As part of a series specially devoted to French sites recognized as World Heritage by UNESCO, we invite you to discover one by one the exceptional French destinations, preserved as heritage of humanity. So we continue this series with a site recognized in 1982, the saltworks of Salins-les-Bains and Arc-et-Senans.
En Franche-Comté, in the Jura for one and the Doubs for the other, the great saltworks of Salins-les-Bains et the royal saltworks of Arc-et-Senans are witnesses to the little-known history of French salt production. This activity has long been at the heart of major political and strategic issues. From prehistory to the Middle Ages and the famous salt tax, white gold has indeed been a major element of the economy. The saltworks of Salins-les-Bains and Arc-et-Senans are now a sumptuous example of what was the extraction and salt production. The workers pumped the brines underground. They then used fire for crystallization.
The royal saltworks of Arc-et-Senans
In the heart of a green setting of 8 hectares, the royal saltworks of Arc-et-Senans was built at the request of Louis XV at the end of the XNUMXth century. For the first time in history, a factory was built with the same care and architectural quality as a palace. The royal saltworks was both an industrial building and a place of life. Most of the people working there lived on the site. Houses, stables, cooperage, warehouses and production sites were brought together in one place.
“The saline was the heart of an Ideal City that Claude Nicolas Ledoux imagined and designed in a circle around the factory. Unfinished constructive utopia, the saline today retains all its message for the future. "
The great saltworks of Salines-les-Bains
The great saltworks of Salines-les-Bains can be proud of its long history which spans 1200 years. Since the XNUMXth century, the people of Salins-les-Bains have extracted salt by evaporation of salt water. This water was captured in the naturally salty springs of the valley of Salins-les-Bains. And this manna of salt has made the region rich. Indeed, without the salt, the forts, towns and thermal baths would not have existed. And without the salt, there would have been no Comté on our tables at the end of the meals either!
In addition, the saline presents remarkable architectural elements. The 165 meters of the XNUMXth century vaulted gallery are impressive. Particularly innovative technical elements are still in operation. The XNUMXth century bucket wheel placed on the river is still active. It even continues to drive a 32-meter pendulum and a pump that draws salt water from the depths. But beyond technical prowess, the salt works have witnessed social advances since the XNUMXth century. Today the saltworks welcome many visitors each year. They host festivals, artist residencies, cultural and sporting events, conferences and seminars.