed other similar cases in different sites and it seems the labor market and the craft market allow to dislodge masters craftsmen in other regions.

Poles of workforce for Châtillon. Map : L. Benoit

III – Conclusions and horizons.

At this stage of the research, several aspects appear. First of all, the well state of preservation and the amount of conserved remains make the site of Allinges one of the major witnesses of the castral implantation on the territory of Haute-Savoie. Thus, its study has made it possible to consolidate and to increase the archaeological and historical knowledge on fortifications and their evolutions in a given territory. The next study of the castle of Chatillon will also complete those data.

Concerning the construction problematics, two different trends seem to come off. The first one is to build with what we have on site. The second is more based on importing materials. Does this have to do with the quality of materials on site ? Possible if we take the example of the castle of Vincenne who has bought his timber at the other end of Europe. Another clue is the knowledge of the intrinsic qualities of the different types of materials. At Alby-sur-Chéran (Haute-Savoie), the accounts tell us that the masons use tuff for the architectural parts (windows, door, etc) and limestone for the rest of the masonry even if it costs twice as much to cut because it is harder. Finally, this is rarely the case in mountain environments, but fashion effects also have an impact on buildings. Regarding the workforce, it is rarely taken on the spot but comes from the whole region. Salaries are based on skills, not provenance. There is also a kind of legacy of the trade, the father’s markets regularly going to his son.

The problematics related to the construction of a castle in the mountains differ widely from the plain’s castles. There are questions of supply, types of materials used (pine and fir used in the plains but not in the mountains) but also the presence of nearby labor. The next compilations of data will allow a more in-depth analysis of these questions.

Bibliography sample :

BAUD Anne, SCHMITT Anne, Ressources, choix et mise en œuvre de la pierre dans l’architecture monumentale (ancien diocèse de Genève – XIIe-XVIe siècle), HDR, 2 vol., 2014.

BENOIT Loïc, Château-Neuf d’Allinges : Etude archéologique et historique, Mémoire de master, Université Lumière Lyon 2, 2vol., 2014.

BENOIT Loïc, CECI Liliana, Châtillon-sur-Cluses : Eglise : Mur gouttereau nord, RFO d’étude de bâti, UAPD, 2016.

BLONDEL Louis, Châteaux de l’ancien diocèse de Genève, Mémoires et Documents publiés par la Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie de Genève, Genève, 1956, rééd. 1978.

CARRIER Nicolas, CORBIERE (de la) Matthieu, Entre Genève et Mont-Blanc au XIVe siècle, Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie de Genève, 2005.

CORBIERE (de la) Matthieu, L’invention et la défense des frontières dans le diocèse de Genève, Annecy, Académie salésienne, 2002.

D’AGOSTINO Laurent (dir.), GUFFOND Christophe, CECI Liliana, CHAUVIN-DESFLEURS Évelyne, CHEVALIER Maud, avec la participation de LAIDEBEUR Jocelyn, VEISSIERE Olivier, BELMONT Alain, Les SITES CASTRAUX DE LA Haute-Savoie. RFO de prospection, 3vol. , SDAHS – Hadès, 2010-2012.

D’AGOSTINO Laurent (dir.), GUFFOND Christophe, CECI Liliana, CHAUVIN-DESFLEURS Évelyne, CHEVALIER Maud, avec la participation de LAIDEBEUR Jocelyn, VEISSIERE Olivier, BELMONT Alain, Les châteaux d’Allinges (Allinges, Haute-Savoie). RFO de fouille programmée, 2vol. , SDAHS – Hadès, 2010.

DUPARC Pierre, Le comté de Genève – IXe-XVe siècle, Mémoires et Documents publiés par la Société d’Histoire et d’Ar­chéologie de Genève, Genève, 1955.

LE RENARD Cynthia, Entre monts et vallées : quatre châteaux de la basse vallée de l’Arve, province de Faucigny, mémoire de Master I, sous la direction de Jean-Michel Poisson, CIHAM, Université Lumière Lyon 2, 2 vol., 2011.

