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Translated Jeff Matthews

The word is of uncertain origin. The Ravelin was primarily used in the Middle Ages to protect a gate, whether a city gate or one that was part of a castle, from launched projectiles and later from firearms, as well as to hinder direct entrance from without as well as direct exit from within.

The Castle of Porta Gioia (Milan) is equipped with numerous ravelins with underground spaces; in particular, the ravelin of Porta Vercellini is equipped below ground with a shaft for water that is still closed by a metal 'saracen' draw-gate.

In fortifications of the 16th century the ravelin was located in front of the curtain (main wall) and was called a mezzaluna (half-moon); it had two faces, sometimes two faces and two flanks. It could house casemated rooms, communication tunnels and entrances to countermine tunnels or demolition works.

Between the 17th and 18th century the defensive foundation of the “modern” fortification consisted of two ravelins placed between the two bastions of the body of the main square. There were numerous variations affecting the shapes of the ravelins depending on the terrain; there were also some separate outbuildings, the function of which was to move defensive positions as far out from the main fortification as possible.


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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Ravelin of Porta Vercellina in Milano (photo, G. Padovan)

Ravelin and secondary external structures (Borgatti M., La fortificazione permanente, II)

Ravelin between two bastions (Borgatti M., La fortificazione permanente, II)

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