During the Renaissance, artist and architect Vincenzo Scamozzi was tasked with a daunting commission: to design and plan an entire city to be aesthetically pleasing and strategic for military defense.
Scamozzi was a natural fit for the project; he'd written "L’Idea dell’Architettura Universale" ("The Idea of a Universal Architecture").
Scamozzi's town of Palmanova became one of the prime examples of Late Renaissance star fort designs. The shape blends military, religious and philosophical principles that Renaissance Italians held dear.
Three guarded gates and an encompassing moat adds further protection. At the time, the Ottoman Empire to the east presented the greatest threat.
The star shape is also a nod to cosmological spirituality particular to the type of Catholicism practiced at the time.
Despite Palmonova's priority of defense, it did fall under Napoleonic rule in 1806.
And then under Austrian power with its neighboring towns, Veneto and Friuli, in 1866.
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Scamozzi designed the city according to principles of utopia postulated by Sir Thomas More in 1516.
The hope was for Palmanova to be self-sustaining and a perfect example of humanist philosophy.
However, by 1622, few Italians wanted to live in their newly built utopia.
The population was so low (a huge problem for a city aiming for self-sufficiency) that, in 1622, Venice pardoned some of its prisoners and offered them free land in Palmanova if they would agree to settle there.
Edward Wallace Muir Jr., an American professor, said, "The humanist theorists of the ideal city designed numerous planned cities that look intriguing on paper but were not especially successful as livable spaces."
For example, privacy was not well regarded in this version of utopia, in accordance with More's writing, "He that knows one knows them all, they are so alike one another."
Today, approximately 5,400 people live in Palmanova. The fortresses and glimpses at 16th-century life draw tourists from all over the world.
More than 350 years after its founding, Palmanova was declared a national monument of Italy and became a UNESCO heritage site.
Credit: Memeolition | Wikipedia