Military Terms

Glossary of Military Architecture*


Abaluartar: A system of fortification using bastions (baluarte) with fronts and lines protected by bastions.

Adarve (top of wall): A word of Arabic origin.  In a medieval castle, it is the area for maneuvering weapons of ancient design used for defending the castle from the battlements.  In a modern fort, this circulatory space is maintained although it is broader and more dynamic.  It is used for gun emplacements and for the movement of a large contingent.  It is the space bounded by the parapet and the inner wall (countermure/ contramuralla).

Philippine usage: Adobe: Volcanic tuff, a type of sedimentary stone formed by volcanic ash and other volcanic ejecta like pumice. Not to be confused with the American usage, which refer to sun-dried bricks.

Aljibe (cistern): This storage for water is also called cisterna.  It is usually below ground and its walls are covered with masonry or brick vault, well-built and whitewashed.  Canals fill it with rainwater through a filtration system.  Water first passes through a chamber called purificador (water purifier), which functions as a filter and where impurities are trapped.  These chambers are located a few meters from the cistern and, at times, is confused for its outlet.  These cisterns are crucial because they guaranteed survival during an extended blockade.

Almacen (storehouse): Auxiliary units in a fortification.  This is located in a bombproof area, that is, protected by stone vaults or within the plaza de armas.  Its function varies: for the food supply of the troops (that is, for all sorts of food for the officials and the rank and file) for an armory and the munitions (cannons, mortars, gun carriages, bullets, bombs) and for storage of gunpowder.

Almena (battlement, merlon): An element used in medieval fortifications.  Completing a section of the upper part of the walls, it is formed by a small opening where it was customary to place a soldier with bow and arrow, crossbow, or whatever arms of ancient design.  At the side, a narrow prism assured the life of the defender.  In modern fortification, the parapet with its embrassures and merlons replaces this battlement.

Antefoso: Some authors consider this term inappropriate, preferring contrafoso which consists in digging a ditch at a flat area in front of a fort or on the slope of a glacis, and throwing up the earth as a mound before it.  This is done to add obstacles before the curtain wall and adjoining bastions.  The ditch is often filled with water.

Aspillera (embrassure, loophole, crenel): A linear opening, usually vertical for placing a rifle of whatever type of portable arms.  From within the walls, this opening has a radial aperture that allows for the manuevering of arms.  It is the loophole (saetera) of medieval fortification, but greatly improved.

Atalaya (watchtower): A sentry post, which on occasion may be used for defense.  For this purpose, it is generally built as a tall cylindrical tower from which to spot enemies coming from the sea or land.  This terminology was more commonly used during the Middle Ages.  In the modern epoch, it had its formal and conceptual variants and was thought of as a complementary work  (see TORRE).

Baluarte (bastion): It has a pentagonal shape, formed by two faces, two flanks and a gorge (an imaginary line that links the two facing flanks).  It had three angles: the principal which is formed by the two faces; the facing angles (fijante) formed by the flank and curtain wall; and the fianquente, which links the flanks with the faces.  The bastion is the most characteristic element of a bastioned fort.  The faces are proportioned to the flanks and the flanks to the curtain wall.  This element revolutionized military architecture in the 16th century.  With its introduction, the problem of the blind angles of a medieval castle was solved.  (Note: A bastion, which lacks a face or flank, is called demi-bastion.)

Philippine usage: baluarte (watchtower): Also, castillo, bantayan, lantawan, kuta, lantawan sa hari, tore, bastion.  An independent coastal structure usually two floors and roofed.  Equipt with signaling devices used to warn the town of impending attacks.  The watchtower could be made of stone and mortar or rubble and mortar or could be an elevated blockhouse of stout timber. Usually built at the initiative of the community and resident priest or local official.  Manned by volunteer sentinels.

Banqueta (Platform): Platform made of masonry or cut stone, placed at the lower part of a merlon.  A soldier going up a platfrom through steps or a ramp was covered by the merlon to chest height.  At the lower part of the banqueta and at the opening of a parapet, a space is left for a canal through which rainwater flows.

Barbacana (barbican): A forward structure used to protect the gates of fortified area or a medieval castle.  In modern American military architecture, a ravelin or other forward structures conceptually and formally replace this element.

Barbeta (barbet): An uncovered artillery emplacement.

Barricada (barricade): An obstacle made of barrels, lumber, stone, tree trunks, etc., in the manner of a parapet, to prevent the passage of an enemy to a town.  It is a type of field or temporary fortification.

