Major fortress system

Wide-ranging defensive systems


A major fortress system is a central fortress with a circular aligned chain of upstream fortifications such as single forts or batteries for the protection of cities and places for arms.


Napoleon’s galloping artillery simply avoided many single fortresses and thus made them ineffective. Most of the defenders in their solitary strongholds could not cope with the high mobility and the increased range of his guns. A new generation of fortress construction should counteract this strategy: the major fortress system for the defence of strategic important landscapes and big cities.



Circularly around the city centre with a distance off up to 5 kilometres, several rings of forts with canon stations and dungeons were built in order to keep the enemy at a distance. Due to the steadily increasing range of canons, some single forts were located 15 kilometres in front of a city centre. They protected important streets, railway lines and areas of settlements.


Especially Prussia practiced these major fortress systems in the east against the Russian neighbour whereas Russia fortified the former kingdom Poland in this way against Prussia. The fascinating tracks of these giant installations are still recognizable today in many central European cities. Poznan, Torun, Krakow and Przemysl (Poland), Ulm, Koblenz, Mainz or Magdeburg (Germany), Genova (Italy), Komarno/Komarom (Slovakia/Hungary), Kaunas (Lithuania) and Paris (France) are said to be famous examples of this fortress type. The Habsburg monarchy extended the fortress quadrangle Verona – Peschiera del Garda – Mantua – Legnago to one of the biggest regional major fortress systems in Europe in order to maintain the occupied north Italian areas – today a fairly unknown touristic field of experience.