Sebastien Le Prestre, Seigneur de Vauban

Lin Davidson

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Vauban and his time at School

Sébastien Le Prestre, Seigneur de Vauban was born in May 1633 in the Morvan, and it was in these surroundings that his infancy and his years of schooling took place. What we learn is that he was born into a small family of nobility in the first half of the 17th century.

The first skills Vauban would have acquired were reading, which one tackled in Latin texts, and writing, then simple arithmetic, elements that Sébastien probably studied at home with a tutor like is often the case of noble families. For his later studies, the child was sent to college at Carmes at Semur, which took nobles of the region, to follow the normal cycle of Humanities. The young students there studied grammar and syntax, always favouring the authors of Latin classics, and practising reciting and declamations. Some were pushed towards the rhetorical.

In scientific matters, the future engineer appeared to profit from this generation of progress born in the 16th century and his development of printing was greatly favoured. His advances are particularly notable in several areas like that of Geometry, arithmetic and analysis, and the students were initiated in modern algebra and physics.

The young Vauban could lend himself equally on applications following theories on hydraulics and mechanics as well as the art of planning, and also studied practical elements like the measuring of stones, without forgetting surveying and the method of gauging things by eye, drawing and draughtsmanship. Many amongst the children of noble lineage were destined to work with weapons and they could study in superior classes in the art of fortification. These apprenticeships had been necessary since the appearance of modern fortifications which required master builders with new knowledge. Of his years of studies, Vauban spoke little of but did say, in summing up his duties in writing at the end of his career, when asked by the king, that he had received “a fairly good smattering of mathematics and fortifications, and was not bad at drawing either".

Vauban's Fortifications

Between 1667 and 1707, Vauban upgraded the fortifications of around 300 cities, including Antibes (Fort Carré), Arras, Auxonne, Barraux, Bayonne, Belfort, Bergues, Besançon, Bitche, Blaye, Briançon, Bouillon, Calais, Cambrai, Colmars-les-Alpes, Entrevaux, Gravelines, Huningue, Joux, Kehl, Landau, Le Quesnoy, Lille, Lusignan, Le Perthus (Fort de Bellegarde), Luxembourg, Maastricht, Maubeuge, Metz, Mont-Dauphin, Mont-Louis, Montmédy, Naarden, Namur, Neuf-Brisach, Perpignan, Plouezoc'h (Château du Taureau), Rocroi, Saarlouis, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Saint-Omer, Sedan, Toul, Villefranche-de-Conflent (town and Fort Liberia), Ypres

He directed the building of 37 new fortresses, and fortified military harbours, including Ambleteuse, Brest, Dunkerque, Rochefort, Saint-Jean-de-Luz (Fort Socoa), Saint-Martin-de-Ré, Toulon, Wimereux, Le Portel, and Cézembre.

This article was written by Lin Davidson, who is a major contributor to various web sites about Serre Chevalier , a ski resort in The French Alps. Lin's own blog, about life in France came about because she has kept a daily journal about living in France since leaving England in 2002.

Lin is also a founder of Serre Chevalier Property , a site about buying property in The French Alps.


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