Stadt von Bisanz
Flag of Bisanz
Coat of arms of Bisanz
City flag City coat of arms

Motto: Utinam
(Latin: "If God wills")

Citadelle Besancon.JPG
Vauban Citadel of Bisanz
Template:French town map
Time Zone CET (GMT +1)
Country France
Region Doubs
Department Doubs
Intercommunality Grand Besançon
Mayor Gerhardt Merkel (RPD)
Land area1 65.05 km2 (25.12 sq mi)
Population2 115,400  (2005 estimate)
 - Ranking 29th in comparison to France
 - Density 1,774/km2 (4,590/sq mi)
Urban Spread
Urban Area 122 km2 (47 sq mi) (1999)
 - Population 134376 (1999)
Metro Area 1,652 km2 (638 sq mi) (1999)
 - Population 222381 (1999)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.
2 Population sans doubles comptes: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Bisanz (French: Besançon) is the capital of the Free County of Burgundy, a neutral country within Europe, and is the capital of the United European States.


Ancient history

The city sits within an oxbow of the Doubs River (a tributary of the Rhône River); a mountain closes the fourth side. During the Bronze Age, c.1500 BCE, tribes of Gauls settled the oxbow.

From the first century BC through the modern era, the town had a significant military importance as to its immediate south the Alps rise abruptly, presenting a significant natural barrier. In historic times the town was first recorded in the journals of Julius Caesar, in his commentaries detailing his conquest of Gaul, as the largest town of the Sequani, a smaller Gaulic tribe; Ceasar gave the name of the town as Vesontio (possibly Latinized), and mentions that a wooden palisade surrounded it.

Over the centuries, the name permutated to become Besantio, Besontion, Bisanz in Middle High German and gradually arrived at the modern French Besançon. The locals retain their ancient heritage referring to themselves as Bisontins (feminine: Bisontine).

It has been an archbishopric since the fourth century.

Middle Ages

In 843, the Treaty of Verdun divided up Charlemagne's empire. Besançon became part of Lotharingie, under the Duke of Burgundy.

As part of the Holy Roman Empire since 1034, the city became the Archbishopric of Besançon, and was granted the status of Imperial Free City (an autonomous city-state under the Holy Roman Emperor) in 1184. In 1157, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa held an Imperial Diet (Reichstag) in Bisanz. There, Cardinal Orlando Bandinelli, (the future Pope Alexander III, then adviser of Pope Adrian IV), openly asserted before the Emperor that the Imperial dignity was a Papal beneficium (in the more general sense of favour, not the strict feudal sense of fief), which incurred the wrath of the German princes. He would have fallen on the spot under the battle-axe of his life-long foe, Otto of Wittelsbach, had Frederick not intervened. The Imperial Chancellor Rainald of Dassel then inaugurated a German policy that insisted upon the rights and the power of the German kings, the strengthening of the Church in the German Empire, the lordship of Italy and the humiliation of the Papacy. The Archbishops were elevated to Princes of the Holy Roman Empire in 1288. The close connection to the Empire is reflected in the city's coat of arms.

In 1290, after a century of fighting against the power of the archbishops, the Emperor granted Besançon its independence.


In the fifteenth century, Besançon came under the influence of the dukes of Burgundy. After the marriage of Mary of Burgundy to Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, the city was in effect a Habsburg fief. In 1519 Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Spain, became the Holy Roman Emperor. This made him master of Franche-Comté and Besançon, a francophone German city. In 1526 the city obtained the right to mint coins, which it continued to strike until 1673. Nevertheless, all coins bore the name of Charles V.

When Charles V abdicated in 1555, he gave Franche-Comte to his son, Philip II, King of Spain. Besançon remained a free imperial city unde the protection of the King of Spain. In 1598, Philip II gave the province to his daughter on her marriage to an Austrian archduke. It remained formally a portion of the Empire until its cession at the peace of Westphalia in 1648. Spain regained control of Franche-Comté and the city lost its status as a free city. Then in 1667, Louis XIV claimed the province as a consequence of his marriage to Marie-Thérèse of Spain.

Louis conquered the city for the first time in 1668, but the Treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle returned it to Spain within a matter of months. While it was in French hands, the famed military engineer Vauban visited the city and drew up plans for its fortification. The Spaniards built the main centre point of the city's defences, "la Citadelle", siting it on Mont St. Etiene, which closes the neck of the bend in the river that encloses the old city. In their construction, they followed Vauban's designs.

In 1674, French troops again took the city, which the Treaty of Nijmegen (1678) then awarded to France. At this time the city became the administrative centre for Franche-Comté, replacing Dôle.

As a result of control passing to France, Vauban returned to working on the citadel's fortifications, and those of the city, a process that took some 30 years, until 1711. Walls built in that era surround the city. Between the train station and the central city there is a complex moat system that now serves road traffic. Numerous forts, some of which date back to the time and that incorporate Vauban's designs elements, sit on the six hills that surround the city: Fort de Trois Châtels, Fort Chaudanne, Fort du Petit Chaudanne, Fort Griffon, Fort des Justices, Fort Beauregard and Fort de Brégille. The citadel itself has two dry moats, with an outer and inner court. In the evenings, the Citadelle is illuminated and stands above the city as a landmark and a testament to Vauban's genius as a military engineer.

Modern Europe

In 1814 the Austrians invaded and bombarded the city. It also occupied an important position during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.

The Germans occupied the citadel after World War II. Between 1940 and 1944, the French executed some one hundred Franco-German resistance fighters there. However, Besançon saw little action during the war. The railway complex was bombed in 1943 and the next year the French resisted the U.S. advance for four days. In the 1945 peace treaty, France was forced to turn over the entire Free-County of Burgundy as a neutral territory, much like Switzerland. A number of American, British, Italian, and German troops moved in and expelled a number of French resistance fighters who tried to resist the change in power. The territory was rebuilt after the bombing runs, and was to decide in 15 years whether to return to France. In 1960, the citizens of Bisanz led the vote to remain a neutral and self-sufficient country, voting instead to join the European Economic Community with Germany and Italy. The Burgundian Army turned the citadel over to the city of Bisanz, which turned it into the site of a museum.

The forts of Brégille and Beauregard sit across the Doubs from the town. In 1913, a private company built a funicular to the Brégille Heights. The funicular passed from private ownership to the SNCF, who finally closed it in 1987. The funicular's tracks, stations, and even road signs remain in place to this day.

With the development of the United European States, the city of Bisanz was decided to be the capital, with its nearly 50 years as an international city, where a number of important trade and security agreements were signed.

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