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A fort [ foːr ] ( French for “strong”, from Latin fortis ) is an independent permanent fortification . The word was borrowed from French in military language towards the end of the 16th century, where it has the same meaning. At that time it replaced the older German word Feste or Veste, which was derived from "stark", "fest" and also had the same meaning. At the end of the 19th century, however, the word “Feste” was taken up again in German fortification theory with a slightly different meaning (see below).

For the general definition of the fort


Fort Ellewoutsdijk. Built to protect the Scheldt estuary in the early 19th century before the rifled guns were introduced. Highly raised, pure artillery fort (according to the suggestions of Montalembert) directly on the bank, installation of the guns on three floors one above the other, but practically without close defense by infantry.

The term "independent fortification" means in this context that the fortification can be defended on its own, that it has all the necessary resources and personnel and that it is not directly related to any other fortification. A fort is thus a defensive structure on its own and differs conceptually from a castle , for example , in that it is not a (permanent) residential facility or a pure escape facility, even if it usually has permanent accommodation for a crew. However, the transitions to similar fortifications (such as the “ block house ” or the “artillery tower ” such as the Martello , Maximilians or Malakoff towers) are fluid, and the term was (is) not at all times and not in all Languages ​​clearly defined. For this reason, the Roman forts are often referred to as "forts" in English .

The main task of a fort was to cover a certain location against an attack and to protect the defenders against the attacker's weapons. Forts can - with or without the use of iron (steel) - be erected from earth, wood ( palisades ), stone or concrete, the main task of which is to provide cover for the defenders and at the same time to absorb the attacker's weapons. The size, shape and construction of a fort was based on the intended main purpose and the (assumed) possibilities of the likely opponent. Therefore, its construction changed over time and adapted itself to the development of the potential means of attack, which is why the external appearance of the forts can vary widely. Most of the larger forts had guns for long-range defense.

Aerial view: detached Komárom fort on the Danube . From the 19th century before the introduction of rifled artillery (based on the new German system, Austrian variant). The guns are still open on the wall, the close defense is concentrated in the large horseshoe-shaped capons , some of which contain accommodation. Magazines and barracks under the covered walls. The barracks in the throat (throat barracks) is designed as a redouit and a caponier at the same time .

The festivals (new kind)

Shortly after the introduction of explosive shells (around 1880), forts were built only from concrete and steel and largely laid underground. From the turn of the century (first in Germany), the forts were broken down into their "functional groups" (e.g. local defense, remote defense, accommodation, storage rooms, machine systems, etc.) and distributed over a large area, with only the pure defense systems in places the surface of the earth towered over. The individual “functional groups” are only connected to one another by deep underground passages. This modern form of fort is often referred to as "Feste" (plural: "Festen") (and in this sense the word has been adopted as a military term in numerous languages).

The detached fort and the isolated fort

Ground plan of a standardized fort (based on the New German system, Prussian variant) from the second half of the 19th century according to General Biehler between the introduction of the rifled artillery, but before the invention of explosive shells, which made the forts overtake after a short time were. Positioning of the guns between trusses , the close defense is concentrated in the small capons in the trench; the accommodations are in the wall of the throat of the fort.

Since the beginning of the 18th century, a basic distinction has been made between "isolated forts" (also called "individual forts") and "detached forts" (i.e. a fortification "separated" or "detached" from the main fortification line). They differ mainly in that the "detached forts" are located within the defense area (firing range) of large fortresses , while the "individual forts " were built outside of such a zone, which inevitably also affects the size, armament and construction of the forts would have.

The "isolated fort"

The "isolated forts" - sometimes also called "Sperrforts" - were usually built individually or in small groups to cover strategic places (such as mountain passes, isthmuses, estuaries, port entrances, straits or borders). In addition to these forts with purely defensive tasks, there were also "offensive forts" that were used to cover forward military bases - primarily in colonial areas - and thus also to dominate or suppress the local population.

The "detached forts"

Fort de Comboire , detached fort of Grenoble based on the system of General Séré de Rivières (ultimately a French variant of the New German system). From the time between the introduction of rifled artillery and the invention of explosive shells. Guns open on the wall between hollow trusses , close defenses audibly concentrated in the capons in the trench.

