An important example of renaissance military architecture and one of the few remaining intact bastions in the eastern Mediterranean.
Martinengo Bastion is a prime example of renaissance military architecture and is one of the few remaining intact bastions in the far eastern Mediterranean. It was designed and built following the latest advancements in fortification technology. It is located some distance from the centre of Famagusta.
When the Venetians realised that the northwest corner of Famagusta’s defences was weak, Martinengo bastion was designed to strengthen it. Giovanni Girolamo Sanmicheli, nephew of the famous fortification architect, Michele Sanmicheli of Verona, Italy arrived in Cyprus in 1550 to oversee the improvement of Famagusta´s fortifications. After approximately 9 years of design and construction, a state of the art bastion was completed on the northwestern corner. It was named after Hiernino Martinengo, a popular Venetian commander, who was sent to Famagusta to reinforce the city but lost his life on the way.
The bastion is unique for occupying an important moment in the history of defensive technology, between the medieval and renaissance periods. Medieval defenses consisted of tall thin walls and towers which could not withstand powerful new cannons, therefore renaissance defenses were low and massive, intended to avoid, deflect and absorb cannonballs. The bastion’s low profile was built slightly higher than the opposite side of the surrounding moat to present a small target for cannon fire while its arrow shape was designed to deflect the direct impact of cannon balls. The higher cavaliers, located behind and to each side of the entry of Martinengo bastion, were designed to elevate cannon to fire over the bastion while the ramps into the interior and roof were designed for horses and wagons to quickly move defenders, supplies and munitions.
Although Martinengo bastion was the most technologically advanced of its time, Famagusta eventually fell to the Ottoman Empire after an intense 11 month siege in 1571. One reason for the bastion ́s relatively good state of preservation was that it was so well designed and built that it was not a direct target.