Bourtange – Best Surviving Star Fort
Bourtange, a village in the municipality of Vlagtwedde in the Netherlands is situated in the region of Westerwolde, east of the province of Groningen near the German border. Fort Bourtange had been built during the Dutch Revolt in 1593 and was used till 1851. It was restored to its mid-18th century state in 1960 and is presently an open air museum.
The fortified town of Bourtange is a remarkable destination with its spectacular architecture together with beautifully renovated state, making it one of the best surviving examples of a star fort in Europe. It is one of the largest citadels in the Low Countries and its distinctive star shape, together with its cobbled streets and well-restored historical architecture makes a pleasant day trip for visitors.
The small community living in and around the fort which are about 430 inhabitants in total tend to cater to the needs of the visitors through their friendly hotels, cafes and an abundance of related activities in summer. The star shaped fort had been designed and built on the orders of William I of Orange during the Dutch Revolt against Spain.
Control Main Road through Bourtange Swamps to Germany
The fort served a simple purpose that of controlling the main road through the Bourtange swamps to Germany. Groningen city together with its surroundings were yet under Spanish control during that time and obtained their supplies from allies in Germany. It is said that the assignment to build a fort was given, according to some sources, to Diderick van Sonoy, who was one of the leaders of the Dutch `Geuzen’, the Calvinist Dutch nobles who took on the battles with the Spaniards.
Adriaan Anthoniszoon was the one who drew the designs of what would become a 5 sided bastion and the work commenced in 1580. The fort was barely completed when the city of Groningen was finally taken and the fort had been modified to suit a new purpose and became a part of the border defence lines of the three provinces of Northern Netherlands. It was enforced and stretched many times during wars which trailed and as the swamps around Bourtange gradually dried up, the importance of the fort slowly declined.
Restored Between 1964 and 1973
In 1577, the Spaniards took control of Groningen, following the choice of Count George de Lalaing, governor of Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe, for the purpose of supporting Spain instead of the United Provinces fighting for their independence. The existence of the fort was to cut the supplies to the Spanish forces that were stationed in Groningen.
The plan worked and in 1594, Groningen was re-captured.The protection of Bourtange had been strengthened many times particularly in 1665 and 1672 in war against Bernhard von Galen and in 1742 it reached its maximum extend. With the drying up of the marshes together with the development in artillery results in drastic decline in the use of the fortress and in 1851, the fortified town had its embankments dismantled with its trenches filled up with earth and its military facilities sold or out of control. The grounds were only restored to its earlier glory between 1964 and 1973.