History of fortress construction

The most important innovation in historical fortress construction came with the introduction of gunpowder weapons, against which medieval castles and ramparts offered little protection. From the end of the 15th century, Italian architects therefore designed new constructions for the use of firearms, such as embrasures or positions for cannons.

Reconstruction began and in many places even the complete replacement of the ramparts and castle towers into massive bastions, strong walls with deep moats, adapted to the ballistics of the projectiles.

From then on, fortress construction followed the rapidly developing artillery. Architects countered the increasing penetrating power and range with ever stronger walls and ever larger fortifications, but also with art and a wealth of design on the building.

Around 1550, Dresden was one of the first German cities to equip itself with such a complete bastion fortress, which Napoleon used a good 250 years later for frequent stays around his military campaigns.

The fortified ideal cities, planned according to military aspects and newly built at strategic points, e.g. Terezín (Theresienstadt) and Josefov (CZ), Dömitz (DE) or Sabbioneta (IT), are considered an exceptional highlight of fortress construction in Europe.

At the beginning of the 19th century, modern artillery forced the construction of Large-scale systemswhich stretched over entire areas and whose foothills were sometimes more than 5 kilometres from the settlements. Here, for example, they have immortalised themselves:

  • Prussia in Magdeburg, K√ľstrin, Mainz, Ulm, Koblenz or Ingolstadt,
  • Austria in Pula, Komarno, Przemysl or Krakow,
  • Russia immortalised in Modlin and Warsaw.

Again in response to the enormous advances in weapons technology, fortified structures increasingly disappeared underground and into mountain massifs in the 20th century. Particularly impressive are the enormous Bunker defence lines such as the Maginot Line (FR), the West Wall or the Atlantic Wall.

During the Cold War, huge border fortifications such as the "Iron Curtain" and nuclear bunker systems were built, bearing witness to a time that threatened the existence of the European peoples.

This is another reason why these contemporary architectural witnesses must be preserved and their message disseminated.


Learn more about the different eras of fortress construction with their architectural and tactical peculiarities.

Fortress architecture 15th-19th cent.

The introduction of firearms brought about a fundamental change in fortress construction. A remodelling began and in many places even the complete replacement of fortifications and castle towers into massive bastions, strong walls with deep moats, adapted to the ballistics and range of the new projectiles.

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Fortress architecture 20th century

The development of reinforced concrete brought about the second fundamental change in fortress construction. Stone fortresses were largely ineffective against modern weapons. Fortress construction camouflaged itself and orientated itself underground. Gigantic bunker lines, air defence systems and government bunkers were built.

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