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Floor plan and profile of an ideal typical fortress with works in different manners and the associated technical terms

A fortress is generally a place that is heavily fortified by fortifications . In the narrower sense, fortress in modern times refers to an independent, mostly well-structured defense system made of strong masonry , later also made of concrete , which serves to protect against enemy firearms (especially artillery ) while the defenders use defensive firearms at the same time . Fortresses of this type were built in response to the use of heavy powder guns from the 15th century and were common until the mid-20th century. They could serve to secure the border or the coast, form the starting point of an offensive and take on retreating armies. In addition, some fortresses were used as administrative headquarters, prisons or repositories for state reserves of money or precious metals.

The origin of the terms fortress , fortification and festival can be found in the Middle High German adjective veste in the sense of “constant”, “hard”, “strong”, which developed into the New High German solid . A comparable word origin is given for fortification and fort , which go back to the Latin fortis for “solid”, “strong”, “strong”.

The property of a castle or fortress to be secured against violent intrusion by ladder attacks was formerly known as storm -free (the term later changed to the name for the height of the rampart of a fortress above its foundation).


The ground plan and profile of a fortress were based on the lines of fire of the firearms used for defense, which largely avoided blind spots. It was made up of different works , including individual fortifications such as bastions or ramparts . There were also barracks , ammunition stores , armories and other garrison buildings . A fortress could also include a civil area.

Fortresses were built according to individual fortification systems called manners . In most cases, these were specific implementations of the bastionary , tenenille or polygonal system . The six most important manners with which the fortification epochs of the 16th to 19th centuries can be distinguished from one another are

  • the old and new Italian,
  • the Old and Netherlandish and
  • the old and new Prussian or new German or new Austrian.

Many of the fortifications that have been preserved show elements of different manners, as advances in weapons technology repeatedly forced structural adjustments.

The only significant criterion for defining a fortress is the systematic focus on fighting with and against artillery . In addition to cities, castles , palaces and monasteries could also be expanded into fortresses. Since it was necessary to take into account the existing building structure and the topographical conditions, usually only the construction of a new fortress in flat terrain offered the possibility of ideal-typical implementation of a manner.

History of the modern fortress

First artillery fortifications

The fortress Rosenberg above Kronach , Bavaria, where the German fortress museum was set up
Huge fortress moats and a total of four roundabouts (here the south roundabout) protect Querfurt Castle , Saxony-Anhalt

Up until the late Middle Ages , the defensive potential of castles and fortified cities largely depended on the height of their walls and towers. As early as the late 14th century, this basic defense principle was called into question, because at this time heavy bombards appeared that fired large stone balls. The range of bombards was initially very short and their transport extremely laborious, but the castle and city ​​walls , which are very high in relation to their strength, could easily be destroyed with these primitive cannons . In the course of the 15th century the range and firepower of the bombards increased significantly. Thus, from May 1449 to August 1450 , French troops under Charles VII were able to conquer over seventy English bases in Normandy with the help of bombs , since the setting up of the guns was enough threat. The cities surrendered in rows without a shot having to be fired.

The European builders initially only reacted to this development with a modification of the medieval fortifications. The walls were made lower and reinforced by a wide rampart that served as a gun platform. Earth gained in importance as a building material because it dampens the momentum of the projectiles (see plastic impact ). Wooden superstructures were removed from walls and towers as they were an easy target. The medieval castle tower was transformed into a truncated cone-shaped , massive gun turret, the Rondell . Roundels had rooms with large loopholes through which guns could fire. Heavy firearms were also placed on top of the roundabout. However, these changes in the construction of fortifications were not sufficient, as they merely represented an extension of previous building principles. Querfurt Castle is an example of a completely preserved rondeled castle from the early modern period with a total of four rondels.

The reinforced fortifications that were built towards the end of the late Middle Ages primarily increased passive defense and only delayed the fall of a town or castle. Only a few cannons could be placed in the roundabouts, as the powder vapor remained in the casemates for a relatively long time and made visibility and breathing difficult. In the area in front of a roundabout there was a blind spot that could not be shot at by the defenders and was therefore a preferred starting point for enemy undermining attempts . For this purpose engineering troops like the miners were used. Roundels formed independent fortifications and were not designed to flank one another. A fortification was necessary that offered a stable platform for numerous artillery pieces, had no space removed from the fire and whose works could offer flank protection.

