Mont Cenis

Last updated
Col du Mont Cenis
Italian: Colle del Moncenisio
Col du Mont Cenis.jpg
Lake at the pass
Elevation 2,083 m (6,834 ft)
Traversed by Route nationale 6
Location Savoie, France
Range Graian Alps/Cottian Alps
Coordinates 45°15′37″N06°54′03″E / 45.26028°N 6.90083°E / 45.26028; 6.90083 Coordinates: 45°15′37″N06°54′03″E / 45.26028°N 6.90083°E / 45.26028; 6.90083
Alps location map.png
Red pog.svg
Col de Mont Cenis
Location of Col de Mont Cenis
The sign marking the pass Mont Cenis.jpg
The sign marking the pass

Mont Cenis (Italian : Moncenisio) is a massif (el. 3,612 m / 11,850 ft) and pass (el. 2081 m / 6827 ft) in Savoie (France), which forms the limit between the Cottian and Graian Alps.

Contents

Route

The col du Mont-Cenis at the center left of the picture gives access to a large lake, and further away to the Italian peninsula 10 kilometres beyond the pass. Versant sud val cenis.jpg
The col du Mont-Cenis at the center left of the picture gives access to a large lake, and further away to the Italian peninsula 10 kilometres beyond the pass.

The term "Mont Cenis" could derive from mont des cendres ("mountain of ashes"). According to tradition, following a forest fire, a great quantity of ashes accumulated on the ground, thus the name. The path of ashes was found during the building work of the route. [1]

The pass connects Val-Cenis in France in the northwest with Susa in Italy in the southeast. Thence the valley of the Dora Riparia is followed to Turin (103.8 km / 64.5 mi from Modane). The carriage road mounts the Arc valley for 25.7 km / 16 mi from Modane to Lanslebourg, whence it is 12.9 km / 8 mi to the hospice, a little way beyond the summit of the pass. The descent lies through the Cenis valley to Susa (49.9 km / 37 mi from Modane) where the road joins the railway.

To the southwest of the Mont Cenis is the Little Mont Cenis (2184.2 m / 7166 ft) which leads from the summit plateau (in Italy) of the main pass to the Etache valley on the French slope and so to Bramans in the Arc valley.

The pass runs parallel to the Fréjus Rail Tunnel. This (highest point 1295 m / 4249 ft) is really 27.4 km 17 miles southwest of the pass, below the Col du Fréjus. From Chambéry the line runs up the Isère valley, but soon bears through that of the Arc or the Maurienne past Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Modane (98.2 km / 61 mi from Chambéry). The tunnel is 13 km in length, and leads to Bardonecchia, some way below which, at Oulx the line joins the road from the Col de Montgenèvre.

History

In the Middle Ages, pilgrims passing through Moncenisio and Susa Valley came to Turin along a road called the Via Francigena, with a final destination of Rome. In 1414, Niccolò III d'Este, Marquis of Ferrara travelled on this route returning from Paris having met Charles VI, and described the Col du Mont Cenis as having "a good ascent and bad descent". [2] This pass was crossed in 1689 by the Vaudois, and is believed by some authors to have been the pass used by Hannibal to cross the Alps.

As an Alpine pass, Mont Cenis featured in several historical incidents. One example is the descent of Constantine I to Italy, to fight against Maxentius. It was the site of a military victory by the French Army of the Alps, led by General-in-Chief Alex Dumas over Piedmontese forces in April 1794, a victory that enabled the French Army of Italy to invade and conquer the Italian peninsula. [3] It was the principal route for crossing the Alps between France and Italy until the 19th century. It was also used as the main passage by which Charlemagne crossed with his army to invade Lombardy in 773, and later by Napoleon I.

Mont Cenis was one of the most used Alpine passes from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century. The pass was part of the border between the two countries from the annexation of Savoy to the Second French Empire in 1861 until the 1947 Treaty of Paris, but is now located completely in France. The treaty allowed Savoy to retrieve its historical and political boundaries. [4] [5] It has historically been part of Route nationale 6. [6]

A road over the pass was built between in 1806 by Napoleon to improve military connections. By 1810, it was the most travelled road between France and Italy, as Strasbourg was closed to silk trade traffic from Vienna, leading to Lyon becoming a major trade centre instead. [7] The Mont Cenis Pass Railway was opened alongside the road in 1868, but was dismantled in 1871, on the opening of the Fréjus Rail Tunnel. It was the first ever railway based on the Fell mountain railway system and was worked by English engine-drivers. [8] The Fréjus Rail Tunnel acquired the alternative, and geographically incorrect, name of Mont Cenis Tunnel because the traffic which formerly used the Mont Cenis Pass was transferred to it.