Philippine usage: baroto (boat): Also, baluto, bangka. The generic term baroto covers a variety of indigenous sailing vessels. These may be small, single person dugouts propelled by oar and possibly sail. Called bangka (from the Spanish banca meaning board) these were riverine dugouts adapted to still waters. For venturing out to sea, the baroto had outriggers attached to them. These floaters, traditionally made of bamboo, either attached to one side or both sides of a boat. Called katig, these floaters stabilized a boat when it sailed through rough waters or where currents were swift. These boats were maneuvered by sail called layag (which in Tagalog is synonymous to travel) and by oar (gaod) which also served as rudder.

Various types of baroto are known depending on size, design, structure and place of origin.

·      Paraw, also parao, proa was the simplest of the sailing baroto. It was built to carry one person, two would be possible but ill-advised.

·      Barangay also balanghay is a larger boat meant primarily for the transport of people and goods. They could be outfitted for battle.

·      Caracoa, also kora-kora is a fighting vessel that could carry a contingent of between 75 to 100. Over the horizontal poles that connected the outrigger to the hull, seats were made for a team of rowers. Working in unison and aided by wind, the caracao would cut quickly through the waters.

·      Garay is a smaller version of the caracoa and associated with the ethnic communites of the Sulu archipelago. It carried a crew of about 60 under a captain, known as nadoka.

·      Sapit was another sea-going vessel of the Sulu archipelago but it was meant primarily for transport and for ceremonial purposes.

·      Lepa, also lipa, associated with the Sama Laut or Sama di laut, also known as a Badjao, was a houseboat where the Sama spent most of their lives.

With the introduction of Western-type boats, the local boats evolved. A rudder (timon) was attached to the bigger boats and a superstructure built, fore or aft of the boat. The fore superstructure usually carried a lantaka or some armament when outfitted for battle.

Western-influenced boats are the cargo vessel of the Visayas and Palawan, the batel or batil and the falua of Batanes. These boats had deep rounded hulls that bobbed in the sea. They were slow but capacious so were fit for the task of transportation. Another type of cargo vessel was the casco used for river transport. Flat-bottomed or shallow, it had no outriggers but had a wide berth suitable for cargo.

Boats were a complementary part of military defense in the Philippine archipelago. Since the coast were exposed to attack and enemies often came sailing toward coastal towns, a strategy of putting together static fortifications (the bastion forts, blockhouses and watchtowers) were complemented with a mobile armada composed of indigenous vessels. These were best fit for maneuvering through the mangrove swamps, the submerged sandbars, reefs and shoals that fringe Philippine islands. The village armada engaged the attackers at sea, preventing them from landing at all cost.

The indigenous boat, thus, deserves a lengthy mention in any discussion of fortifications as an effective strategy of control.

Bastion:  French term used synonymously for baluarte.

Bateria (battery): It is a gun emplacement area, which can bear the weight of a number of cannons.  When it is uncovered it is called a barbet-battery and its range of action is dynamic, but it is exposed to enemy fire.  But when it is covered it is vaulted-battery and its range limited, however, it has the advantage of being protected.  It was first used as a simplified form in 16th century for the space below the castle.  It became a permanent feature and functioned actively in the defense systems of coastal areas from the beginning of the 18th century.  It was widely used in America.

Berma (berm): A space at the base of a wall, reinforced by an earth embankment so that stones and earthen projectiles hurled by the enemy do not clog the moat.

Blochaus (blockhouse): A square fortification of wood, covered with planks or tiles; it had a moat.

Philippine usage: blochaus (blockhouse):  Also muog.  Independent, freestanding, strong house with thick walls of mortar or timber, small openings.  May or may not be raised from the ground.  Built by the military or at the initiative of the local community.

Brecha (breach): An opening in the wall of a fort or of a settlement, made by the enemy to assault and penetrate forcibly whatever is in the fortification.

Caballero (cavalier): A defensive structure built over another to give it greater elevation and visibility from the field outside.  It is located along the curtain wall or the bastion’s gorge.  Generally, it is customary to place them parallel to the flanks and curtains.  They form a second bastion for augmenting the line of fire from an elevated area.

Up to the 18th century the term caballero connoted the idea of domination, or of something placed above another.  Caballero de baluarte was a smaller bastion with lines parallel to the a bigger bastion, built as redoubt and final refuge and defense structure.

Cal y canto (lime and cut stone): A method of construction using finely cut stone bound with lime mortar. Also Philippine usage: calicanto

Philippine usage: de cota.  Similar method of construction similar cal y canto but using rough or uncut stones arranged like riprap and bound with mortar.  de mamposteria (rubblework): similar to de cota construction except that the stones used are smaller and embedded in the lime mortar haphazardly.  These rougher type constructions had several layers of lime plaster finish (paletada/ palitada).