LULLIN Paul, LE FORT Charles, Régeste genevois ou répertoire chronologique et analytique des documents imprimés relatifs à l’histoire de la ville et du diocèse de Genève avant l’année 1312, Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie de Genève, 1866.

MESQUI Jean, Châteaux et enceintes de la France médiévale. De la défense à la résidence, 1, Paris, Picard, 1991.

POISSON Jean-Michel (dir.), Le Château médiéval, forteresse habitée (XIe-XVIe siècle). Actes du colloque de Lyon (avril 1988), Documents d’archéologie Française, n° 32, Paris, éd. de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 1992.

POISSON Jean-Michel, SCHWIEN Jean-Jacques (dir.), Le bois dans le château de pierre au Moyen Âge, Besançon, Presses universitaires de Franche-Comté, 2003.

De RAEMY Daniel, Châteaux, Donjons et grandes tours dans les États de Savoie (1230-1330). Un modèle : le château d’Yverdon, 2 vol., Lausanne, Association pour la restauration du château d’Yverdon-les-Bains, Cahier d’archéologie romande, 2004.


Perrine Camus, Doctorante en histoire moderne, Laboratoire LARHRA

Les représentations des territoires de montagne sont un sujet bien étudié pour la fin de l’époque moderne et le début de l’époque contemporaine (Blanchard, 1958 ; Debarbieux & Rudaz, 2013 ; Reichler, 2002 ; Walter, 2004) notamment parce que l’art des paysages et la discipline cartographique ont trouvé leur pleine expansion à partir de l’époque des Lumières puis du romantisme. Cependant, les siècles précédents ne sont pas vierges de toute production iconographique donnant à voir le territoire. C’est pourquoi mes recherches visent à comprendre comment les territoires de montagne sont pensés et représentés visuellement entre la fin du xvie et le début du xviie siècle. Pour cela, les sources iconographiques qui concernent les espaces de montagne, et en particulier les Alpes occidentales, constituent la matière première appréhendée pour ces questionnements. Pour la période qui nous concerne, cela signifie qu’il peut aussi bien s’agir de plans, de dessins, de peintures, d’estampes, et le plus souvent de cartes. Pour chacun de ces types de représentations, les manuscrits et les travaux de première main sont favorisés, puisqu’ils permettent d’approcher au mieux les logiques de leur auteur. Il en est ainsi pour l’œuvre d’un ingénieur géographe, Jean de Beins (1577-1651), qui réalise à partir de 1604, un ensemble de plans, cartes et vues de villes de la province du Dauphiné – région alpine du sud-est de la France – à la demande du roi de France Henri IV. Celui-ci est alors en pleine phase de reconquête de son royaume. Dans ce contexte, faire réaliser des cartes l’aide à mieux prendre possession de l’étendue et des particularités des territoires sur lesquels il règne. Des entreprises de relevés cartographiques sont ainsi engagées dans les provinces qui sont alors les plus problématiques : en Picardie, en Provence, et notamment en Dauphiné.

Les questions qu’un tel sujet soulève concernent la façon dont on donne à voir un territoire de montagne au xvie et xviie siècles : quelles problématiques cela implique-t-il ? Comment le comprendre par l’étude des représentations cartographiques ? La présente communication vise à exposer les conclusions issues d’une étude de cas, mais surtout à faire l’état d’une recherche en cours.

Étudier le rapport des sociétés aux territoires de montagne à l’époque moderne par les représentations cartographiques

Qu’est-ce qu’une carte ? Chacun en a probablement une idée et pourrait répondre à cette question de façon plus ou moins développée. Pour la période qui nous concerne, il s’agit d’une représentation de l’espace qui produit une image du territoire impossible à voir à l’œil nu [voir fig.1]. Plusieurs raisons justifient de travailler à partir de tels documents. En effet, même si les cartes sont des objets très étudiés – d’abord par les géographes puis par les historiens – elles demeurent exploitables pour poser d’autres questions : de quelle façon les sociétés interagissent-elles avec l’espace ? Comment ces dernières se représentent-elles le territoire, le projettent-elles et lui construisent-elles une identité ? C’est ce que de récents travaux tels que ceux d’Étienne Bourdon (2011) ou d’Axelle Chassagnette (2018) ont mis en exergue.

