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Belfort (bāfôrˈ, bĕ–, bĕl–), city, capital of the Territory of Belfort (a department), E France, in Alsace. An important industrial and transportation center, it has large cotton mills and metalworks. A major fortress town since the 17th cent., it commands the Belfort Gap, or Burgundy Gate, between the Vosges and the Jura mts., thus dominating the roads from France, Switzerland, and Germany. An Austrian possession, Belfort passed to France by the Peace of Westphalia (1648) and was fortified by Vauban. During the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71) the garrison withstood a siege of 108 days. Partly in acknowledgment of this heroism, the Germans left Belfort and the surrounding territory to France when they annexed the rest of Alsace. The many Alsatians who then took refuge in the town contributed significantly to its industrial growth. The siege is commemorated by a huge statue, the Lion of Belfort, by Bartholdi.
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1. Territoire de . a department of E France, now in Franche-Comté region: the only part of Alsace remaining to France after 1871. Capital: Belfort. Pop.: Pop.: 139 383 (2003 est.). Area: 608 sq. km (237 sq. miles)
2. a fortress town in E France: strategically situated in the Belfort Gap between the Vosges and the Jura mountains. Pop.: 50 417 (1999)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005