View of Ornans, Gustave Courbet
Architecture, Museums and Historic Monuments
Salins-les-Bains is situated in the narrow valley of the Furieuse near the immense Chaux Forest and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Once a key strategic spot on the road to Switzerland, the spa town and salt producing centre is watched over on one side by Fort St André, reinforced by the renowned Vauban, and on the other side by Fort Belin.
Salins-les-Bains is best known for it's Great Saltworks, active for at least 1200 years. Centuries ago, salt was crucial for much food preservation, and by the XVII century, it was one of the most sought after products available. It was control over the production of this valuable commodity that made the local Chalon family very rich and powerful. The old workings of the Great Saltworks are now open to show the vast internal mechanisms of it's underground chambers. From 1780 to 1895, its salt water travelled through 21 km of wood pipes to the Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans.
The Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans was built during the reign of Louis XVI and is the modern and Utopian extension of the Great Saltworks of Salins-les-Bains. Built by Claude Nicolas Ledoux, it was the first major achievement of industrial architecture, reflecting the ideal of progress in the Age of Enlightenment. The vast, semicircular complex was designed to permit a rational and hierarchical organization of work and was to have been followed by the building of an ideal city, whose unfinished Utopian architecture still carries the full impact of its futuristic message.
The saltworks in Salins-les-Bains and Arc-et-Senans are UNESCO world treasures and demonstrate an uninterrupted, chronological timeframe during which the extraction of salt continued in Salins, certainly from the Middle Ages, and probably from prehistoric times, through to the 20th century. Spa activity has extended its use to the present.
Middle Age Bridge near Le musee Courbet