Star Fort: Bourtange, Holland

As we continue on our quest for these amazing star-shaped islands, we next head to the flat lands southeast of Groningen, Netherlands, to the town of Bourtange, resting along the border of Deutschland. The Netherlands is home to a possible 16 star forts, and we can confirm eight of them at this early stage. Bourtange is one that has been truly held in time.

Bourtange is an amazing starfort example, and this island is still in daily use as its own mini city. Its buildings and top structures are very well preserved. Famed for its autumn and Christmas markets, it is a regular host to historical re-enactments. It boasts many permanent residence and a thriving tourist trade, even its own windmill, making this an idyllic example for us to observe.

The first interesting fact we encountered in our research is that the fourth rule of this tight nit community is that they do not allow metal detectors into their tiny paradise. Curious.

Another interesting note we pondered on discovery was that this immense mega structure was apparently built in just 13 years according to the popular narrative.

As we will discover on our travels around the realm, star forts are one of the many keys we will need to unlock the secrets from our long forgotten past and present.

Let’s start with what we can easily ascertain regarding this particular star pattern. The first thing we will notice is that it has shrunk or has been largely submerged compared with the next image dated in 1742.

We can clearly see in the wonderfully illustrated aerial view from the 1700s above that there is a large raised structure beneath the visible fort of today. Interestingly, you can still find traces of this original structure in the surrounding area.

The fact that it is hard to find historical photos of the island is also noteworthy. Not many pictures exist, but we did find this interesting photo.

As we mentioned, you can still visit this wonderful location, and information on their medieval-themed days can be found on their website:

Interestingly, Bourtange actually translates to “sand bank”. In the next image, we can see the artist’s depiction of the surrounding landscape. It appears to be a marsh with a boat clearly visible in the top right, and the pedestrian entrance also seems to be directed into a wall and not across the currently used bridge.

Another curiosity is that the bottom right of the outer star seems to be missing. Was this intentional in the design? Or is this damage from an even older heritage?

In the above image, depicted in the Atlas van Loon of 1649, we can again see this additional structure.

Could it be that these structures penetrate far deeper into the earth than we can see today? And why the cymatic shape? Do these islands have more to do with resonance than they do with war?

Let’s see what the textbooks say about our curiously shaped star islands.

Star Fort Bourtange

One of the best-preserved fortifications in the country stands at tiny Bourtange near the German border.

Built in the late 1500s, Bourtange Fortress represents the pinnacle of the fortifications of the era. It could withstand months of siege by an invading army, and famously checked the Bishop of Münster’s advance on Groningen in the 17th century.

In 1964, the regional government restored the battlements and the town itself to its 1742 appearance, when the fortifications around the citadel had reached their maximum size. It took three decades.


When looking at the star island from above, it seems hard to understand why you would design a fort in this manner — with easy to climb walls that actually slop in the enemies favour and multiple blind spots and landing points. It really feels like history may have misinterpreted its intended purpose. For us, Bourtange represents a place of tranquillity and peace rather than a fort designed for war. In fact, the original cover story even mentions that it did not initially see battle.

The town’s location along what was the only road between Germany and Groningen in the 16th century made it an important strategic location in the Dutch revolt against the Spaniards in the Eighty Years War (1568-1848). The Habsburgs had been (badly) governing the low countries since the end of the 15th century, and by 1568 the Dutch had had enough of being hugely taxed and having their Protestant tendencies squashed. William of Orange (1533-1584), a wealthy nobleman who had served the Habsburg governor of the Spanish Netherlands, led the Dutch in revolt.

The road William wished to command ran atop a ridge through the Netherlands’ marshy, sandy (and what sounds quite unpleasant) Westwolde region. Groningen was held by the Spanish, whom William hoped to isolate by cutting off their only means of support. Fortress Bourtange was built from 1580 to 1593. The great showdown at Bourtange never took place, as Spain had plenty of problems demanding its attention elsewhere, leaving the Netherlands with the unhappy situation of having an absolutely gorgeous star fort with nothing to defend against with it!

Star Fort Bourtange
Album: Architektoniczne dziwactwa · 5 kwietnia 2021 · 7 037 x · Tagi: holandia wyspa

Can we really believe that these buildings were built with primitive tools to defend from invaders, or is there a completely different explanation altogether?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Star Fort: Bourtange, Holland

Article written by TARTARIA BRITANNICA
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