Jülich

The town of Jülich is situated on the river Roer, on the plain between the Meuse and the Rhine. It gained importance in Roman times because it was here that the roman road from Cologne to Maastricht crossed the river Ruhr. In late Roman times, Jülich was fortified with stone walls and sixteen towers.

These fortifications were revamped and strengthened in the 13th and 14th centuries, making the town into a strong fortress. In the 14th century the Duchy of Jülich emerged, with the town as its capital. In the 1521 it was united with the Duchy of Cleves-Berg.

Imperial troops invaded the Duchy in the 1540s, capturing Jülich with ease because of its outdated fortifications, which were not able to face an attack with artillery. As a result of his defeat at the hands of the Imperials, Duke Wilhelm V decided to build modern bastioned'fortresses to protect the Duchy.

Jülich was to be transformed into an ideal renaissance town, planned according according to the latest Italian ideas, with modern fortifications. Conveniently (for the duke) in 1547 a fire burned down most of the medieval town, leaving the way clear for a completely new town.

An Italian engineer, Alessandro Pasqualini, was hired to design the new town and its fortifications. Pasqualini drew up the layout for the new town and a trace of arrow-headed bastions'for its fortifications. To the north of the town there was a large square citadel'with four bastions.

Inside the citadel there was a palace, surrounded by a medieval-style wall with round corner towers. Eventually the citadel had to be reduced in size (due to a lack of funds) and Pasqualini moved it slightly to the east to take advantage of higher ground.

The design for the palace was unchanged, but it was no longer surrounded by the medieval-style wall. The practice of combining a palace and a citadel was a common idea in Italian renaissance town-planning, but in reality it was rarely used.

The fortifications were typical of the Italian School of fortification, using squared-off arrow-headed bastions with two tiers of guns in the flanks. There was a deep ditch'in front of the fortifications, which could be flooded, to shield the base of the wall from enemy artillery.

The fortifications of the town met the citadel in the west with the St. Sebastianus Demi-Bastion, whose flank faced away from the citadel. The wall linking this demi-bastion to the citadel was flanked by the citadel's guns, but none of the town's guns flanked it in the opposite direction. This meant that an enemy who had captured the town could not use this part of the town's defences against the citadel.

On the other side, the citadel was linked to the St. Franziskus Bastion by a curtain wall that was bent halfway along its length. This was a slightly weaker join than on the west side, since the St. Franzikus Bastion could have been used against the citadel by an enemy in possession of the town.

Nevertheless, Jülich was one of the first bastioned fortresses to be built from scratch, outside of Italy. Pasqualini designed the town's layout with defence in mind. Roads were aligned to the citadel, so that its guns dominated the town. The streets were made wide enough so that a house collapsing from a bombardment would not block the whole street.

Fortification theorists such as Daniel Speckle speculated about how the place might be taken (see right), but its defences were never put to the test in the 16th century.

However, in 1609 the last duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg died with no heir to take his title. As a result, the War of the Jülich Succession broke out, a prelude to the Thirty Years War'that would consume Europe for most of the first half of the 17th century.

In 1610, a Dutch army containing large French and English contigents laid siege to Jülich, which had an Imperial garrison. Various nations sent observers to watch the siege of the formidable fortress to see how it would perform against the powerful Allied army.

The Allies attacked the citadel from the north, where it was dominated by higher ground. Their two main attacks were directed against the citadel's two northern bastions, the Bastion Marianne and the Bastion St. Salvador.

The garrison surrendered after resisting for 35 days, a short resistance for such a highly-acclaimed fortress. The main reason for this was the dominating heights to the north of the citadel, which enabled the attackers to bombard it with ease.

In 1614 the Treaty of Xanten split the Duchy between the claimants and a Dutch garrison remained in Jülich. The fortifications had remained essentially unchanged since the mid-16th century, so the Dutch decided to strengthen them.

This reinforcement consisted of outworks, probably made of earth, in front of the walls. On the north side of the citadel three hornworks'were built to strengthen it. These new works were put to the test only a few years later when war broke out again.

In 1621 the twelve-year truce between Spain and the United Provinces expired and both sides geared up for a renewed war. In September a Spanish army laid siege to Jülich.

The Dutch garrison held out tenaciously against the Spanish attacks, which were again aimed at the north side of the citadel from the high ground. The siege dragged on through the winter and the defenders eventually surrendered in February of 1622 after a defence of five months.