Origins of the bastionary system

Fortress Hohensalzburg , seat of the Prince Archbishop, core of the High Middle Ages, bastions without a star system from the time of the Thirty Years War

A solution to these defensive problems was found in Italy . As early as 1452, Leon Battista Alberti proposed in his treatise De Re Aedificatoria to build fortifications according to a sawtooth-like pattern, which forms a star-shaped floor plan. In the further course of the 15th century, other Italian architectural theorists developed similar concepts, hence the name of the new fortress construction as trace Italianne , but initially they received little attention. A decisive development began in 1487 when the architect Giuliano da Sangallo was commissioned to fortify Poggio Imperiale . He planned the construction of ten angled bastions that protruded far from the fortress walls. The two front sides of a bastion, called facen , converged in the bastion corner, the saillant . The two shorter rear sides, designated as flanks , formed a right angle with the ramparts . If they were arranged at regular intervals, bastions could offer each other the best possible fire protection, whereby there was no dead angle due to their tapering ground plan. That is why regular polygons established themselves as the ideal form of fortresses.

The beginning of the Italian wars in 1494 accelerated the development of the bastioned fortifications. The French army under King Charles VIII, which had invaded northern Italy, carried cannons cast from bronze with them, with which iron balls were fired. In terms of mobility, firepower, and rate of fire, they were superior to bombards. The French troops were able to advance into southern Italy unhindered, taking numerous towns and castles after a brief bombardment, provided that their garrisons did not surrender without a fight. Antonio da Sangallo , the younger brother of Giuliano, was in the same year by Pope Alexander VI. entrusted with the renovation of the fort of Civita Castellana . Antonio da Sangallo had the fort provided with a roundabout and four bastions.

From 1501 to 1503 a bastion fort was built in the papal port city of Nettuno according to plans by Giuliano da Sangallo. The bastions at the corners of the square fort showed a major innovation. The rear part of the bastion flanks was withdrawn and the front part rounded, creating the so-called orillon . The orillon covered the withdrawn flank, which was difficult to see for the besiegers. The retracted flanks possessed protected stocked casemates, then enemy troops that during a storm attack on the wall portion between two bulwarks of the curtain wall , were subjected to a severe crossfire. In contrast to his brother Giuliano, Antonio da Sangallo had bastions with angled orillons built in later buildings.

Further developments go back to the Veronese architect Michele Sanmicheli , who shaped the old Italian manner of fortress construction. Sanmicheli was temporarily in papal service and made the acquaintance of the Sangallos, whose approaches to a bastionary system he adopted. After the Sacco di Roma of 1527 he returned to the Republic of Venice , where in 1530 he was commissioned to fortify his hometown of Verona. Sanmicheli had ramparts and bastions built both low and deep. Only the outer side of the fortifications consisted of masonry , which was reinforced by supporting pillars and filled with earth. To make it more difficult to storm the relatively low fortifications, they were surrounded by a wide moat . In the retreated flanks there were two gun platforms on different levels, which increased the sideways firepower of the bastions.

Development of the New Italian manner

The neuitalienische manner of the fortifications, late 16th century. a : Retracted flank with orillon b : Ravelin c : Cavalier g : Covered path w : weapon place
Orsoy fortress (expansion around 1650)
Palmanova as the ideal city in the shape of a star after Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg

Up until the late 16th century, bastion fortifications were supplemented by other, basic elements, which led to the emergence of the New Italian manner. In 1556, Nicolo Tartaglia suggested in his Quesiti et Inventioni diverse that a wide path be dug on the outer edge of the moat in which infantrymen could post themselves. An embankment sloping towards the enemy, the glacis , covered the path and at the same time the low walls and bastions. Pietro Cataneo increased the usefulness of the covered path by adding arsenals that served as assembly points for a large number of soldiers. These could form particularly strong pockets of resistance or cause a failure.

The bastions were significantly enlarged and arranged at intervals that corresponded to the range of the guns of the time. Works made of earth called cavaliers formed a raised gun platform on the bastions. In addition, ravelins were built in the trenches in front of all curtains , which consisted of two converging faces. At their back, the throat , they were wide enough to fire up the entire section of the trench between the bastions. The ramparts, the ravelins and the covered path formed three lines of defense, which ensured the depth of the fighting area necessary for an effective artillery fortification.