Calabazo (jail)

Philippine usage: preso, presohan, bilanggo, bilangguan, kulungan

Camino cubierto (covered walkway): Also known as esplato, explanada, estrad cubierta, estrada encubierta.  A wide esplanade bounded by the open field with a parapet and of the height of person and a banqueta (step), from which a soldier can fire a rifle outward.  Here a palisade is built in times of war to retard the movement of enemies.  Sometimes, at the center a much wider circulatory space is built for troop formation and this space is enclosed by transverses.

Camino de ronda (patrol road): Also known as paso de ronda.  This is a road that reaches out to the perimeter and was built in medieval castles for the passage of roving guards.  With the appearance of site artillery, the perimeter walkway was transferred to the interior and widened.  It was known as adarve (See ADARVE).

Philippine usage: Campanario (Bell tower): Also torre, cimborio.  Doubles as the bell tower of the town church and built beside or apart from the church.  The ringing of bells was used to signal impending attacks.

Campo de Marte (field of Mars): From the walls of a city to the exterior, an extensive space is left clear of all types of construction and vegetation, and called Field of Mars.  This was used for military exercises.  It was common to keep a distance of about a league from the wall clear of all objects, which might permit access or threat from the enemy.

Cañonera (embrassure): Also known as tronera.  Space for placing the barrel of a cannon between merlons.  In modern fortifications, the cañonera was replaced by the embrassure.

Capilla (chapel):  In a developed bastioned fort a small chapel was built.  Services were held for the soldiers by the military chaplain.  In the Philippines, he was also the local missionary or parish priest.

Capital: An imaginary line that divides a structure into two along the salient angle.

Caponera (caponier): A road located over a moat where there is no bridge.  A wall on either side to protect the artillery troop flanks it.

Cara (face): A fortified line, which faces the exterior to withstand bombardment from the front.  In a bastion, faces refer to two walls that meet at a salient or which form the capital angle.

Carcasa: An incendiary bomb.

Casa-fuerte (strong house): A type of architecture reminiscent of medieval works built primarily during the process of Spanish conquest and colonization in the Carribean.  Sobriety, enclosure and compactness characterize its architecture.  Rectangular or quadrilateral in plan, it is surrounded by wall with battlements.   Its walls are of mortar, adobe or packed earth, surmounted by a battlement.  In the façade is displayed the arms of a Spanish noble.  It is used as the residence of the governors and mayors.

Casamata (casement): A vault for the lower flank of a wall. It has the advantage of being bomb proof: protecting artillery and guaranteeing a safe refuge.  When cannons are fired inside the vaulted chamber, the gases escape through a respirator, lantern, or chimney for air, usually located at the roof of a dome, and in some rare cases along the sides of the casement.  The defensive element can be of the elliptical form and is usually situated at the flanks of a fortification to protect the principal gate.

Philippine usage: The vaulted ceiling of the casamata is sometimes called boveda, although is not accurate usage as boveda refers to a church dome.

Castillo (castle): A well-built medieval fortification, preferably located on top of a promontory for the defense of the feudal lord and his vassals.  Its walls of mortar or brick are vertical, tall, crowned with battlements, and with towers at the corners and one principal tower (the keep) in the interior.  The classical works of modern military architecture use the term “castle” for permanent fortifications with more than three bastions.

Cavallero (cavalier): A super-structure built on top of a wall, usually a gun emplacement or a well-fortified room for soldiers.

Cestón (gabion): Also called cesta.  A cylinder without a bottom, woven of branches about 5 to 6 feet tall and 4 in diameter, filled with earth and serves as quick method of shielding and for covering.  Its use goes back to antiquity.

Circumavalacion: A continuous or discontinous defense line consisting of trenches, forts, obstacles and other works of fortification built in an area against an attacking army.

Ciudadela (citadel ): A special area in an open space which protects the side of a town or a filed.  From the Italain “cittadela” which is an element of permanent fortification.  The antecedents of it in antiquity and the Middle Ages are known as acropolis, capitol, alcazar, alcazaba, castle, el macho, torre de homaje, etc.  The modern citadel has modified the ancient form being more solidly and soundly built.  It is classified as a type of permanent fortification, which is part of general defense strategy of a state in readiness for war.

Philippine usage: ciudadela (fortified settlement/city): Also intramuros, ciudad murada.  Citadel.  A civil, religious, business and residential community surrounded by a defensive wall; it may have bastions and towers at the corners or strategic points of the curtain wall.  May be built at the community’s initiative in which case a volunteer militia, drawn from the residents, mans it.