Jülich was occupied by the Spanish until 1660. They made some minor modifications to the fortifications, but no large-scale modifications were undertaken.

During the 17th century two of the town gates, the Bongard Gate and the Düren Gate, were stopped up because they were not used. Pasqualini probably wanted to make four gates into the town (north, south, east and west) in accordance with renaissance ideas.

In reality however, most of the road traffic in and out of Jülich was travelling either to Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen, to the west) or towards the Rhine (east, via the Düren Gate). Any north-south traffic was likely to be on the river Roer, rather than on the roads.

In addition, the Aachen Gate was moved from its original offset position to be in the centre of the curtain. This was a more conventional location for a gate, equidistant from the neighbouring bastions so as to impede the flanking fire as little as possible.

During Louis XIV's'Dutch wars'Jülich was blockaded by French troops but was not besieged. This was probably because they considered it too costly to mount an operation against a strong fortress that was a sideline to their objective (invading the United Provinces).

At the end of the 17th century the fortifications were strengthened significantly to bring them up to date. Demi-lunes'were built in front of all the curtain walls and a covered way'and glacis were added on the far side of the ditch all the way round the fortifications.

At the citadel, the acknowledged weak point because of the dominating heights to the north, cavaliers'were added to the bastions to increase their firepower and to provide a higher platform for defending guns.

In addition, counterguards'were built in front of three of the citadel's bastions, increasing the depth of the defences. This strengthened the vulnerable northern side by shielding the bastions from enemy fire, forcing an attacker to take the outworks first.

The next major changes to the fortifications of Jülich came in the Napoleonic era. The French occupied the town in 1794 and it became part of the French Département of the Roer. The fortress was important to the French as a base between the Rhine and the Meuse (and hence the route to and from France).

The French decided to expand the fortress and strengthen it at two key approaches. Firstly, three redoubts'were to be built on the Mersch Heights to the north of the citadel. During both sieges of Jülich (in 1610 and 1621-22) attacks had come from this high ground.

The redoubts were linked to the main fortress by covered ways, which ensured communication between the citadel and the redoubts. In addition, two further redoubts were planned to be built half-way between the citadel and the heights, protecting the east and west flanks of this extension to the fortifications.

Secondly, a crownwork'was built as a bridgehead on the west bank of the Roer. This work, combined with a new bridge over the river, strengthened the western entrance to the town, which was an important concern for the French garrison.

The crownwork had its own powder magazine'and barracks. Behind the wall ran a passage with loopholes'so that infantry could fire into the ditch. Above the passage were casemates'for guns, well protected by an earthen rampart.

A sluice-bridge was also built between the east bank of the river and the new crownwork. These sluices could be closed to divert the river water to flood the land to the south of the town, preventing an enemy from attacking from this direction.

Elsewhere, the French built a number of lunettes'in advance of the main fortifications around the town, to increase the depth of defence, forcing an attacker to take some of the outworks before reaching the town's walls.

Not all of the French works were completed by 1814, when the town was returned to Prussia. However, the construction work was taken up by the Prussians, apart from the redoubts on the Mersch Heights, which were left unfinished. The fortress was declassified in 1859.

The fortifications around the town were demolished to make way for urban expansion, but the citadel was used as a military school, so it remained intact. The Napoleonic bridgehead was also not demolished.

Visiting Jülich

Although Jülich, like many towns in the Ruhr, suffered much destruction in 1944, there are substantial remains of the old fortifications. Of the town defences, which were mostly demolished, the archway of the Aachen Gate has survived, along with the adjacent curtain wall.

Part of the St. Jakob Bastion has survived and there are some buried remains of the other bastions. The Napoleonic bridgehead is also intact and has been restored (see the pictures above).

The real gem however is the citadel, the core of which is in very good condition. Although it has been modified over the years, they are still a good example of early bastioned fortification, featuring squared-off arrow-headed bastions and casemates in the flanks.

The walls of the citadel have been restored since the destruction of the Second World War and a modern school has been built inside, incorperating the eastern side of the palace (the only part to have survived).

The citadel is open to visitors every day in the summer and on weekends in the winter. For a small fee there is a guided tour of the Bastion St. Jakob and the cellars of the palace, which contain various displays and artifacts about the history of the citadel and the town.

The ticket for the citadel allows reduced price entry to the Brückenkopf-Park, containing the Napoleonic bridgehead, which has also been restored and is in good condition.



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