With the emergence of the bastionary system in Italy in the 16th century, there was a lot of building activity. Numerous cities received a complete wall of bastion fortifications, but a regular, polygonal ground plan could mostly only be realized in newly built ideal cities . In cities such as Ancona , Florence and Turin also were citadels built that formed not only the strongest part of a fortified city, but should be understood as a symbol of royal authority. Following the example of the buildings by Francesco Paciotto , the pentagon prevailed as the basic shape of the citadel. Another defense concept was the Palazzo in fortezza , the fortified palace. Such a building, the Palazzo Farnese , was built in Caprarola between 1559 and 1573 .

The construction of artillery fortifications was associated with enormous costs and time. According to plans from 1537 , the wall around the Vatican City should include eighteen large bastions, but this number had to be reduced significantly in 1542 for cost reasons. The work was not completed until the 17th century. The fortress construction had devastating consequences for the Republic of Siena , which began in 1553 with the bastion of seventeen cities and spent a large part of its budget on it. When a Spanish invasion army advanced to Siena in 1554 , most of the fortifications were still under construction, and the Sienese now lacked the financial means to set up a powerful army. The republic was fully conquered by 1555.

Fortress construction in the Netherlands

The Dutch fortified village of Bourtange was built during the Eighty Years War to cut off the Spanish-occupied Groningen from the outside world

In 1568 the Dutch rose against the rule of the Spanish Habsburgs , which triggered the Eighty Years War . The rebels saw themselves forced to fortify their bases quickly, which led to the development of the old Dutch manner while adapting to the topographical conditions. First, the Dutch built ramparts and dug trenches behind the medieval walls of their cities, as was the case with the siege of Haarlem in 1572 . Soon afterwards they started building bastions and ravelins made of earth in the Italian style in front of the city walls. Since the end of the 16th century, the Dutch fortifications were built entirely of earth, covered with turf and surrounded by moats. This last stage of development had already occurred in 1533 with the fortification of Breda by Henry III. indicated in advance by Nassau . The Dutch fortress, which completely dispensed with masonry, was given a theoretical foundation by authors such as Simon Stevin , whom Moritz von Orange appointed quartermaster-general.

In addition to the use of earth as the only building material for fortifications, there were other special features. To make it impossible for opposing troops to use scaling ladders , sharp wooden stakes were rammed into the fortifications, the so-called storm posts . To better control the moat, the ramparts and bastions were surrounded by a path and an additional, lower protective wall, the Fausse-Braie . The Dutch engineers always took into account the range of muskets , so they arranged bastions at closer intervals than was customary in the New Italian manner. As a rule, the bastions were neither casemated nor provided with recessed flanks. Another fundamental characteristic of the Dutch fortress construction was the construction of numerous external works, including horn works and crown works . Then there were the demi-lunes , which were built in the moat in front of the bastions. A second, narrower moat, the Avant-Fosse , surrounded the glacis.

Moritz von Orange had cities such as Coevorden converted into ideal fortresses in the old Dutch manner. In addition, in 1599 the Dutch built a cordon of entrenchments along the Waal and Maas rivers to protect them from the attacks of the Spaniards from 's-Hertogenbosch . In the winter of 1605 the cordon was extended to the IJssel . The entrenchments were small earth fortifications that were connected by walls. In the event of impending danger, their crews warned the bases in the hinterland by shooting or signaling fire.

The maintenance of the fortifications, which were built without masonry, was extremely time-consuming. They were only suitable for permanent use to a limited extent, so that they can be classified more as well-developed field fortifications . On the other hand, they could be built within a short time with a comparatively low financial outlay. In addition, the earth fortifications with their wide moats offered great defensive potential. Due to these advantages, the old Dutch manner was very popular in the course of the 17th century, especially in northern Europe, where bricks and stones were expensive building materials. In 1630 the most important of the German-language treatises on fortifications in the Netherlands, the Architectura Militaris Nova et Aucta by Adam Freitag, appeared .

Spread of the bastioned fortifications


Aerial view of Neuf-Brisach

During the reign of Francis I , the bastionary system was also spread in France. In 1534 Franz hired the Italian engineer Girolamo Marini , who had previously worked for Pope Clement VII . Within a few years, the number of Italian builders in the French service rose to over a hundred. Under the direction of Marini, they bastioned several fortresses in northern France, including Maubert-Fontaine , Mézières and Mouzon . After French troops had taken Luxembourg in 1543 , Marini had the city equipped with artillery fortifications, but Emperor Charles V was able to recapture it the following year. The town of Vitry-en-Perthois, which was destroyed by Charles's troops on this campaign, was rebuilt as a fortress town at another location and renamed Vitry-le-François in honor of Francis I. By the middle of the 16th century, French engineers had also familiarized themselves with the bastioned method of fortification. In 1552 , Major General François de Scépeaux commissioned the Sieur de Saint-Rémy with the fortification of Verdun .