Fig 1 : Jean de Beins, Le Baillage de Greysivaudan et Trieves, 1619, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, DR

Les représentations cartographiques deviennent d’autant plus intéressantes quand on les aborde sous l’angle du concept de paysage, bien étudié par François Walter (2004), qui renvoie à une construction culturelle du territoire et qui implique donc une prise en compte des sensibilités (au sens le plus large du terme). D’une part, cela autorise à ne plus les envisager comme des objets qui permettent simplement d’évaluer les progrès du savoir, des sciences et des techniques. D’autre part, appréhender les représentations cartographiques par la notion de paysage s’avère également pertinent dans la mesure où ce sont deux notions qui se confondent à l’époque moderne, leur distinction étant, en réalité, une dichotomie contemporaine (Bourdon, 2009). En effet, bien qu’elles aient des statuts différents – la carte renvoie à un objet matériel alors que le paysage est un discours – elles possèdent néanmoins des valeurs communes. Toutes deux ont d’abord vocation à figurer l’espace ; ce sont par ailleurs des résultats d’opérations de synthèse qui impliquent d’effectuer des choix et des reconstructions ; enfin, elles donnent du sens à l’espace et ne sont, en ce sens, pas simplement des représentations du territoire. Elles sont aussi des représentations du rapport des sociétés à l’espace. Il est de cette façon possible de chercher différentes dimensions du territoire sélectionnées et retenues sur la carte. Les aspects politiques constituent une partie fondamentale de ce qu’elle présente. Dans la mesure où elle est souvent un objet produit à la demande d’une autorité, les frontières étatiques et administratives, tout comme les places fortes, sont des éléments qui disent l’appartenance politique des espaces représentés. Dans la continuité de cette logique, il existe également des aspects permettant de dire la pratique qui est faite de cet espace : routes, ponts, cols, sont souvent des composants inconditionnels de la carte. En faisant apparaître cours d’eau, montagnes, lacs ou encore espaces cultivés, la carte possède également une dimension environnementale. Enfin, on y retrouve certains lieux emblématiques, des sites remarquables qui permettent de dire la singularité d’un territoire et dotent en ce sens la carte d’une dimension symbolique qui participe de l’utilisation de celle-ci comme outil de construction des identités. A partir de cet exemple, on peut prendre la mesure d’un des avantages de l’utilisation de ces représentations : il n’existe pas encore de normes trop fixes qui régissent l’élaboration de cartes, tel que ce sera le cas à partir du xviiie siècle. L’orientation, l’échelle, les symboles utilisés sont autant de paramètres sur lesquels l’auteur peut influer. Ainsi, une représentation cartographique peut souvent permettre d’en apprendre bien plus que ce que le texte laisse à la compréhension d’un lecteur.

Il existe cependant quelques limites à l’emploi de ces documents. Souvent, il s’agit de regards émanant d’une catégorie bien particulière de la population, soit des individus masculins, militaires, et la plupart du temps travaillant pour une personnalité politique. Il est ainsi d’autant plus utile et nécessaire de les croiser avec d’autres types de sources iconographiques. Par ailleurs, l’hétérogénéité et la dispersion des manuscrits induisent souvent l’anonymat des auteurs, une absence d’information sur le contexte de production, le destinataire et l’intention que sert le document, qui rendent son analyse plus complexe.