Philippine usage: cohetes (signal rockets).  Rockets were introduced by the Chinese as pyrotechnics for festivals, however, they found military use as signal flares to warn that marauding bands had been sighted off shore.

Colisas (swivel gun): Refers to batteries for swivel guns.

Común (latrine): A small structure, which in a fortification serves as a latrine.

Philippine usage: casillas.  Also banyo.

Contrafuerte (buttress): A solid piece of support or abutment located at the outer slope to give stability to the walls of a fort, or a polvorin (storehouse for gunpowder) or other vaulted constructions.

Philippine usage: estribo.

Contraguardia (counter-guard): A forward structure whose two straight walls and angle cover the salient and two faces of a bastion in a bastioned fort.  Its walls are customarily angled.  This structure defends the front of a bastion and acts as forewall against frontal attacks.

Contramuralla (inner wall, countermure): Part of the curtain wall that faces the interior of a fortification, covered by an embankment and a covering.

Contrasescarpa (counterscarp): A wall slightly angled (escarpado), which bounds the moat at the side of the covered walkway.  The escarp of a fort bounds the other side of the moat.  At the counterscarp are found steps used by troops to go to the covered walkway.

Cordón magistral: It is formed by a protruding, compact and semi-circular, moulding.  It has a decorative and as well as constructive function; because it is a feature that divides the parapet from the angled walls of a permanent fortification, the cordon reveals the proportion between the height of the parapet and the level of the top of the wall.  From the glacis alone is it possible to visualize the cordon and the parapet, thus other features remain hidden from attackers.

Cortadura: Moat or defensive obstacle in a road or opening to stop or impede passage in case of attack.

Cortina (curtain wall): An angled straight wall, which joins two demi-bastions.  It forms a defensive or bastioned front that is dynamic and from which is launched straight and crossfires.  The curtain wall had a set dimension, which varied according the epochs in response to the technological development of armaments.

Cuartel (barracks): Quarters for the officials and troops located inside a vaulted chamber of fort or in another type of construction of lighter material located at the plaza de armas.  At the beginning of the 19th century, the barracks assumed an independent look and spaciousness and solidity characterized its construction.  In the Americas, it was used for the artillery corps, cavalry and infantry.

Cuerpo de guardia (guardhouse): Originally it referred to a troop of soldiers, especially after they are regrouped after taking a position.  By extension it referred to a place or to troop quarters.  The quarters, generally vaulted, were located to the left and right of the principal entrance to the fort, although it can be located elsewhere.  The internal divisions are hierarchical: for offices, for troops, for munitions.

Cureña (cannon yoke): Base of the support of cannons.  It can be made of metal or wood.  Its form depends on specific use: for field battles, for coastal battles, for permanent fortifications, etc.

Edificio militar (military buildings): All fortifications have military buildings for the comfort of the commander, the officers, and troops, a hospital, storehouses for food, munitions, and bullets.  When these are not available some vaulted chambers are used for these purposes.  When built they are located at the plaza de armas because of space and safety considerations.

Escarpa (escarp): The angle given to a the wall of a fort, for the two-fold purpose of making the principal wall durable and making canon shots ricochete off the solid wall, built of stone and mortar.

Espalda: Or angulo de espalda is the angle formed by a bastion’s flank and face.  If the angle is rounded or curved it is referred to as orejon (orillon) otherwise it is called espalda.

Espaldon: Earthen mound used as cover against gunfire.

Estacada (palisade, stockade): A row of timbers raised vertically over the earth, joined by planks and horizontally placed tie-beams, and separated by a few centimeters distance from each timber.  The upright timbers end in sharp points to make it difficult for enemies to jump over them.  This structure is located at the covered walkway, bastion or moat, to impede the entrance of the enemy into the fortification.

Philippine usage: palizada, estacada, estaqueria (palisade): A type of temporary or field fortification made of stout timber or in the case of the Philippines also of coconut trunks, reinforced by an embankment of packed earth and rocks (earthwork).

Philippine usage: escolta.  Perimeter road outside the moat.

Estribo: A supporting structure or buttress.

Philippine usage: This term is more commonly used to refer to a buttress rather than the synonym contrafuerte.

Explanada (esplanade): A stone floor on which is placed heavy pieces of artillery.  The esplanade has a slight inclination toward the parapet to assure the easy maneuverability of the pieces of artillery.  Sometimes a wooden structure with a framework of wood planks is built over the flooring.

Facina (facine): Made of small branches mixed with earth and used for diverse works during the attack or defense of a fortified area, and to build approaches or dry a moat.

