A star fort is a type of fortification which first appeared in the 15th century in Italy. The medieval fortifications that were built of stones were an easy target for cannons.
That is why the star forts were built of bricks, earth, and other materials which made the fort much stronger and less likely to be shattered by cannons.
In northern Italy, there is a town named Palmanova which is a typical example of star fortification. It was founded in 1593 by the Republic of Venice in order to celebrate the twenty-second anniversary of Venice’s victory against the Ottomans and to protect the Italian peninsula from further Ottoman attacks. Its unique nine-sided star shape was designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi.
It is thought that Palmanova was the largest stronghold in Europe at the time. It had three entry gates: Udine, Aquileia, and Cividale, and eighteen radial main streets.
They led directly to the center of the town where the square Piazza Grande was placed. In the center of the town, there was the Palace of Provveditore.
At first, Palmanova was supposed to be a utopia, a place where everything is ideal. The design of the fortress and the buildings was geometrically perfect. The paths were carefully constructed and each part of the town had a particular purpose. The people who were supposed to live there would share the exactly same amount of land and responsibilities.
Besides the fact that this fortress town was a masterpiece of Venetian military architecture, there was one big problem with it. Namely, no one wanted to live in it. The government didn’t know what to do. They were so desperate that in 1622 they released many prisoners and gave them property in Palmanova. They were the first settlers of the town.
It is ironic that this fascinating fortress never met a single battle. It was ruled by the Venetian Republic for almost 200 years and throughout its entire history, it was besieged only three times.
At the beginning of the 1800s, Palmanova was conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte who added more military buildings and built another wall in form of a star outside the town in order to protect the center from the enemy’s artilleries. Very soon, Palmanova came under Austrian influence and was eventually annexed by the modern Kingdom of Italy in 1866.
During the First and the Second World War, the Italian military used the town as a base where they set up hospitals and stored facilities.
Throughout Europe, there are numerous fortifications of this kind, but Palmanova is considered as a unique example of a star fort. In 1960, Palmanova became a National Monument.