Jeu des perspectives, jeu des échelles : le territoire du particulier au général

Quand on s’intéresse à la variété des modes de représentation choisis et utilisés par l’ingénieur géographe, on se rend rapidement compte des avantages qu’apportent des normes cartographiques souples. En effet, trois modes sont employés : le plan, qui concerne principalement les places-fortes et les villes ; la carte particulière avec vue à vol d’oiseau, qui s’applique pour une partie de la province (une vallée généralement) ; et la vue de ville, la plupart du temps choisie pour montrer un espace urbain. Cette division des modes de représentation correspond en fait aux préconisations en matière de dessin de forteresses que développent certains traités d’architecture militaire. Celui de Gabrio Busca – successivement ingénieur du duc de Savoie, architecte royal et ducal de l’État de Milan – en est un bon exemple. Dans son traité, Della espugnazione e difesa delle fortezze publié en 1601 à Turin, on trouve l’explication suivante :

« Sarà dunque il disegno, un’ ordinato, & regolato concetto dell’animo, & una Iddea rappresentata con linee, & angoli. Questa Iddea in tre parti consiste. La prima dicesi pianta, o radice. La seconda elevatione, o alzato. La terza profilo, come a dire in piano in faccio, & da lati »

Les trois modes de représentations présentés correspondent sensiblement à ceux utilisés dans l’œuvre de Jean de Beins. Si un dessin est généralement construit selon un seul mode de représentation, il peut néanmoins combiner deux d’entre eux, voire les trois en une seule et même image. Ainsi en est-il pour le Plan de la Ville de Grenoble, qui joint plan et vue de ville, ou encore pour le Plan topographique des Ville et citadelle de Bourg en Bresse, qui mélange quant à lui plan et vue à vol d’oiseau. L’intérêt de fusionner différents types de représentation est d’exprimer au mieux le propos véhiculé par l’image. Pour Grenoble par exemple, il s’agit à la fois de donner à voir la constitution défensive de la ville dotée de nouveaux remparts en ayant recours à une vue en plan, tout en montrant qu’elle se situe au pied d’une montagne, élément qui contribue à sa défense en la définissant en même temps comme une ville alpine. Grâce à ce jeu des perspectives et des échelles, Jean de Beins réalise quelques années plus tard, en 1617, l’image la plus globalisante d’un territoire qu’il ait réalisé : la Carte generalle de Dauphiné [fig. 2]. Ainsi, à l’issue de ces années de relevés, le résultat obtenu correspond à une mise en visibilité du territoire sous tous ses aspects, à la fois dans sa cohérence d’ensemble ainsi que dans ses détails et ses particularités.

Fig 2 :Jean de Beins, Carte generalle de Dauphiné, 1617, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, DR

Une œuvre de son temps ? Cartes et autres dessins de part et d’autre des Alpes

Cette étude de cas invite à étudier d’autres dessins réalisés à la même époque. On isole en effet généralement ce corpus de cartes en raison de la rareté des ensembles de ce genre qui permettent de voir un territoire, avec un nombre important de dessins et de précisions. Mais il s’insère en réalité dans une dynamique plus large. D’autres relevés sont en effet conçus à la même époque en France. Le travail effectué sous la direction de Jean de Beins s’inscrit donc dans un processus de représentation réalisé à échelle nationale : la commande royale de laquelle résulte l’ensemble cartographique de Jean de Beins a également conduit à la production d’ensembles de cartes pour les provinces de Picardie et de Provence notamment. Bien que ces régions ne soient pas des territoires de montagne, elles restent des cartes intéressantes puisqu’elles permettent de discerner les choix qui relèvent de réflexes communs aux géographes de l’époque, de ceux qui relèvent de stratégies déployées en fonction d’un espace de montagne. Au sein du recueil dans lequel l’œuvre de Jean de Beins est contenue, le point commun entre toutes les régions représentées est l’alternance entre une représentation qui donne une vue générale d’un lieu et une représentation à plus grande échelle.