Flanco (flank): The flank is built perpendicular to the curtain wall and is generally a straight wall.  It may have an orillon, in the Italian manner (16th century) or rounded with an orillon (17th century).

Flanqueado: Salient angle of a fortification where crossfire from weapons on the walls cross.

Fortaleza (fortress): A generic term referring to any type of military architecture or defensive structure.  It is a symbol of impregnability and inaccesability.

Fortificación (fortification): A structure or series of structures used to defend a city or whatever site.  It may be permanent or temporary, facing landward or seaward.

Fortificación de la Campana (field fortification): A temporary fortification built during a military campaign, usually consisting of rocks, rammed or packed earth and stakes.

Fortificación permanente abluartada (permanent bastioned fort): A type of architecture introduced to the Americas at the beginning of the 16th century (In the Philippines during the early 17th century).  It is a type of permanent fortification.  Its plan employs a form geometric, symmetrical, mathematically precise, and harmonious.  Every element of the fortification is in proportion to the others.  It is designed in consonance with the terrain and its walls are made of rammed earth, crowned with parapets, and covered with durable stones, hewn as blocks.  It applies the principles somewhat fixed and used inchoately in development of military architecture.  The presence of bastions is the innovative feature, which solves the problem of blind angles and allows a dynamic range of action at the bastioned front.  This type is the highest expression of modern American military architecture and was common during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Philippine usage: fortified convento: Free standing convento (priests’ residence) with features of fortifications, e.g. windows with rifle slits, parapets, towers Usually built at the initiative of resident priest and community.

Philippine usage: fortified church complex: Church, convento, and auxiliary buildings either surrounded by a wall with or without bastions; or the church and convento structure itself is built with fortification in mind.  Usually built at the initiative of resident priest and community.

Fortín (fortin, fortlet):  A smaller type of fortification, characterized by simplicity in plan or design.  In general it has two stories and an open space.  It follows various geometric plans, although the rectangular is the most common. It is a type of field fortification.

Foso (moat): The moat is an essential element of permanent fortifications and runs around the area facing landward.  It is bounded by a fortification’s escarp and the covered walkway’s counterscarp.  It may be filled with water or not.  When filled with water, the moat is planned wide but not very deep, because water is the primary obstacle.  When dry, it is deeper and is generally used in conjunction with artillery.  The principal parts of a moat are the escarpa, fondo and contraescarpa (scarp, ditch and counterscarp)

Frente abaluartado (bastion trace): Also called defensive front (frente defensivo).  It consists of a curtain wall, two flanks and two demi-bastions.  At the curtain are placed mortars and a few cannons, and at times, none at all.  At the flanks are placed five or six canons for the defense of the moat.  Its faces receive the most bombardment because it is built to withstand battering from outside.

Fuerte (fortification, intrenchment): A fuerte may be separated from or dependent on a military garrison for the defense of a citadel.  Forward or detached fuertes are located outside the walls.  When located following an exterior line, it forms one circuit, so that one assists the other.  It is thus called entrenched field (campo atrincherado) or field with detached fortifications (plaza con fuertes destacados).

Philippine usage: Fuerza abaluartada (bastioned fort):, also fuerza, fuerte, castillo. Characterized by low, stout walls with projections from the curtain, called bastions (baluarte).  A military installation housing barracks, commander’s quarters, armory, storerooms, kitchen,  Armed with heavy artillery.  Generally built by the crown.  Under a fort commander with a standing army composed of Spanish and Mexican officers and native soldiers.

Galería : A vaulted subterranean passageway at the side of the counterscrap, which is a bit more than a meter in width and two in height.  The galleries need not communicate with one another.  From the main gallery others that are shallower and narrower fan out in different directions, and are called branches (ramales).

Gárgola (gutter, gargoyle): Canal where water flows from the tile floors or roofs or a fountain.

Garita (sentry box): A small auxiliary structure made of hewn stone or also of bricks.  It has three parts: the cupola, terminating in a pine or ball; the principal body, which has narrow alternate windows for discharging gunfire when the occasion calls for it and the base which terminates in a bracket and a ball.  The sentry box is located at the principal angle of a bastion or at its flanks, the center of a wall, which runs around a site, or at whatever angle of the enclosure.  It is a structure easily destroyed during a battle because it is exposed to the enemy firepower.  It took various forms: between the 16th and the 17th centuries the circular form dominated while the angular during the 18th, which often used the hexagonal plan.  It was much lighter, stylized and had more decorative details.

