French military engineer of the French army, in the early 19th century


Auguste-Théodore Garnot was a Lieutenant Colonel of the Corps of Engineers in France, creator and first commander of the Fortification and Architecture Corps (i.e. the Corps of Engineers) of the Greek Army in Greece.

He was born on June 29, 1796, in Brest, Brittany, France. His father was named François and he worked as a Commissioner in the French Navy. His mother’s name was Jeanne Claudine Laugée.

Auguste-Théodore Garnot studied at the famous Polytechnic School in Paris.

In October 1827, while Kapodistrias was still in Paris, he asked his friend, and a French Ministry of War official, Count Nicolas Loverdos, to help him send a team of technical experts from France to Greece for the reconstruction of the cities, the creation of a road network and the restoration of ancient monuments. Kapodistrias also requested the deployment of a small number of French officers, who would be used as military advisers.

Kapodistrias’s request was accepted and at the suggestion of the French Minister of War, a team of engineers was sent to Greece. It included Stamatis Voulgaris, who was originally from the Ionian Islands, and the graduates of the Polytechnic School of Paris, Auguste-Théodore Garnot and the geographer Jean-Pierre-Eugéne-Félic Péytier. A little later Jean-Henri Pauzié-Banne, first commander of the Central War School in Nafplio (Military School of Cadets) followed. It is indeed true that training in the field of architecture was at an infantile level in Greece at that time.

French military engineer geographer of the French army, early 19th century

The Map of the Morea of 1832 (by Captain Pierre Peytier), the first map of the Greek territory ever drawn scientifically and according to geodetic principles (collection SHP)

Auguste-Théodore Garnot arrived in Greece in mid-1828, following Stamatis Voulgaris, a French Army officer, former classmate and personal friend of Kapodistrias, who had already arrived in January. The first project undertaken by the then Captain Garnot, together with Voulgaris, was the design of the city of Tripoli. They also began to design together the city of Corinth, but Garnot continued on his own. Bulgaris dealt with the cities of Nafplio and Patras. Kapodistrias instructed Garnot to get involved in the planning of Patras, according to specific instructions that we find today in the Archives of Kapodistrias in Corfu.

In addition, Kapodistrias entrusted Garnot with the formation of the Corps of Engineers, within the Central School of War, which was named Corps of Fortification and Architecture Officers, according to the corresponding French standards. The Corps was instituted on July 28, 1829, with decrees nos. 13559 and 13958, published in the General Gazette on August 17, 1828. According to Maro Kardamitsi-Adami and her research in the Archives of Kapodistrias in Corfu, these decrees were originally drafted in French by Garnot himself. Garnot was later promoted to lieutenant colonel and became the first commander of the Corps, assisted by another French officer. The new Corps was expected to consist of 20 members, 12 of whom would be officers: one Major, four Captains, three Lieutenants, three second Lieutenants and eight project supervisors.

Garnot initially managed to find six persons to staff the Corps (decree no. 13560), five of whom were Greeks who had studied engineering in Europe: Emmanuel Manitakis and Emmanuel Kallergis, who had studied in France. Theodoros Vallianos with studies in Russia, the Swiss De Vaud, and Dimitrios Stavridis with studies in Austria. Some of them were private individuals who were assigned to the ranks of officers at the time of the award. Governor Kapodistrias also appointed Stefanos Isaias, who studied in Italy. These officers were placed in various fortresses of the Peloponnese.

Their mission, under the supervision and guidance of Garnot, was to prepare reports and plans for the construction, maintenance or improvement of fortifications, military and civil buildings, road construction, as well as the supervision of various building projects. The plans drawn up by the officers, were checked for their conformity and endorsed by the head of the Corps, Auguste-Théodore Garnot. Then they were submitted to the Governor for approval. It was a reputable body, the members of which received high salaries.

From this Engineer Corps of the Central War School graduated the first architects – engineers of Greece, who then, for about half a century, worked hard for the urban modernization of the country. The first officer was Lieutenant Spyridon Trikoupis, who was admitted to the school on February 4, 1829 and graduated on August 18, 1832. For a long time one could study architecture in Greece, only at the Central School of War, as the Polytechnic University and the Academy of Arts had not yet been established.

Plan of Patras by Stamatis Voulgaris and Auguste-Théodore Garnot

This informal situation, that is, the execution of urban civil works by the military, ceased to exist officially in 1878, when a Civil Engineers Corps was created, which joined the Public Works Service of the Ministry of Interior. Therefore, until that year, the term engineer covered the specialty of both military and civil architect-engineer. The level of training of engineers at the Central School of War was so high that Telemachos Vlassopoulos, the first to introduce the term “civil engineer” into the Greek language, in a 1859 article presenting the military schools of France, did not hesitate to state that studies provided in Greece were higher than those of the “École centrale des arts et manufactures” of Paris. Moreover, almost all the graduate engineers of the Central School of War, were following post-graduate studies in France.

In 1830 Theodoros Vallianos replaced Colonel Garnot who returned to France. A little later, the commandment was taken over by Count de Schaumbourg, who remained commander of the Corps even after the death of Kapodistrias.

The French influence exerted by the French officers of the Corps of Engineers in the School of Engineering of the Military School of Cadets, was important and timeless. Undoubtedly, the first city plans drawn up by Garnot and Voulgaris, as well as the plans of other engineers who came to strengthen the Expeditionary Corps of General Maison, contributed in this direction. Audoy and Peytier, for example, decisively influenced Greek engineers and laid the foundations of modern urban planning. The work performed by Greek and French engineers, under the supervision of Garnot, was unique for the whole Peloponnese and Aegina. In fact, as it is well known, the Governor wanted to use the French engineers also for the reconstruction of Central Greece.

Auguste-Théodore Garnot continued his career in France and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He died on March 10, 1869 in Bordeaux, at the age of 73.

He was awarded the medal of the Knight of the Legion of Honor in France on April 10, 1832 and the Officer of the Legion of Honor on April 22, 1847. He was also awarded the medal of the Knight of St. Louis on October 30, 1829. In Greece he was awarded the medal of the Knight of Golden Cross of the Order of the Redeemer on May 2, 1836.



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