If one could see any medieval city in Europe from above, it is interesting to note that many seem to share a similar design: from Spain to Cyprus, the floor print of these cities form the shape of a star. Also known as bastion forts, these cities were built from the mid-15th Century until the late 19th Century, primarily as defensive structures, which were better protected from cannons and sieges than older medieval castles: despite their nature as strongholds, the layout of these fortresses, ranging from triangles to dodecagons, is a curious architectural similarity, which is a testament to the role of mathematics in architecture.

From a defensive point of view, bastion forts were extremely secure sites: they were normally built on hills, offering them a wide field of vision, and some were built on cliffs by the sea, for added natural defences. The tapering design of their walls eliminated any blind spots for the defenders, allowing them to see anyone approaching, and some bastions featured moats between their concentric walls, as an extra defensive measure. The engineers of Renaissance Venice were renowned for their defensive walls, such as the ones protecting Palmanova in north-eastern Italy, and the walls of Nicosia in Cyprus, with these being considered as examples of perfect, utopian cities.

Although these “star cities” offered great defence against medieval-style warfare, the advent of tanks and mobile artillery in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries spelt the decline of bastion forts, but their architectural legacy remains strong. From a mathematical point of view, the many-pointed stars create a symmetric pattern, which was highly valued by Renaissance designers as an expression of perfection, and when seen from the air, the cities almost shine like stars under the sun, protecting their inhabitants within their angular walls.

Despite Nicosia being one of the last remaining physically divided cities in the World today, it remains united by this sacred star geometry. From a birds eye view, the old city inside the bastion walls may appear to be like a large sun dial around the church steeples of Santa Sofia, but moreover its plan encodes a two-dimensional projection of Metatron’s Cube, also known as the triangle within the cube, containing all five Platonic solids within two intersecting Pythagorean tetractys symbolising ‘as above, so below’ and revealing its secret three dimensional star-shaped design in plain sight.


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