Glasis o glacis (glacis): A sloping earth embankment, which extended amply from the top of the covered walkway or from the border of the counterscarp to the natural line of the earth.  Usually, a stockade of timbers was built at its base to keep up the rammed earth embankment.  Its outline prevented the enemy from having a clear sight of the fortification from afar, it was so built that the part visible was from the cordon to the parapet.

Gola (gorge): An imaginary line, which linked a bastion, from flank to flank and its angled sides.

Hornabeque (hornwork): An outwork, forward or outer fortification, formed by a front curtain wall with two demi-bastion (frente abaluartado), moat and ravelin.  From the different faces of the bastion run straight walls of various lengths, which enclosed the fortification at the gorge.  When two demi-bastions met at the center it formed a complete bastion.  Two equal fronts form a double hornwork or crown.

Hornillo (chamber of a mine): In a mine (see MINA Y CONTRAMINA) it is the chamber where gunpowder is introduced to produce an explosion.  There are different types of hornillos.  These defended the covered walkways, the ravelins, bastions and curtain walls.

Philippine usage: Ilihan:  Also ili.  Natural-type of defense consisting of a hill, promontory or high place.  The high ground may be terraced or a built structure might be raised on the highest point.  Called ijang among the Ivatan.

Philippine usage: Kuta:  Also cota, cotta, muog. Indigenous type of fortification, similar to the palisade.  Equipped with native culverins and swivel guns, called lantaka.

Philippine usage: Lantaka: cast bronze small-bore cannons and swivel guns. The lantaka may be mounted on sea crafts to complement the static defenses of a place.

Lienzo de muralla (line of the curtain wall): Portions of a wall, which joined with one encloses a fortification and delimits the exterior space.  In an area where a curtain wall does not join two demi-bastions, the lienzo de muralla refers to a wall that encloses a space.

Linea capital: It is the imaginary line, which divides a bastion into two equal parts at the salient angle.

Linea magistral: It is an imaginary line originating from the center of a fortification.

Lumbrera (lantern): Also known as ventilation chimney or respirator.  An opening in a vaulted chamber, which serves the triple function of allowing gases from the canons to escape, illumination, and ventilation.

Luneta : Also known as entrenched position.  It is constructed at the corners of a counterscarp.  It has the form of a simple ravelin, with parapets, steps, and a gorge that terminates in an acute angle.  It function is to protect the easy passage of the covered walkway.

Maleçon: Wall or embankment used to contain the currents of a river, breakwater.

Matacán (machincolation): An element, cantelivered and hollow, supported by brackets, situated at the crown of towers and the curtain walls to protect the gate and the principal entrance of a medieval castle.  From this opening are dropped flaming balls, stones and other devices to impede the assault of the enemy.  It is used in modern fortifications in America, although not frequently.

Media luna (demi-lune): A forward structure similar to the ravelin with the difference that the demi-lune is placed in front of the principal angle of a bastion in a permanent bastioned fort.  At the same time it differs from the counter-guard (contraguardia), whose two long faces protect the faces of the bastion.  The demi-lune might be doubled or flanked; its gorge has the shape of a concave half moon.

Philippine usage: Confused with luneta, which is used as a synonym.

Merlón (merlon): Part of a parapet between one cannon emplacement and the next.  Its upper part is inclined.  Its lower part rests on the platform, from which a soldier, protected by the merlón up to chest height, can fire a rifle.

Mina y contramina (mine and countermine): Principal passage with its branches and chamber of the hornillo.  The mine and countermine are differentiated because the mine is used by the enemy (the attacker) and the countermine by the defender (the attacked).  The countermine is built at the base of the embankment, near the foundation, at the moat, the covered walkway, or esplanade.  This subterranean system is crucial for overcoming big obstacles.

Philippine usage: muog: A fortified tree house, made of timber and approached by a retractable ladder or rope.  Also a synonym of kuta, hence, used to translate fuerza.

Mira: In ancient terminology used to refer to a raised or superior point. 

Philippine usage: Used to refer to the company that was stationed on top of the gate of a fort.

Muralla (wall): Rectilinear walls that joined other walls at different levels and enclosed a fortification forming successive lines of walls.  It had no fixed dimensions like the curtain wall.  Also called muralla since antiquity was a type of permanent structure that enclosed a city.  Before the 16th century, the walls of a medieval city were formed by lines of tall, straight and angled walls, with the top perimeter crenelated, and towers at certain points.  In the modern epoch, the walls were made of lines that were more solid, thicker, made of cut stone or rammed earth.  Bastions replaced the towers and the parapets the crenelations.

