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Fort Bourtange: The Star Castle, Netherlands

Fort Bourtange: The Star Castle, Netherlands


Fort Bourtange is particularly designed as a star fort which is a fortification in a very unique style which was fashioned during the era of gunpowder when the cannon were the dominating ones in the battlefield. The village of Bourtange, which is in Groningen (Netherlands), is blessed with the presence of this Star Castle. A total of 430 inhabitants are there in the town of Bourtange as per the records of 2012. Even the population density of Bourtange is 270 per Km2. William the Silent ordered the construction of Fort Bourtange in the year 1953. The year was known for the Dutch Revolt. The Fort was used effectively till 1851 with a lot of assaults. The restoration of this fort was done in mid 18th century and is currently known by the people as an open-air museum.

Origin of Star Fort:


This fortification came into light during the mid-15th century. The design of this fort is very much complicated and beautiful to look at. Between the end of 15th century and the starting of 16th century, further work on star fortifications started particularly after the incursion of the Italian Peninsula by the French people. There were many traditional fortifications already present that were developed during the Middle Ages but the French army came equipped with bombards and some new cannon that were capable of destroying these fortifications. Thus, star forts were founded by Michelangelo. This star shaped model became very famous in Europe and was used in Europe for consecutively three centuries. As the main design was presented by an Italian, the Italian workers were in demand to make this fortification. Between 1530s and 1540s the idea of this design spread all over the world.

Changes in the Design:


The design of this Star Castle was taken from its predecessors which were the medieval fortresses found on the high hills. These forts were used to shot arrows at the enemies during wars. These fortresses were built high so that they won’t be vulnerable to assault. The original round design was modified to “dead spaces” or “dead zones” to protect the warriors from defending fire. Thus, the square or round shaped corners were changed into diamond shaped edges to provide no shelter to storming infantry. This was the biggest change in the design of the fort. Another big change was the conversion of the passive model to an active model of defence. There were a few drawbacks of this design that led to the changes. One such drawback was the failed earthen banking protection provided. Another one is that the walls of the model were vulnerable to fire attacks.


The open slope which is outside the ditch provides a better shelter and access to the glacis. They also dug some counter mines to disrupt and intercept attempts to the fort walls. Now in comparison to the medieval fortifications, the forts are lower, deeper and larger in area which is good in a defensive way.  The defending cannons were protected from bombardment through the open wall inside the fort which is also required to empty the smoke generated by the defending cannons. Thus, these fortifications proved to be effective for years. Repeated changes in the design of the model in order to make it better led to more complications in the design and that’s why still the design of this model was among the most complicated ones.

Complex Construction:

The constructions of these types of fortifications require a lot of money as the design is very much multifaceted. The 22 bastions of Amsterdam were bankrupted when they paid for the construction of this fortification as they whole construction was done for 11 million florins. They wanted to create a solid structure and that’s why they piled earth from the excavation right behind the walls so a solid structure can be created. The fortification was built with brick fascia because the material can absorb large quantities of artillery fire easily. Moreover, the use of this special brick added to the cost of its construction. The round towers were lowered and even they were filled with earth to strengthen the walls more. The original walls were made strong so that they could stand bombardment also. Many more improvising techniques were used over the years to improve the design more.



The main purpose for its construction was to have control over the only road that was between the city of Groningen and Germany. During the Eighty Years’ War this road was being controlled by the cruel Spaniards. In the year 1851, the Fort was finally converted into a village before that it served its purpose on the German border. The place lies in the south of the France, the area is also known as French the Principality of Orange. This beautiful Fort Bourtange is actually built by Guillaume Ler. Now, Fort Bourtange is a recognised historical museum. The beauty offered by this star castle is by far very excellent. Though there are many controversies and assaults involved in this Fort but still the fort is providing valuable tourism to its people and surrounding village especially because of the stunning environment it provides. The fort is still a museum with a lot of people visiting it every year. This fort is indeed worth visiting for once atleast.


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