During the Huguenot Wars raging from 1562 to 1598 , numerous temporary fortifications were built in France. The Huguenots heaped bastions and ravelins of earth outside the walls of the cities they controlled. This method of fortification was picked up by the rebellious Dutch among others and was known as "à la Huguenote". With the help of the Venetian Scipione Vergano , the Huguenots built their most important base, the port city of La Rochelle , into one of the strongest fortresses on French soil in 1569. In 1573 by Charles IX. Attempts to take La Rochelle failed with enormous losses.

Henry IV brought about the end of the religious wars and against this background was able to concentrate on securing the French borders. Heinrich had an extensive fortress construction program carried out, for which almost 7.8 million livres were spent between 1595 and 1610 . Grenoble , Toulon and nearly thirty other cities were bastioned and border fortresses such as Boulogne , Calais and Montreuil were strengthened. Most of these fortification projects were planned and directed by Jean Errard de Bar-le-Duc , who in 1594 published one of the first French works on the bastionary system with La Fortification Démonstrée et Réduicte en Art . The fortification concepts described therein had certain deficiencies, since Errard largely dispensed with external works. The faces of the bastions he designed formed a right angle with the flanks, which made mutual fire protection more difficult. Nevertheless, Jean Errard is considered the first important French engineer simply because of the large number of fortresses he planned.

British Islands

In February 1539, Henry VIII ordered the implementation of an extensive fortification program to secure the English south and east coast. In the previous year, the French King Franz I and the Roman-German Emperor Charles V had temporarily settled their differences, which aroused Heinrich fears of an invasion. The English monarch had 28 coastal fortresses built, with the necessary financial means coming from the sale of the church property he had confiscated. These fortresses, also known as device forts, were technically obsolete even before they were completed, as they were circular structures.

The English gained their first experience with the bastionary system during the siege of Boulogne in 1545 , when they built bastion fortifications under the guidance of the Italian builder Girolamo Pennacchi . A few years later, bastion fortifications were also built in England. On the instructions of Queen Maria I , Sir Richard Lee worked out a plan for the fortification of Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1558 , the structural implementation of which testified to a lack of specialist knowledge. In the decades that followed, the importance of fortress construction in England fell significantly, which changed under Elizabeth I due to the risk of a Spanish invasion. Between 1586 and 1588, Elizabeth had Dover and Great Yarmouth fortified with new fortifications, but these short-term measures would probably not have proven sufficient if the Spanish Armada had landed on English soil.

When the civil war broke out in 1642 , few English cities had modern fortifications. When securing their bases, both parliamentarians and royalists used the Dutch method of fortification, which various commanders on both sides had familiarized themselves with as volunteers in the Eighty Years' War. In cities such as King's Lynn , the medieval walls were supplemented by earth bastions, while in Newark and Oxford construction of a complete wall was begun. In order to bind enemy forces at an early stage, fortified forts, the so-called sconces , were built in the surrounding area of ​​numerous villages . As with all well-known defensive structures of the English Civil War, earth was used as the primary building material for sconces, but some received a revetment made of wood. The fortifications of Bristol , Chester , London and Plymouth represented a special feature, consisting of a ring of trenches , entrenchments, forts and hornworks. The model for this was probably the circumvallation lines with which cities on the European mainland were usually enclosed in a siege.

Prussian manner

At the time of Frederick the Great , the old Prussian manner was introduced . Here, the outer shape was again based more on the space required by the fortified towns and no longer on strictly geometric principles ( polygonal system ). The bastions were greatly reduced in size, and a second, outer wall was built some distance away. At its corners small forts were built, which were built in favorable positions (hills) according to the tenenille system and which also had a "barrier wall" at the back so that everyone could defend themselves on their own. The Tenaill system was a kind of star shape, so that an optimal flank fire was even better guaranteed. A master builder by the name of Landsberg had propagated this method, but a whole fortress (new fortification of Magdeburg in 1730) was built in this way only once , as it was very space-consuming and very vulnerable to rikoschett shots (cannon shots with pre-calculated ricochets ), but it was well suited for the forts . Since the distances between these forts were very large, a kind of bastion was built in between, in the middle of each piece of rampart, which also had a barrier wall and thus formed its own "miniature fort". Smaller "protuberances" were often inserted in longer sections of both walls. A part of the fortress that had come into enemy hands could be blown up at any time through previously laid mine tunnels .