Also refers to the built perimeter of a fort consisting of a continuous wall, distinguished from outer defenses.  In general, it refers to the permanent fortification of a site.

Obra exterior de avanzada (forward outworks): During the 18th century, such structures proliferated.  These are built within the line of a moat to defend a permanent fortification.  The ravelin, demi-lune, luneta, tenaille, large tenaille, hornwork and others extend to the field and protect the lines of defense.  They are obstacles that prevent the enemy from penetrating the principal fortification.

Orejón (orillon): An element at the salient flank of a bastion, which functions to protect the recessed sections of the flanks.

Palizada (Palisade): Syn empalizada, estacada

Parapeto (parapet): It is the prolongation or battlement of the angled walls of a fortification.  It is formed by alternating embrassures (cañoneras or troneras) and merlons.  It is built over an embankment of packed or rammed earth.  The dimensions of a parapet varied in relation to the gradual development of artillery.  During the 16th century it was about a meter wide but in the 18th it reached up to 7 or 8 meters.

Pilotaje: Bridge construction using wood columns or tree trunks as the piles of the bridge.

Plataforma (platform): Gun emplacement shaped as a rectangle or trapezoid.  It is different from the ordinary battery, which is simpler and whose radius of movement is limited.  Its function complements that of a fortification and at times covers the side faces of the bastions.

Plaza alta y baja: Used of the level where the battery is located.  When it functions at the upper part of a bastion it is called tall, and when the gun emplacement is at a lower level and bombproof, protected by a vaulted chamber it is called low.

Philippine usage: Plaza de armas:  Also plaza militar. An open space within the fort for military drills and formations guns.

Plaza de armas: A wide space within a fort used for troop formations.  The space of a covered walkway is also used when it has a rediente entante o salient.

Poliorcética: The art of attacking and defending a fortified area.  During an advancing siege and the positioning of siege weapons, the form of the site changes and in like manner the shape of the fortification.

Polvora (gunpowder): Explosive used for artillery fire.

Polvorín (gunpowder storage): The polvorin is a type of architecture known for its solidity.  It has thick walls, vaulted ceiling, supports and external buttresses and a heavy roof.

Posterna (Postern gate): Secondary exit, small and proceeds from a vaulted gallery through a ramp or stairs and connects to the moat.  Generally, it is found along the curtain wall, near the fixed angle (the angle the joins the wall with a bastion) or in the orillon.  From the side of the postern is established direct communication with the outer works and with covered walkways.

Philippine usage: postigo.

Puente (bridge): The bridge can either be raised or fixed (durmientes) or stable and are fixed on a base of wooden or stone pillars.  It sides has wooden guards.  A fortification can have two types of bridges: the drawbridge, which is nearest the principal gate, while the rest is a fixed bridge that connects with the field outside.  Others fortifications have composite bridges that communicate with the covered walkway, ravelin or tenaille.  At time, the fixed or stable bridge is paved for the convenience of pedestrians and to sustain the weight of passing carriages.

Puerta de la plaza (Gate of the plaza): This is placed at the center of a curtain wall because it is protected by the artillery from the flanks of the bastions, thus is covered by crossfire.  The gate is generally strongly built and reinforced with studs in the Spanish manner (ala española), the rest of the façade assumes a period style, and thus is an indication of the date of construction.

Rastrillo (portcullis) : A gate made of vertical timbers reinforced by horizontal and diagonal members.  It is customary to place these near the sentry boxes, bridges, subterranean passages, and other secondary entrances to impede the movement of enemies.  Also called rastrillo is the gate found at the principal entrance of a fortification or plaza de armas.  It is made of an iron grate, reinforced by braces, which runs above the lateral grooves, and is supported by cables or chains.  It hinders entrance or access when the occasion calls for it.

Recinto (fortified settlement perimeter): Another name for the perimeter of a plaza.  It is the continuous line of fortification that encloses a city classified as a plaza fuerte.

Rediente: This is the salient angle of a line of trenches or circulation, equivalent to two faces and gorge.  Its function is for flank attacks.

Reducto (redoubt): It is a type of quadrilateral or rectangular fortification of 30 to 60 yards (varas) in length.  It lacks flanks but at times it has a protruding prismatic structure, which cannot be considered a bastion.  It principal defensive structure is the elevation of its site, and its interior is protected by casements and the exterior with parapets.  It is a minor and complementary structure, which forms part of the defense system of a site.

Retreta: In general, trench work built at the two faces of one or more bastion and forming an angle.  It is raised once the primary fortification has been breached and hand to hand combat has ensue in order to prevent entrance into the fortification.

