The building of the New Castle and Fortress until the Napoleonic Wars

      Until the end of the Middle Ages the small firearms had no particular importance as the arrow of an English archer in the battle went as far as the bullet of the firearm at Waterloo and perhaps hit the target more accurately though not with the same efficiency. Although the field guns were at the beginning of their development, the heavy artillery guns had already made wide cracks on the walls of the castles.

      The French attacks against Italy between 1484-1493 proved that the fortress’ bastions built in the Middle Ages were not able to withstand the more powerful artillery.
By inventing the cannon, the basic principles of the castle and fortress building had changed all over the world.
In case of Komárno the necessity to change became apparent in 1527 when the armies of Ferdinand I besieged the fortress. He occupied the fortress only after a half-day siege and immediately ensured the restoration of the destroyed walls. He assigned the Italian architect Decius to do it. The restoration work was finished in 1528. In order to protect the castle more efficiently, ramparts were built between the town and the fort. The extent of the renovation of the castle by Ferdinand I is not known, although in 1529 the Turkish military expedition under the reign of Suleiman II was able to invade the fortress for a short period, since the guards had left the fortress and the Turkish army besieged the empty castle. After recapturing the castle, Ferdinand I had the damaged parts of the fortress renovated; however in 1535 he was forced to give the castle to the Turkish again.

      After the invasion of Buda by the Turkish troops, Emperor Ferdinand I was forced to improve the fortification. He got back the castle in 1544 and ordered its extension. To prepare the plans of the fortress, he assigned Pietro Ferrabosco, who suggested a fort with more angles.
This fortification system suited both the contemporary architectural aspirations and the configurations of terrain and hydrography.

      The contemporary fortress and castle architects tried to find protection against the heavy artillery by reducing the walls of the forts and strengthening them with earthen ramparts.

      The year 1527 - when the first bastion was built in Verona – is very important for us because twenty years later, on 23rd March 1546, they started to build the present Old Fortress in Komárno based on the new experience in fortress building. The building of the fort was directed by Maria de Speciacasa and later Dalmatio Bartolagi and the water constructions by Mathias Dusco, Vencel Cservenka and Paul Puls. The supervisors of the constructions were Michael Schick between 1546-1551, Leonhard Müller from 1550 and Francesco Begnino after 1552. The fortification work was directed by Domenico Castaldo in 1551. Emperor Ferdinand I asked Castaldo to build the eastern part of the fortress rapidly.

      The supreme command decided during the process of construction that for the benefit of better defence of the town, they would erect a palisade on the banks of the rivers Vaag and Danube opposite the fortress. However, the palisade, which was able to hold 100-200 horsemen, was constructed only in 1585.

      The Old Fortress took ten years to build. According to the reports of Francesco Begnino in 1557, only the earthen ramparts needed to be improved and the water ditches deepened. The plaque  above the gate of the Old Fortress with the year 1550 most probably signifies the year when the gate was made.

      It is likely that the architects of the fortress didn’t have enough experience and knowledge about the quality of the soil in the area as – according to the report of the architect called Urban Süess – in the spring of 1570 the flood destroyed most of the walls. Under the management of Urban Süess the fortress was rebuilt between 1572 and 1592. Famous experts from abroad such as Daniel Speckle from Germany and Carlo Theti from Italy also cooperated on these projects. The new, improved and rebuilt fortress stood the test in 1594 when Sinan pasha surrounded it with his huge army and besieged the fortress for a month but couldn’t capture it. We have a precise ground plan from 1572, which proves that the shape of the external bulwark hasn’t changed since then. The fortress, which extended from east to west and was separated from the town by water ditches, had five bastions.

      Out of these five bastions, the eastern bastion was the biggest; it served to protect the confluence of the Vaag and Danube Rivers. The main gate was located on the west side of the fortress, near the southwest bastion. The huge stone walls of the fort emerged from the wide and deep ditches. The earth taken from the moat was used to build the external entrenchments around the fort, which protected the walls from cannons fired on a flat trajectory. The cannons placed on the protruding bastions (“Italian bastions”) protected the moat, the side and front wall of the adjoining bastions as well as the walls between two bastions.

      After the Turkish military expedition in 1663-64 and because of the fall of the forts in Nové Zámky, fortification became important again. King Leopold I ordred the building of two new forts. One of them was Leopold Fort near Galgóc; the other was the New Fortress in Komárno.The fort which was named for him was built in a very short time between 1665-69. The New Fortress was constructed between 1663-1673.

      The thought of expanding the Old Fortress was proposed earlier by Carlo Theti, the famous architect, in 1570, and he drew up two versions. However it took quite a long time to complete it.

      The first phase of the building process ended in 1663. In this year the entrenchments were built. Then the entrenchments were rebuilt from stone and brick. The works – based on the plans of  General Franz Wymes – were accomplished using the most up-to-date Italian and French work experience. The New Fortress, which was built with great ornateness, was completed in 1673, according to the plaque above the main gate. The western bastion and southern parts were built from solid building material, while the north wing was built from earth.

      The copper engraving prepared by Bouttats Gaspar based on the plans of Franz Wymes enables us to see what was the fortification system like. This engraving contains the list of some of the parts of the fortification system in Italian. According to this, the Old Fortress remained in its original shape as it was built in the 16th century. Only the water ditches were deepened and enlarged, dividing it from the New Fortress. In front of the main gate of the Old Fort, an irregular rampart was erected with a broken entrance route which protected the entrance of the fortress. The New Fortress was built to protect the Old Fortress. It was built on a larger area than the old one, also in the shape of a pentagon, and its two eastern bastions were freely  attached to the two western bastions of the Old Fortress behind the water ditches. Out of the five bastions of the New Fortress, the western bastion is the largest – the middle one with its head pointing towards the town. Both to the north and south there were ramparts from which the southern rampart with a drawbridge had to protect the main gate of the fortress. The gate was situated in the middle of the fort wall between the western and southern bastions. The wide moat around the peripheral walls followed the shape of the New Fortress. There were casemates in the ramparts and several gates for attacking the enemy. At that time on the bulwarks around the Old and New Fortress the peripheral side of the ditches was built, the so-called contraescarpment. Inside the earth ramparts, in some places protected routes and meeting places were formed.

      Together with the other buildings in Komárno the enormous fortress couldn’t escape its fate and was badly damaged in the flood in 1682. At the command of Leopold I, a huge amount of money and a regiment of soldiers (Dippenthal regiment) was sent to Komárno to repair the fortress. The renewed fortress survived the last Turkish siege in 1683 when the soldiers of Imre Thököly, allied with the Turkish troops, besieged the fortress unsuccessfully. The Turkish troops were defeated in the same year at Vienna and after the war which lasted sixteen years, Hungary was liberated from the Turkish rule. It was a turning point in the fortress’ life in that  Komárno also ceased to be a border town and was not highly maintained. The earthquakes in 1763 and 1783, the epicentre of which were near the fortress, destroyed it a great deal. As the military management did not find it important to restore the destroyed fortress, the garrison of troops was depleted. The sites on which the fortress was located, were donated to the town by Joseph II, and the buildings were sold by auction in 1784. The renovation of the fortress started again in 1808 due to the Napoleonic wars.


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