Sisteron

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Sisteron  is a commune in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region in southeastern France.

Sisteron is situated on the banks of the River Durance just after the confluence of the rivers Buech and Sasse. It is sometimes called the “Gateway to Provence” because it is in a narrow gap between two long mountain ridges. It is 135 km (84 mi) from Marseille, also 135 km (84 mi) from Grenoble, 180 km (110 mi) from Nice and 40 km (25 mi) from Forcalquier. There are 1573 hectares of forest and wood within the commune.

History : Sisteron has been inhabited for 4000 years. The Romans used the route through Sisteron as can be shown by a Latin inscription in the rocks near the road to Authon. It escaped the barbarian invasions after the fall of Rome, but was ravaged by the Saracens. It was first fortified by the Counts of Forcalquier in the 11th century and later was the northern boundary of the domain of the Counts of Provence. In 1483 during the reign of Louis XI, Sisteron re-joined the kingdom of France. Around this time there were seven plagues that killed two thirds of the population. Between 1562 and 1594 the town and its citadelle was fought over by Protestants and Catholics including two sieges. During this time the walls of the town were built. During the French Revolution the town remained Royalist. Consequently, when Napoleon arrived on his march north after his escape from Elba in 1815, the town ignored him and let him through.

On 15 August 1944 French B-26 Marauder bombers and American B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 42nd Bomber Wing tried to destroy the railway bridge and the road bridge which span the Durance. The weather was unfavorable and the bridges were not destroyed. A bomber during a manoeuvre to avoid a collision accidentally dropped several bombs on the town, including a full church, causing about 100 fatalities and seriously damaging the citadel. On 17 August the French aircraft returned and destroyed the bridges.

Access : Coordinates:44.1911, 5.9472 / Sisteron is served by the A51 autoroute, which now by-passes the town, eliminating it as a notorious ‘bottle-neck’ for traffic. There is also a railway station on the line from Marseille to Briancon and Grenoble.

Highlights :

The town’s buildings include the citadel and the 12th century former Sisteron Cathedral dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Thyrsus (Cathedrale Notre Dame des Pommiers et Saint Thyrse). There are three museums of note: the Citadel Museum, the Baden-Powell Scout Museum and Musee Terre & Temps (about the earth and the measurement of time) Tourist attractions include the countryside, the lido and the airfields at Vaumeilh, La Motte-du-Caire and Chateau-Arnoux-Saint-Auban, which are dedicated to the sport of gliding.

Events : There is an annual festival with many events throughout the summer months. There is a market every Wednesday. A long distance walk, the GR 6 (Grande Randonnee) passes east–west through Sisteron.

Activities : sightseeing / photo opportunities / trekking

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