The Land Gate is one of the two original entries to the walled city of Famagusta, the other one being the Sea Gate, and is the most spectacular. It is the second oldest part of the walls, after the Othello's Tower. It is also the most interesting part to those interested in military fortifications. Over the centuries it has been called the Ravelin, the Rivettina Bastion and the Akkule, depending on who ruled Famagusta at the time.
The original Ravelin was built by the French Lusignans as a tower that stood outside Famagusta's walls. Its function was to guard the main entry to the city which was nearby. It's name is from a corruption of the old French, reflecting its half moon shape.
When the Venetians took over Famagusta in 1489 they decided to strengthen Famagusta's defences in anticipation of a threat from the Ottomans. They built a new set of walls, and incorporated the Ravelin into the new city walls. Renamed the Rivettina Bastion, it became a huge defensive structure, bristling with cannon emplacements, all connected by a series of passages and chambers. Part of the secret of Rivettina Bastion's strength was that the Venetians cleverly built the new walls, where possible, on existing rocky outcrops, making them very difficult to undermine.
The threat from the Ottomans proved not to be an idle one, and in 1570, the Venetians in Famagusta found themselves under siege. Although the walls were never breached, after ten months the Venetians were forced to surrender, and the Ottomans took possession of Famagusta and the Rivettina Bastion, which was renamed the Akkule, or White Tower, supposedly from the colour of the flag the Venetians hoisted when they surrendered.
When the Ottomans arrived on the scene, the entrance to the city was still through the Akkule, over a drawbridge protected by a portcullis, evidence of which still remains. The entrance used today was built at this time, along with the bridge over the moat.
A visitor to the Akkule today, can still wander through the maze of passages, and contemplate what it must have been like to be here 450 years ago in the middle of a medieval siege.
On the city side of the gate, in the passage leading from the Akkule, you can still see frescoes and coats of arms dating back to the Venetians, while to one side the Ottomans built a small mosque in 1619 for the use of the city guards.References:
The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.
The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.
After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.
The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.
Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.
The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.