The Congress of Vienna in 1814/15 allowed Prussia to expand its national territory considerably with the Rhine Province . King Friedrich Wilhelm III. Immediately issued an order to re-fortify the large cities in the Rhine Province. In the following years z. B. the fortress Koblenz , the fortress Minden or the fortress ring Cologne . Other Prussian fortresses were built in Cosel , Königsberg , Magdeburg , Posen , Thorn , Wittenberg and a few other cities or along rivers such as the Küstrin fortress .

The Prussian fortresses were built according to the most modern knowledge, the New Prussian or New German fortification manner. This retained the principles of the old Prussian and coupled them with the ideas of the Marquis de Montalembert and Lazare Carnot . Instead of building bastions, large, two-story horseshoe-shaped structures ( caponiers ) were built in the moat, which were protected by an advanced revetment made of earth (the moat had to have a triangular bulge to surround everything). This was the same height as the caponier, while on the roof there was a parapet made of earth. The caponier's cannons themselves could only attack the enemy when they were standing in the adjacent trench - unlike howitzers and mortars . For this reason, additional structures were built at the top of the revetment that contained such projectiles . In addition, small “log houses” were set up in the corners of the covered path (between the glacis and the ditch) and below in the ditch. In addition, the traditional walls on the inside of the moat ( escarpe ) were now raised to the level of the glacis, and a small space was left between this wall and the rampart so that loopholes could be made in them. In addition, the wall no longer slid into the ditch when this wall was shot in. In the vicinity of the caponier, particularly wide ramps were often built , which led into the ditch and out onto the covered path and no longer allowed fast, large-scale failures only from the gate. To further improve the flanking fire, the inner wall of the glacis was laid out in a slight zigzag. By building revetments with caponiers in the middle of the individual wall sections, they could be made longer.

Plant XVI of the Federal Fortress Ulm

The advanced belt of fortifications - a maximum of one kilometer - no longer had any connecting walls, so the forts were cut off from one another. Each fort was roughly bastion-shaped or almost triangular and had a two-story structure with a parapet on the roof inside - so it was actually a cut-off revetment with a miniature caponier. The forts no longer had a rear wall either, but only a rear end with a throat barracks and a throat ditch - so they could be better controlled from the main wall. All distances at a fortress could later be extended after the introduction of rifled artillery.

Except in France, the new method quickly replaced the bastionary system in general. However, this New German system was only used in strategically important fortresses in order to save money, the others were often allowed to slowly decay or they were destroyed. The French were the only ones who insisted on the continuous repair of the old belt of Vauban's fortifications .

After Koblenz became Prussian, the re-fortification began immediately in the New Prussian manner. The city of Koblenz received a new city ​​wall and the ridges around the city were provided with massive fortresses. It was created u. a. with the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, the largest military bulwark on the Rhine , one of the strongest bastions that is still almost completely preserved today. The military engineers Gustav von Rauch and Ernst Ludwig von Aster built a sprawling citadel with it , which still dominates the cityscape of Koblenz today. The city fortifications were abandoned and completely demolished in 1890 due to the advancing military technology. The fortresses in Koblenz lost their military importance, but remained in function until the First World War . After that, some of them were razed or neglected. Today various associations take care of the maintenance and preservation of individual fortifications, such as B. Fort Asterstein and Fort Konstantin .

More fortresses

Outside Prussia, for example, the German federal fortress Ulm , the Bavarian-Palatinate fortresses ( state fortress Ingolstadt , fortress Rothenberg , fortress Germersheim ), in Kursachsen the Dresden fortifications , the fortress Torgau and the fortress Königstein , in the prince-bishopric of Bamberg the fortresses Rosenberg and Forchheim , the Würzburg Marienberg Fortress , the Baden fortress of Rastatt . The five forts of the second defensive ring of the Archbishop's fortress Mainz , which were built between 1710 and 1735, were modernized, and a further 18 forts were built in a third defensive ring.

In Switzerland, the fortress Aarburg was built from 1659 , in Italy the old fortress Civitella del Tronto was re-fortified, Oslo was fortified with the Akershus fortress, and the Antwerp fortress was built in the 19th century .


