Belvedere (fort)

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The Forte di Belvedere or Fortezza di Santa Maria in San Giorgio del Belvedere (often called simply Belvedere) is a fortification in Florence, Italy. It was built by Grand Duke Ferdinando I de' Medici during the period 1590–1595, with Bernardo Buontalenti as the designer, to protect the city and its rule by the Medici family.

On the same side of the river as the Grand Ducal palace, the Pitti Palace in the Oltrarno district of the city, today the grounds provide spectacular outlooks over Florence; the buildings are used to hold works of art, and as a venue for exhibitions of contemporary sculpture.

The design and construction of the Fort were entrusted to architect Bernardo Buontalenti, the chief architect for both Cosimo I and his son, Ferdinando. The Fort served many purposes: to protect the center of government in Florence, the Pitti Palace; to protect the south end of the city of Florence and the Oltrarno district; to demonstrate the power of the Medici family; hold the treasury of the Medici; and finally to provide a shelter for the Grand Duke if the city came under attack. The fort was connected to Palazzo Vecchio via the Vasari Corridor over Ponte Vecchio, passages in the Pitti Palace and paths through Boboli Gardens.

Buontalenti applied contemporary fortification principles when he designed the Fort. The walls are designed at angles that allow for all the walls to be seen by another wall, allowing for cross fire to assist in protecting the other walls. The location where the fort was placed had long been considered of strategic importance since the time of Michelangelo, then head engineer of fortifications. An earlier version of the fort was built of earth and stone gabions as seen in frescoes in Palazzo Vecchio.

In addition to being a fortification, the Belvedere was meant to be a sign of Medici prestige. The villa inside the fortress was designed to be elegant and did not adhere to the military purposes of the rest of the fort. Since the villa was meant to be used as the residence of the Grand Duke during times of unrest or epidemic, it was built as a comfortable, luxurious palace, another sign of Medici domination in Florence.

The Fort served as a garrison for troops for over 100 years after its completion.