La forteresse / Die Festung / The Fortress Luxembourg
Because of its strategic position, Luxembourg was, from the 16th century until 1867 when its walls were dismantled, one of Europe's greatest fortified sites.
It was repeatedly reinforced as it passed from one great European power to another: the Holy Roman Emperors, House of Burgundy, Habsburgs, French and Spanish kings, and finally the Prussians.
Until their partial demolition, the fortifications were a fine example of military architecture spanning several centuries.
The City of Luxembourg is located at the crossing point of two major Roman roads. In 963 Sigefroid, a count from the Moselle valley, built a castle on the Rocher du Bock, which he obtained by means of an exchange with the Abbey of St Maximin of Trier.
His servants and soldiers settled around the castle and the modern town sprang from the market-place of this settlement, the Vieux Marché.
The town had grown to such an extent that a second defensive wall was built around the end of the 12th century, to be superseded in the 15th century when a third line of defences was built.
By the 16th century, Luxembourg had become a strategic and military prize. The House of Burgundy, the Habsburgs, the French and Spanish kings or the Holy Roman Emperors all wanted Luxembourg.
Throughout this period the defences were continuously extended and improved, making it into a fortress that earned the title 'Gibraltar of the North'.
With the signature of the Treaty of London in 1867, the European powers confirmed the perpetual neutrality of the Grand Duchy and, in consequence, the evacuation of the fortress within three months and the demolition of the fortifications.
This turned a grim fortress of some 180 ha into an open city.