Main or middle barracks of the fortress Obergentringen near Diedenhofen / Lothringen

A fortress type developed in Germany at the end of the 19th century is called a fortress (also known as group fortification or French groupe fortifié ). The increasingly powerful assault artillery made it necessary to put the guns of a fortress, which had to conduct long-range combat, under armor protection. At the same time, the infantry had to be given appropriate protection through concrete barracks. The decisive feature of the fortress was to adapt the location of these two most important elements of a modern fortress - tank battery and infantry plant - exclusively to the locality. The individual systems were scattered over the site (so-called dissolved construction method) in order to gain the greatest possible tactical advantage from the given landscape. This ended the time of standard forts in fortress construction. The new concept was decided in Germany with AKO ( Allerhöchster Kabinetts-Ordre ) on June 30, 1897. The Haeseler Fortress south of Metz was built as the first fortification of this new type from 1899. In total were built:

At Metz : Festivities Kronprinz , Feste Kaiserin, Feste Leipzig, Feste Lorraine, Feste von der Goltz, Feste Luitpold, Feste Wagner, Feste Haeseler
Near Mutzig-Molsheim ( Strasbourg ): Celebrations of Kaiser Wilhelm II (in the 2nd construction phase)
In Thionville (Thionville): Festivities Obergentringen , Festivities Königsmachern , Festivities Illingen
Isteiner Klotz : Festivities Istein

World War I fortresses

Flitscher Klause
Flitscher Klause

On the road from Bovec in Slovenia to the Predil Pass (Slov. Predel) there are two Austro-Hungarian fortresses from the First World War: the so-called Flitscher Klause (Slov. Trdnjava Kluže) built in 1881/82 and the ruins of Fort Hermann. Both fortresses were supposed to seal off the strategically important Predel Pass into the Canal Valley and were thus part of the Isonzo front . There are only ruins left of Fort Hermann. Its concrete armor could not withstand the new grenades.

The term "fortress" in Nazi propaganda

During the Second World War (1939–1945), Adolf Hitler re- coined the term: as a designation of places that, due to their operational importance as transport hubs, should be defended particularly stubbornly, even if that meant their inclusion. In March 1944 he declared numerous places to be fortresses by order of the Führer . The concept did not prove itself and led to major losses of the Wehrmacht.

In January 1944, Hitler named all of the important port cities in the west as "fortresses". Examples:

  • On May 27, 1944, American bombers attacked the German military facilities in Marseille. On August 28, after a week of fighting, the German occupiers capitulated to the troops of Free France .

The defenders did not fight as fanatically as required, for example, in OKW orders of February 1944 for the defense of fortresses. It was ordered to fight "to the last man" and not to surrender under any circumstances.

  • After landing in Normandy , Allied troops attacked Caen . The battle for Caen , with many losses, occurred as the Allies broke out of their bridgehead and the Germans wanted to prevent this. Caen was the only large seaport in this bridgehead and very important for the landing of the Allied supplies.
  • Paris was declared a fortress in 1944, although the Germans had little resources to defend the city. Hitler gave the rubble field order , the city commandant Dietrich von Choltitz ignored this and capitulated in August 1944.
  • In early December 1944, Hitler declared Budapest a fortress.

Former fortresses and monument protection

Fortifications of the city of Dresden around 1750

After a fortress was abandoned, all fortifications were usually razed , that is, removed and used for civilian purposes. In this way, most of the fortresses in Germany and neighboring European countries were razed to the ground. This happened mainly in connection with the devastation of the big cities and only in rather rare cases could an urban fortress be preserved for posterity.

Even today, topographical traces of the former fortifications can be found in most European cities, as the level building ground obtained by grinding was mostly used to create wide boulevards. These were either built on the entire fortress ring or on parts of it. The best-known examples are next to Paris (which was already deconstructed under Louis XIV ), Mannheim , Dresden , Munich and Vienna .

The fortifications of Vienna including the glacis were only razed in the 1850s due to the fear of the Turkish threat, which was still present in the KuK generals . The Ringstrasse and, in some cases, very elegant districts were built on the vacated areas , which now connected Vienna and the Viennese suburbs to form a single city. The name boulevard , which is commonly used in French, also refers to the former fortifications, because the French word is derived from "bulwark" and describes the streets laid out in place of the former bulwarks. In some cities the bastionary system has even been reflected in the zigzag-shaped course of the ring road. In Berlin, too, there are reminiscences of the former fortifications in the street names: Oberwallstrasse, Niederwallstrasse and Wallstrasse are reminiscent of the original course of the complex. Furthermore, the Berlin Stadtbahn traces the course of the old fortress moat with its curved course between the Jannowitzbrücke and Hackescher Markt stations .