With the increasing improvement of the siege artillery from the end of the 17th century, the defensive structures around large fortresses became increasingly deep. In order to prevent the enemy siege artillery from bombarding the actual fortress (i.e. the city that formed the core of the fortress) for as long as possible, only individual fortresses of the fortifications were initially placed about a cannon fire distance in front of the actual defense line (for example around nearby hills with to be included in the defense). Initially, however, they generally remained connected to the main fortification zone with protruding ramparts and trenches. These upstream defenses were expanded over time and with increasing distance from the main line they were finally completely "detached", i. H. detached and expanded into independent fortifications. The defense of the forward fortifications still depended primarily on the fortress behind them, even if they were soon enabled for all-round defense.

The principle of forward defense was expanded further and further during the 18th century and during the 19th century all large fortresses that were still being expanded at that time were surrounded by a "belt" of "detached" forts (→ belt fortress ). With the increasing range of the guns, this "belt" of individual forts was moved further and further in front of the actual fortress. Initially, when erecting outer forts, a distance of a few hundred meters in front of the main wall was content, the last installations erected were around 8 to 15 kilometers after the introduction of the “rifled” guns (around 1860) and explosive shells (around 1880) built in front of the city center of the fortress (for example in Antwerp, Fester Platz Épinal , Cologne, Liège, Mainz, Metz, Strasbourg, Fester Platz Toul , Fester Platz Verdun ).

Intermediate works

With the increasing distance of the detached forts from the core fortress, the space between the individual forts also increased. Therefore, especially in the hilly terrain, too many "dead spaces" (zones that could no longer be directly observed from the forts) arose between the individual forts. If the distance between the detached works was greater than 3000 meters, the outer forts often became the fortress built so-called "intermediate works". Strictly speaking, these were small to very small forts which, for reasons of cost, were usually built without long-range defense (i.e. long-range artillery). Planning and setting them up were mostly limited to close-range defense, i.e. to infantry fire or (since the end of the 19th century) to rapid-fire weapons such as light revolver cannons or machine guns. Since the intermediate works were always between two detached forts, their artillery could take over the remote defense. Many of the intermediate works also had several light guns to ward off mass attacks.

Fort de Bessoncourt with gate and throat barracks

Throat barracks

A building in a fort that closes off the rear side of the facility is referred to as a throat barracks. In this case, the building is designed as a barracks, with the possibility of close defense, as the access to the fortifications is often located here. From the throat barracks, except for the moat defenses , the throat ditch and the arsenal in front of the drawbridge (if any) can be painted.

See also


  • Kurt Mörz de Paula: The Austro-Hungarian fortifications 1820–1914. Stöhr, Vienna 1997.
  • Hartwig Neumann: Fortress architecture and fortress construction technology. German defense architecture from the XV. to XX. Century; with a bibliography of German-language publications on fortress research and fortress use 1945-1987. Bernard and Graefe, Bonn 1994, ISBN 3-7637-5929-8 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Fort  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Fort  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

References and comments

  1. ^ Riistow: Military concise dictionary. 1858, sv "Fort"; Bernhard von Poten : Concise dictionary of the entire military science. 1877, sv "Fort"; Duden: dictionary of origin. sv "fort"
  2. the high dikes were not there at that time
  3. the definition of “forts” is otherwise not identical in English and French as in German, which is why in Great Britain facilities that are more likely to be referred to as castles in German are called “forts”. In French, the “forts” are usually referred to as “forteresse” or “ouvrage” (work). However, the word “fort” usually appears in the name of the system, e.g. B. "Fort de Douaumont".
  4. v. Prittwitz and Gaffron: Textbook of fortification art and fortification war. 1865, pp. 1-14, 402-420.
  5. d. H. Grenades filled with high explosives such as Lyddit, Melinit or TNT
  6. ^ Gaber: La Lorraine fortifiée. (1997), Gaber: Les Forts de Toul. (2003), Gamelin: La Ligne Maginot. (1977), Rolf: The German tank fortification. The Panzerfest in Metz and their prehistory. (1991)
  7. ^ Riistow: Military concise dictionary. 1858, sv "Fort"; Bernhard von Poten : Concise dictionary of the entire military science. 1877, sv "Fort";
  8. ↑ Finally , one can also include the various temporary and permanent forts built in the western United States during the 18th and 19th centuries.
  9. ^ Kahlenberg: Kurmainzische defensive facilities and building history of the fortress Mainz in the 17th and 18th centuries. 1963, pp. 152-161.
  10. v. Prittwitz and Gaffron: Textbook of fortification art and fortification war. 1865, p. 264ff.
  11. Gaber: Les Forts de Toul. 2003, pp. 87-155.
  12. Gaber: Les forts de Toul. 2003, pp. 62-77; Bernhard von Poten : Concise dictionary of the entire military science. 1877, sv "Zwischenwerk"