Revellín or rebellín(ravelin): An outer structure located in front of the curtain wall whose principal line coincides with magistral line of the fortification.  There are three types of ravelin.  The simple type has two faces joined at an acute angle, and has the same dimensions as the faces of a bastion.  The ravelin with flanks is similar to the simple ravelin but has flank angles like the bastion.  The double ravelin or with parapet, which is similar to the simple ravelin but different from the preceding because its has at its gorge a parapet with a small moat.  The faces always look out to the covered walkway.  In between is a ramp which leads to the upper space where there is an flat area with parapets; in the lower section is quarters for the troops, officers and supplies.  The ravelin is built within the moat to defend the flanks of a permanent fortification.

Semicirculares (semi-circulars): Bases on which swivel guns are placed.

Sistema defensivo (defense system): It is the organization of diverse elements combined into a whole.  It involves elevation, irregularities of the terrain, river mouths, canals for entering a port and other geographical and topographical peculiarities, combined in harmony with artillery direct or in

Soterrada (subterranean): Beneath the earth.  In the development of artillery during the middle 1800s, fortifications sought much protection from an earth embankment . During this period, appeared subterranean batteries with lodgings proper to this function.

Surtida (sallyport): Secret passage made by the besiegers.

Talud (talus): The angle of an embankment such as transverses, parapets, escarps and counterscraps of the wall.

Tambor: A small defensive element of field fortification, with a semi-circular plan or limited by a crenelated wall.  A tambor covers a weak spot, and serves as the flank of length of wall or curtain wall. It starts from a gate or the corner of an edifice.

Philippine usage: telegrafo: A signal system consisting of large colored flags.  The telegrafo was usually located on top of a watchtower.  At night bonfire or rockets (cohetes, kuwitis) were used.

Tenaza (tenaille): A forward defense but more complex than a tenazón.  It has two or more faces and its sides extend to the field.  The simple tenaille presents two faces; the double tenaille has four faces formed by two angles emerging from the curtain and one salient.  The tenaille with the swallow’s tail or the cleric’s hat has two wings that extend to the gorge.

Tenazón: A forward defense placed before the moat and before the curtain wall.  A tenazón is simple when it is made up of two lines coming at an angle.

Terraplen (earth embankment): In a palisade it was the mound of earth used to reinforce the curtain.  It could also refer to the glasis or to embankments raised to strengthen the foundations of a stone and mortar construction.  Also used to refer to the adarve, and by extension to a floor, or in field fortification to a flattened area on which a structure is built.  Terraplanar un muro: to repair an old wall by adding earth on top.

Tepes: A piece of earth cleared of plants and shaped as a quadrilateral generally used in field fortifications and in fortifications and in fortifications on a hill or elevated area.

Tinglado (projecting roof): A covering of lightwood used for the troops at rest.

Tiro de enfilda: The effect of an enemy attacking a fort, and destroying the defensive obstacles of an embankment.

Torre (tower): A minor type of military architecture, usually circular or rectangular in plan, with a crenelated perimeter and made of rammed earth.  Masonry or brick is used in its construction.  Its structure is not complex but is rather closed, compact, and massive.  It has a defensive function as well as sentry function.

Philippine usage: Commonly used in the Ilocos to refer to watchtowers.

Través: A solid, defensive structure, in the form of a shortened parapet, which generally traverses a covered walkway.  This is located perpendicular to the counterscarp to enclose the plaza de armas.  It function is to protect the fire of a line of soldiers.  Also called través are certain constructions that hold the storage for munitions.  The cartridges or charge of gunpowder and the grannade are transferred in wagons, which run through the middle of the roadway until the battery where the cannons are located.  According to La Llave, beneath the traverses are built vaulted chambers, which are covered with earth and protected from fire.  These serve to house the artillery corps when there are not at their posts beside the guns.  They reach the traves through a ramp.

Also used as synonym of flanco (flank)

Trinchera (trench): A defensive ditch that covers the bodies of soldiers.

Philippine usage: Verso (mortar). Small, hand held vertical cannons used for signal flares and explosives.  These cannons were used as warning devices and also for fireworks used in festivities.

Trocha: A line of fortifications forming a system, usually used to refer to a string of field fortifications built during a military campaign.

*Partly based on the “Glosario de términos sobre fortificaciones” by Tamara Blanes Martin of ICOMOS-Cuba (1998); and “Vocabulario militar” in Lourdes Diaz-Trechuelo Spinola (1959) Arquitectura española en Filipinas (1565-1800) pp. 549-53.  Translation, adaptation and additions on Philippine usage by René B. Javellana, S.J.


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