The Plassenburg above Kulmbach is a rare example of a fortress in the Renaissance style

In Dresden, parts of the fortifications were converted and are now of outstanding importance as cultural institutions and ensembles of buildings. A bastion was converted into a kennel . On the side of the Kronentor , the fortress' s moat, which had already silted up, was exposed before the Second World War . The Brühlsche Terrasse also goes back to the fortress and has casemates of the fortress to this day.

A special feature of the fortress construction in Germany is the Minden fortress with its fortified train station . Large parts of the complex have been preserved because of its early abolition and the subsequent omission of razing . It reflects the state of fortress construction in the 19th century and continues to clearly establish the connection between fortress and railroad .

Despite the partial destruction of 1806/07, the Plassenburg Fortress in Kulmbach presents itself today as a huge defensive structure with a four-winged Renaissance palace at its core. In the Plassenburg there are medieval castles, early modern defensive structures with rondelles and bastions in dimensions as required by Albrecht Dürer in his fortification theory of 1527, bastions in different construction methods from the 16th and 17th centuries, and barracks from the 17th and 18th centuries. With the high bastion , the Plassenburg had one of the largest bulwarks of its kind. After extensive renovations by the National Socialists by Fritz Todt and Siegfried Schmelcher between 1937 and 1942, the Bavarian administration of the state palaces, gardens and lakes received and restored the fortress since the 1950s .

From the federal fortress Ulm (1842-1859, with subsequent additions) has been preserved despite extensive demolition work in the early 20th century and in the 1960s the most - so are still the complete Nordumwallung including the Wilhelm festivals, a large part of western New Ulm City wall, remains of the city fronts west and east of Ulm's old town and 12 of the 14 outer forts. From the time of the Reich Fortress Ulm, there are still some small concrete works, some of which were blown up after the Second World War, from the main battle position in 1914. Today, the support group Bundesfestung Ulm takes care of the maintenance of the entire system.

Reduit Tilly of the former state fortress Ingolstadt

From the Bavarian state fortress of Ingolstadt , which was officially closed in 1937 , numerous buildings from different epochs have been preserved, especially from the classical fortifications in the area near the city. Of the cavaliers , only the cavalier Spreti was demolished in 1963. Most of the works of the advanced fort belt, however, were blown up after the Second World War on the orders of the American occupying forces; only Fort Prince Karl still exists here .

Most of the fortifications on the north-eastern border of France remained almost completely intact ( Belfort , Neuf-Brisach ). This, too, is due to the fear of the responsible generals, who, in constant concern of a repetition of the devastating German invasion in 1870, maintained and expanded the existing fortress belt, parallel to Vienna. Given the victorious outcome of the First World War, this seemed to be a promising strategy , at the end of which was the construction of the Maginot Line . Only after the end of the Second World War did a gradual rethinking of French defense policy take place, not least driven by Charles de Gaulle .

Today it is the task of monument protection to preserve the former fortifications or their remains, so that people can still get an idea of ​​this past epoch and the consequences for their own lives in later times.


"In the past and up to the time of the great standing armies down there were fortresses, i. i. Castles and fortified cities, only there to protect their inhabitants. The nobleman, when he saw himself harassed on all sides, escaped into his castle in order to gain time to wait for a better moment; the cities tried by their fortifications to keep away from them the passing cloud of war. […] On the other hand, the times are over when the mere fortification of the walls without other war institutions could keep a place completely dry before the inundation of the war that spreads across the whole country, because this possibility was partly based on the small ones States into which the peoples were previously divided, partly due to the periodic nature of the attack at that time, which, almost like the seasons, had its definite, very limited duration, because either the feudal people hurried home or the money for the condottieri used to run out regularly. Since large standing armies with their huge artillery platoons mowed down the resistance of the individual points like a machine, no town and no other small corporation has wanted to put their forces at risk, only to be taken away a few weeks or months later and then treated all the more severely. "

"A defensive army without fortresses has a hundred vulnerable places, it is a body without armor."

- Carl von Clausewitz : 1830, From the war

"Rigid fortifications are monuments to human stupidity."

