Just to your right as you enter the Citadel, in the long building known as the Front Royal, is the Musée Comtois, a regional ethnological museum which “tells the story of the people and landscapes that shaped Franche-Comté over recent centuries.”
The name Franche-Comté means “Free County”, not because the common people were free — they weren’t — but because the region was no longer dominated by the adjoining region of Burgundy after the two were separated in 1477.
It turns out that the Franche-Comté was one of the last parts of France to abolish serfdom. In 1784, half the people in the Franche-Comté were still serfs, meaning that they had to work without pay for the local landowner in addition to farming their own plots of land. While serfdom was not exactly the same as slavery — a serf was not the private property of the landowner and could not be sold and sent off to some other part of the world — it was also a far cry from being free and self-determined.
This exhibit shows the geographical situation of Besançon, like a peninsula sitting in an amphitheater.
This exhibit is about keeping warm in the winter, which seems to have been a major concern of the common people in the Franche-Comté when they lived in drafty little huts in the countryside.
Location, aerial view and photos of the citadel on monumentum.fr.
My photos in this post are from 2014. I revised the text in 2019.
See more posts on Besançon, France.