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Translated Jeff Matthews

The counterscarp tunnel was generally equipped with loopholes permitting defenders deployed within the tunnel to direct so-called “reverse fire” on attackers who had entered the trench, meaning that fire is not directed from the fortification outwards but rather from the counterscarp wall back towards the fortification, itself. The counterscarp tunnel, itself, may also contain other internal structures such as casemates and caponiers and be connected with other stations by connecting tunnels.

One example is the counterscarp tunnel of the Milan Castle, termed the “secret inner road” by Leonardo da Vinci.

The Sant'Ignazio Bastion of the Demonte Fort (Cuneo) is defended by a dry trench with a counterscarp tunnel where you can see a still intact 11.36 meter-long section that contains three deep loopholes that control the trench and buried sally point. An open section of the tunnel, built of stone and lined on the inside with brick, displays an entrance to a branch of the countermine, below which there is a water channel to drain water from the trench (Padovan G., Due noci dure da rompere. I Forti di Demonte e di Tortona alla fine del XVIII secolo: l’organizzazione della difesa, la rete di contromina e l’approvvigionamento idrico, op. cit., pp. 320-333).


Padovan Gianluca (ed. ), Archaeology of the Subsoil. Lectures and studies of artificial cavities. British Archaeological Reports, International Series 1416, Oxford 2005.

Basilico Roberto et alii, Italian Cadastre of Artificial Cavities. Part 1. (Including introductory comments and a classification), B.A.R. International Series 1599, Oxford 2007.

Gianluca Padovan (Associazione S.C.A.M. – Federazione Nazionale Cavità Artificiali)

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Counterscarp tunnel, Porta Giovia Castle (photo G. Padovan)

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