2008 World Monuments Watch
Commissioned by Vittorio Amedeo, Duke of Savoy, following his coronation as King of Sicily in 1713, Fenestrelle Fortress was intended to serve as an impenetrable barrier for Italy in the eighteenth century. Between 1728 and 1850, what had once been a modest construction known as Fort Mutin was transformed into this monumental symbol of strength and power, said to be the largest military construction in the world after the Great Wall of China. It is no more than three kilometers long, covering an area of almost four square kilometers. The fortress is composed of different sections- including the San Carlo Fortress, the Royal Port, the Fortress Tre Denti, the Delle Valli Fortress, the Carlo Alberto Redoubt, and the Governor’s Palace. It contains multiple buildings, churches, and museums, and is surrounded by what is now the Orsiera Rocciavre National Park, with some 11,000 hectares of forest and wildlife terrain. Only a few of these areas are open to the public, but more than 50,000 visitors come to the site annually.
The Fenestrelle Fortress ceased its military function in 1947, and since then has been subject to pillaging, erosion, structural damage, natural aging, water penetration, and vegetation overgrowth. Although measures have been taken in the past 15 years to raise money to repair and maintain the structure, the immensity of the site and the lack of sufficient funding have resulted in the conservation of only a small portion of the fortress. It is hoped that listing will draw greater attention to the plight of this magnificent “Great Wall of the Alps.”