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Bourtange – The Dutch Star-Shaped Fortress

In the 15th century, during the heyday of the gunpowder when cannons dominated the battlefields, a new style of fortifications appeared in Europe. Shaped like a star, these fortifications had many triangular bastions, specifically designed to cover each other, and a deep moat. To cope with cannon projectiles, the defensive walls were built at low height and were narrow, being protected by the banks of land named “glacis”, raised in front of the ditches, so the walls will be completely hidden in front of the horizontal artillery fires. The new fortification has become so popular that its design was rapidly adopted by other nations such as India and Japan.

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Bourtange Fortress is such a construction, located in the small town Bourtange, Groningen, in The Netherlands. It was built in 1593, during the reign of William I of Orange, to control the only road between Germany and the city of Groningen.

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Bourtange Fortress witnessed the battle in 1672, against an army of German looters. After they captured 28 towns and settlements in the northern Netherlands, they demanded the fortress to surrender. The legend says that, in the end, the governor, Captain Protts was offered 20,000 guilders. Captain Prott refused saying he has prepared the same number of bullets for his enemies. The Germans attacked, but the defense of the fortress was once again successful.

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In 1851, Bourtange fortress was transformed into a city. In 1960, the local government decided to restore the old fortress into a historical museum.

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