Fort du Janus - Fort du Janus - Office de Tourisme de Montgenèvre
Fort du Janus - Fort du Janus - Office de Tourisme de Montgenèvre
Fort du Janus - Fort du Janus - Office de Tourisme de Montgenèvre
Fort du Janus - Fort du Janus - Office de Tourisme de Montgenèvre
Fort du Janus - Fort du Janus - Office de Tourisme de Montgenèvre
Fort du Janus - Fort du Janus - Office de Tourisme de Montgenèvre
Fort du Janus - Fort du Janus - Office de Tourisme de Montgenèvre
Fort du Janus - Fort du Janus - Office de Tourisme de Montgenèvre
Fort of Janus
Montgenèvre

It was built between 1886 and 1903, on the summit of the same name at 2529 m. A 900-metre long underground structure, which extends the Maginot line, was added between 1931 and 1937. It has the Label Patrimoine du XXème siècle en région PACA.

The Janus fort was built to the north-east of the Briançon square, above the Gondran position. This modern, fully tested fort is the highest in the square and the most advanced on the Italian border. It is made up of two parts, an infantry blockhouse built in 1887 and an underground section built in 1898. A frontal action casemate was built to flank the Gondran defence line. It was armed with 4 x 95mm cannons on coastal mountings. It is the only casemate of this type built in France.

France’s borders and coasts have been fortified in successive stages, in response to real or perceived threats, alliances or territorial annexations. On the border with Italy, at an altitude of 2,540 m, the Château Jouan ridge conceals the second-highest Maginot fortification in the Alps, after the Col de Restefond complex.

The strategic importance of the position was understood very early on, and a watchtower was built there as early as the end of the 18th century.
But it was a century later, in 1883, that, with artillery performance having greatly improved, an open-air Séré de Rivière battery was installed there, after the construction of a gun road from the Gondran ridge.
Between 1886 and 1889, a square blockhouse with two bastionnets was built on the ridge and, in 1889, work began on digging a battery under the rock facing the border, with four 95 m/m coastal guns.
In 1891-1892, the blockhouse was raised by two habitable levels, creating a three-storey peace barracks, with a basement cistern, for 120 men.
From 1898 to 1906, the underground war barracks were built, with direct access through a low door to the south, and by a staircase from above. The entire superstructure was surrounded by a continuous infantry gate, with a portal serving as the main entrance.

A preliminary plan was drawn up in 1926 for the construction of a high-powered Maginot fort on this ridge.
The CORF (Commission d’organisation des régions fortifiées) began work on the fortification in 1931. In 1934, the war barracks galleries that were unused or too close to the Maginot barracks were filled in. The entrances were closed off, as were the living areas. Only the casemate battery of 4 old-fashioned 95 m/m guns, which was redesigned and reinforced, and the ammunition bunkers remained. A gallery was dug to link the Maginot work to the Séré de Rivière section, a duality that is the great originality of the Janus.
Work was halted in July 1935, due to an unfortunate rapprochement between France and Italy (the Stresa agreements), only to resume precipitously in 1938-1939, as Italy decided to turn towards Germany.
As it stood when war was declared, the Janus was a far cry from the original preliminary design, which included an impressive array of weapons.
Funding restrictions meant that the structure only had 2 81 m/m mortars and 2 75 m/m guns for its main artillery, firing parallel to the border or into friendly territory, plus 4 pairs of Reibel machine guns and a few machine guns. However, the structure was equipped with the specific overpressure and ventilation system used in Maginot works, which provided great comfort for the men living inside.
At the height of the battle, in June 1940, the officer commanding the fort had to have the right-hand side of the embrasure visors trimmed in order to widen the fire to the right and support the defence to the north of the Col de Montgenèvre.
The Janus was one of the few defences in the sector to be put to the test of fire in June 1940. It was targeted by the 149 m/m of the nearby Italian fort of Chaberton, which towered almost 600 m above it. A GFM bell still bears the ricochet mark of an Italian shell.
It was these observation bells that gave the fort its greatest claim to fame: one of them housed an officer who took part in the artillery observations and fire adjustment of the 280 men of the 6th Battery of the 154th RAP who, under the command of Lieutenant Miguet, silenced the Chaberton.
The Janus is now owned by the commune of Montgenèvre, which recently acquired it and maintains it through the « Forts Janus » association. A study is currently underway to secure the structure so that it can be opened to visitors in the near future.
Protected from looting and vandalism by the nearby presence of the Gondrans military post, which is still in operation, the Janus fort is still equipped with its extraordinary drawbridge, which is enormous and yet operated by just one man, its central gallery, which is 345 m long, its main artillery, and its main gate, its main artillery, its complete electricity production « factory », and a large part of its living equipment, is in good condition and a visit to it will be of great interest in understanding what life was like for the crew of a high-altitude fort more than 60 years ago.

Source: Jean-Pierre Garnier, Association pour le patrimoine fortifié du Briançonnais (Association for the fortified heritage of the Briançonnais region)

Rates
Free access.
Dates
All year round, daily.
Summit of Chateau Juan
05100 Montgenèvre
Telephone : 04 92 21 52 52
Email: E-mail
Website : Website
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Spoken languages
  • English
  • French
  • Italian

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