May 26, 2016

2576 ITALY (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) - Fortress Town of Palmanova (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

Surrounded by the powerful states of the Austrian Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary and the Venetian Republic, the patriarchal state of Friuli was the theatre of the war between Hungary and Venice in early 15th century, and was conquered by the latter in 1420. How Venetians did almost nothing to strengthen this eastern border of the Stato da Tera, between 1470 and 1499 the region had endured no less than seven raids undertaken by the Turks, who had occupied the Balkans and had begun to threaten the area.

It was only when the Venetian senators got wind of a Turkish plan for the invasion of the Venetian plains that they decided to erect a real fortress there. Furthermore, when the conflict between Venice and Austria  reopened in 1500, Gradisca, the most important stronghold in Friuli, had been taken over by the Austrians; since then the Venetian eastern boundaries on the coast were exposed not only to the dangers of Turkish raids but also to the Austrian Empire's expansionist designs.

Venice, therefore, decided to build a fortress ex novo, in a particularly strategic position of the Friulian plains: the junction between via Julia Augusta and the strada Ungaresca (Stradalta). The fortress was named Palmanova to celebrate the twenty-second anniversary of Venice's victory against the Turks at Lepanto. The project was established by a team of engineers, treatisers and knowledgeable military architects from Venice's fortifications department, and works began in 1593. 

Palmanova, with its nine-pointed star structure, was conceived as an inexpugnable defensive system. Towards the end of the 16th century, the use of artillery determined the need for wide, low and  strong ramparts to protect the city within the walls. The designers conceived a first defence circle, surrounded by a moat, with nine arrow-shaped ramparts, (baluardi) supported by a wall in rock or brickwork, connected one to the other by nine straight ramparts (cortine), also supported by a wall, that gave the fortress its shape.

In mid 1600, the Serenissima improved the fortifications by building another 9 ramparts or rivellini, on the outside of the moat. Finally, in 1806, Napoleon decided to modernize it and one of the first measures taken was to raze the three neighbouring  villages,  Ronchis, San Lorenzo e Palmata. Then, under Chasseloup's supervision, work began on the third defence circle. Nine lunettes, equipped with pillboxes, casemates and underground galleries and surrounded by a dry ditch, were erected further outwards.

Palmanova was supposed to be an utopia inhabited by self-sustaining merchants, craftsmen, and farmers. The builders imposed geometrical harmony into its design believing that beauty reinforces the wellness of a society. Each person would have the same amount of responsibility and land, and each person had to serve a specific purpose. However, no one chose to move there. In desperation, the Venetian government pardoned a number of prisoners in 1622 and gave them property in Palmanova.

The city presents a perfectly geometrical structure around a large hexagonal piazza with, at the centre, a three-curbed well bearing the city banner. Six roads branch out from the piazza; three of them lead to the city gates, the other three lead to the defence ramparts. These radial roads are intersected by four ring roads. Although a fortress, Palmanova never saw a battle and despite its apparently impenetrable defense, Palmanova was captured twice - first by Napoleon and then back by the Kingdom of Italy.

About the stamp
The stamps belongs to a series of definitive stamps, about which I wrote here.

Palmanova - Italy
Fortress Town of Palmanova - UNESCO official website
The Fortress Town of Palmanova - Amusing Planet

Sender: Radu Toussaint
Sent from Grado (Friuli-Venezia Giulia / Italy), on 20.05.2016

No comments:

Post a Comment