Par ailleurs, certains éléments présents dans l’œuvre de Jean de Beins existent dans des dessins réalisés par des ingénieurs de la même époque, notamment piémontais. Un plan datant de 1561 de Pignerol, place-forte alpine se trouvant en Piémont, offre une comparaison intéressante. Un peu antérieur à la majorité des autres cartes prises en compte dans cette étude, il est toutefois intéressant de le mettre en regard des représentions issues de l’œuvre de Jean de Beins en ce qui concerne la représentation du relief et la figuration de l’environnement de montagne au sein duquel la place-forte est bâtie. Les dessins de forteresses esquissés plus rapidement peuvent également donner quelques indications sur la sensibilité que les ingénieurs et géographes peuvent avoir au terrain. C’est le cas sur le dessin de la forteresse de Monmorone, où l’auteur fait par exemple des distinctions sur les différentes qualités du rocher sur lequel la place-forte est bâtie [fig.3]. Cela se traduit par une distinction des endroits où l’on peut se permettre de gravir sans échelle par exemple. Des dessins, paraissant un peu plus fantasques au premier abord, peuvent offrir une reconstruction du territoire intéressante à étudier [fig.4]. Une représentation anonyme du Vercors contient en effet beaucoup de distorsions et présente une orientation difficile à définir. Or, elle propose une image des plateaux du Vercors beaucoup plus développée que les localités présentes en fond de vallée, ainsi que certains lieux qui ont vocation à être emblématiques plutôt que des points de repère pratiques. Une logique consistant à montrer le « haut » plutôt que le « bas », peu commune pour les représentations des territoires de montagne du xvie siècle. Ce ne sont que quelques exemples de dessins que l’on peut mobiliser pour tenter de comprendre les similitudes ou différences des techniques, des choix et des préoccupations des contemporains (la plupart du temps ingénieurs et architectes en Piémont, au service du duc de Savoie) de Jean de Beins outre-mont.

fig. 3 : Anonyme, Plan du fort de Monmorone, v.1592, Turin, Archivio di Stato, DR
Anonyme, Carte du Dauphiné et d’une partie de la Savoie, v. 1580-1582, Turin, Archivio di Stato, DR


Grâce à ces différents exemples, on perçoit la diversité des images qui peuvent permettre de comprendre comment les sociétés se représentaient et construisaient leurs espaces de vie. S’intéresser à la représentation des territoires de montagne par l’étude d’une œuvre cartographique comme celle-ci permet plusieurs résultats. D’abord, elle donne la possibilité de cerner les logiques de l’auteur à travers l’analyse d’un ensemble suffisamment important s’apparentant à un programme et permettant de voir les nuances et la complexité de pensée. C’est un prisme pour analyser une relation complexe au territoire, entre considérations pratiques et symboliques. Au-delà, elle permet de tenter de cerner, non seulement les évolutions des territoires de montagne, mais aussi les évolutions des regards portés aux territoires de montagne qui ouvre ainsi à d’autres moyens de comprendre la relation des sociétés à ces territoires.


Blanchard Raoul, Les Alpes et leur destin, Fayard., Paris, 1958, 282 p.

Bourdon Étienne, Le voyage et la découverte des Alpes. Histoire de la construction d’un savoir (1492 – 1713), Paris, PUPS, 2011, 639 p.

Bourdon Étienne, « Représenter les Alpes à la Renaissance : le paysage dans la carte, la carte dans le paysage », in Voyages et représentations réciproques, 2009, p. 189‑197.

Chassagnette Axelle, Savoir géographique et cartographie dans l’espace germanique protestant (1520-1620), Geneve, Droz, 2018, 620 p.

Debarbieux Bernard et Rudaz Gilles, Les faiseurs de montagne : imaginaires politiques et territorialités (XVIIIe-XXIe siècle), Paris, CNRS Editions, 2010, 373 p.

Reichler Claude, La découverte des Alpes et la question du paysage, Chêne-Bourg [Suisse] ; Paris, Georg, 2002, 256 p. Walter François, Les figures paysagères de la nation : territoire et paysage en Europe (16e-20e siècle), Paris, EHESS, 2004, 521 p.