Remains of Forte Varisello. Forte Varisello 002.JPG
Remains of Forte Varisello.

When the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont ceded Savoy to France, in 1860, the Mont Cenis became a frontier pass, and consequently a part of Savoy was left on the Italian side. It was therefore highly fortified as a protection against an invasion of the Val di Susa route towards Turin. In 1874-1880 the Italian Regio Esercito built three stone forts: Fort Cassa, Fort Varisello and Fort Roncia, supported by several batteries and fortifications, such as those at top of Mont Malamot. Two further armored batteries, La Court and Paradiso, were added in the early 20th century, while the Fascist government built here part of its underground Alpine Wall. All these fortifications are now in French territory after the boundaries revision in 1947 allowing Savoy to get its historical territory back.

The Lac Du Mont Cenis is an artificial dam that was constructed in 1921 on top of the original road and border crossing. It feeds two hydroelectric power plants. The lake is occasionally drained for maintenance. [9]

Cycling

The pass of Mont Cenis has been featured 5 times in the Tour de France. It has been classified hors-catégorie (yielding the highest number of points in the King-of-the-Mountains classification) since 1999. For the 5 years that the pass was on the Tour, the following cyclists have crossed the pass in the lead: [10]

In the 2013 Giro d'Italia, the pass was featured in the 15th stage on May 19, 2013.

Points of interest

See also

Notes

  1. Gianni Bisio, article from the newspaper la Stampa , 18 April 2001, p.51, Turin Chronicle.
  2. Webb, Diana (2002). Medieval European Pilgrimage C.700-c.1500. Macmillan International Higher Education. pp. 116, 128. ISBN   978-1-403-91380-7.
  3. Tom Reiss, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo (New York: Crown Publishers, 2012), chapter 12, "The Battle for the Top of the World," pp. 160-174.
  4. Collection de cartes anciennes des Pays de Savoie, 1562-1789, Archives départementales de la Savoie
  5. Italy after fascism: a political history, 1943-1963 . M. Casalini. 1964. p.  170.
  6. "RN6: A l'assaut du Mont-Cenis (III)". Surma-Route. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
  7. Lefebvre, Georges (2011). Napoleon . Routledge. p.  573. ISBN   978-1-136-80738-1.
  8. Ransom, P.J.G. (1999), The Mont Cenis Fell Railway, Twelveheads Press
  9. "Old road exposed : Col du Mont Cenis". Drive Europe. 24 April 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  10. Le dico du Tour - Le col du Mont-Cenis dans le Tour de France depuis 1947 (in French)

Related Research Articles

Cottian Alps

The Cottian Alps are a mountain range in the southwestern part of the Alps. They form the border between France and Italy (Piedmont). The Fréjus Road Tunnel and Fréjus Rail Tunnel between Modane and Susa are important transportation arteries between France and Italy (Turin).

Savoie Department of France in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Savoie is a department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of Southeastern France. Located in the French Alps, its prefecture is Chambéry. In 2017, Savoie had a population of 431,174.

Fréjus Road Tunnel

The Fréjus Road Tunnel is a tunnel that connects France and Italy. It runs under Col du Fréjus in the Cottian Alps between Modane in France and Bardonecchia in Italy. It is one of the major trans-Alpine transport routes between France and Italy being used for 80% of the commercial road traffic.

Fréjus Rail Tunnel

The Fréjus Rail Tunnel is a rail tunnel of 13.7 km (8.5 mi) length in the European Alps, carrying the Turin–Modane railway through Mont Cenis to an end-on connection with the Culoz–Modane railway and linking Bardonecchia in Italy to Modane in France. Its mean altitude is 1,123 m and it passes beneath the Pointe du Fréjus and the Col du Fréjus.

Germain Sommeiller

Germain Sommeiller was a civil engineer from Savoy. He directed the construction of the Fréjus Rail Tunnel between France and Italy, also known as the Mont Cenis Tunnel. This was the first of a series of major tunnels built in the late 19th century to connect northern and southern Europe through the Alps. Sommeiller pioneered the use of pneumatic drilling and dynamite to achieve record-breaking excavation speeds. This 12.8-km tunnel was completed on December 26, 1870, 11 years ahead of schedule. It remained the longest tunnel in the world until the opening of the Gotthard Rail Tunnel in 1882.

Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne Subprefecture and commune in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is a commune in the Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department.

Susa Valley

The Susa Valley is a valley in the Metropolitan City of Turin, Piedmont region of northern Italy, located between the Graian Alps in the north and the Cottian Alps in the south. It one of the longest valleys of the Italian Alps. It extends over 50 kilometres (31 mi) in an east-west direction from the French border to the outskirts of Turin. The valley takes its name from the city of Susa which lies in the valley. The Dora Riparia river, a tributary of the Po, flows through the valley.

Maurienne Former Savoy province

Maurienne is one of the provinces of Savoy, corresponding to the arrondissement of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in France. It is also the original name of the capital of the province, now Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.

Modane Commune in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Modane is a commune in the Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in southeastern France.

The Route nationale 6 is a trunk road (nationale) in France between Paris and the frontier with Italy in the Alps.

Turin–Modane railway

The Turin–Modane railway is the international rail connection from Turin, Italy to Modane, France. It passes through the Susa Valley and the Fréjus Rail Tunnel. Together with the French Culoz–Modane railway it is often called "Fréjus Railway" or "Mont Cenis Railway".

Col de Clapier

Col de Clapier is a 2,491-metre-high (8,173 ft) mountain pass over the mountain massif Mont Cenis in the Cottian Alps and Graian Alps between Savoy in France and Piemont in Italy. The bridle path goes from Bramans (1220 m) to Susa (503 m). There is no firm road.

The Mont d'Ambin base tunnel is the largest engineering work of the Lyon–Turin rail link project. Reconnaissance work began on the French side in 2002 with the excavation of access points at Modane, then Saint Martin la Porte (2003) and La Praz (2005), and on the Italian side in 2011 at La Maddalena. Construction has yet to start officially, but the 9 km reconnaissance gallery already tunneled from Saint Martin de la Porte towards Italy is bored along the axis of the South tube of the tunnel and at its final diameter. In March 2019, the Italians published calls for tender for tunneling of the French portion and in July 2019 for tunneling of their portion.

Culoz–Modane railway

The Culoz–Modane railway is a 135 kilometres long railway running from Culoz, near Chambéry, through Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Modane in France. Together with the Italian Turin–Modane railway it is often called "Fréjus Railway" or "Mont Cenis Railway".

Punta Bagnà

Punta Bagnà or Cime du Grand Vallon is a mountain of Savoie, France and of the Province of Turin, Italy. It lies in the Cottian Alps range. It has an elevation of 3,129 metres above sea level.

Turin–Lyon high-speed railway High speed rail under construction between Italy and France

The Turin–Lyon high-speed railway is a rail line under construction between the cities of Turin and Lyon. It is intended to link the Italian and French high-speed rail networks and will be 270 km (170 mi)-long. The core of the project is the Mont d'Ambin Base Tunnel, a 57.5 kilometres (35.7 mi)-long tunnel crossing the Alps between the Susa Valley in Piedmont and Maurienne in Savoie. That tunnel will be the longest rail tunnel in the world, ahead of the 57.1 km Gotthard Base Tunnel. It represents one third of the estimated overall cost of the project and is the only part of the line where work has started.

The Alpine rolling highway is a combined transport service, in the form of a rolling highway on special wagons traveling a distance of 175 km between France and Italy by the Mont Cenis Tunnel.

France–Italy border

The France–Italy border is the international boundary between France and Italy.

Fortified Sector of Savoy

The Fortified Section of Savoy(Secteur fortifié de la Savoie) was the French military organization that in 1940 controlled the section of the Alpine Line portion of the Maginot Line facing Italy in the Savoy region. The sector constituted part of the Alpine Line portion of the Maginot Line, between the Defensive Sector of the Rhône to the north, and the Fortified Sector of the Dauphiné to the south. The works combined a number of pre-1914 fortifications with Maginot-style ouvrages, with many forward-positioned cavern-style frontier stations or avant-postes that proved effective in holding invading forces near the order.

Signal du Petit Mont-Cenis Mountain in France

The Signal du Petit Mont-Cenis is a 3,162 m high mountain of the Cottian Alps.

References