See also


Contemporary sources

  • Honorat de Meynier: Fortification-Baw . LeBlon, Frankfurt am Main 1642 ( digitized version )

Review and research literature

  • Farmer Karl: Fort Max Emanuel and Fort Prince Karl of the fortress of Ingolstadt. 2nd and 3rd edition. Polygon, Eichstätt 2010, ISBN 978-3-928671-38-5 and -56-9.
  • Michael Losse : fortress, fortress construction. In: Horst Wolfgang Böhme , Reinhard Friedrich, Barbara Schock-Werner (Hrsg.): Dictionary of castles, palaces and fortresses. Reclam, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-15-010547-1 , pp. 123-126, doi: 10.11588 / arthistoricum.535 .
  • Martin Brice: castles and fortifications. Bechtermünz, Augsburg 1999, ISBN 3-8289-0730-X .
  • Christopher Duffy: Fire & Stone. The Science of Fortress Warfare. 1660-1860. 2nd Edition. Greenhill Books, London 1996, ISBN 1-85367-247-5 .
  • Christopher Duffy: Siege Warfare. The Fortress in the Early Modern World. 1494-1660. 2nd Edition. Routledge, London 1996, ISBN 0-415-14649-6 .
  • Christopher Duffy: Siege Warfare Volume II. The Fortress in the Age of Vauban and Frederick the Great. 1680-1789. Routledge, London 1985, ISBN 0-7100-9648-8 .
  • Henning Eichberg : Military and Technology. Swedish fortresses of the 17th century in the duchies of Bremen and Verden. Schwann, Düsseldorf 1976, ISBN 3-590-18107-9 .
  • Henning Eichberg : fortress, central power and social geometry. War engineering of the 17th century in the duchies of Bremen and Verden. Böhlau, Cologne / Vienna 1989, ISBN 3-412-01988-7 .
  • Frank Gosch: Fortress construction on the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The history of the German coastal fortifications until 1918. Mittler, Hamburg u. a. 2003, ISBN 3-8132-0743-9 .
  • Hartwig Neumann : Fortress construction art and technology. area, Erftstadt 2004, ISBN 3-89996-268-0 .
  • Geoffrey Parker: The Military Revolution. Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800. 2nd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1996, ISBN 0-521-47958-4 .
  • Rudi Rolf: The German tank fortification. Osnabrück 1991, ISBN 3-7648-1784-4 .
  • Rudi Rolf: The development of the German fortress system since 1870. Tweede Exloermond 2000, ISBN 90-76396-08-6 .
  • Ernst Seidl (ed.): Lexicon of building types. Functions and forms of architecture. Philipp Reclam jun. Verlag, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-15-010572-2 .
  • Contributions to international fortress research. (Series of publications). Roderer, Regensburg 2001–.
  • Series of publications fortress research. German Society for Fortress Research (DGF), Frankfurt am Main et al. 1981–, ISSN  0723-2039 .
  • Fortress Journal . Journal of the German Society for Fortress Research (DGF). Dortmund u. a. 1982-, ISSN  1618-3355 .

Web links

Commons : Fortresses  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: fortress  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Fortress  - Sources and Full Texts

Original works:

Individual evidence

  1. Christa Zimmermann; Herbert Petzold (Hrsg.): Lexicon of antiquity . Leipzig 1977, p. 171. See also: Nikolaus Pevsner, Hugh Honor, John Fleming: Lexikon der Weltarchitektur. Munich 1987, p. 195: fortress "general term for a fortification (as such also superordinate to the castle)."
  2. Meyer's Large Conversation Lexicon: Storm Freedom
  3. See also Stephan von Haschenperg .
  4. ^ Provence August 1944 landing and liberation. In: Ministry of Defense (France) , accessed October 20, 2018 .
  5. Peter Lieb : Conventional war or ideological war? Warfare and the fight against partisans in France 1943/44. Oldenbourg Verlag, 2007, p. 484 ( online in the Google book search)
  6. ↑ The year of the war 1944: on a large and small scale . In: Michael Salewski , Guntram Schulze-Wegener (ed.): HMRG supplements . tape 12 . Verlag Franz Steiner, 1995, ISBN 3-515-06674-8 , see Klaus-Jürgen Müller : The liberation of Paris and the German leadership on the Western Front , p. 44 ff . ( limited preview in Google Book Search [accessed December 9, 2019]).
  7. Kornelia Papp: The Battle of Budapest 1944. In: May 19, 2015, accessed September 1, 2019 .