Starting from the fifteenth century, the diagram of many fortresses has a pentagonal shape. Among the best known fortresses, in Italy we find the Fortezza da Basso of Florence, the Cittadella of Parma, the Cittadella of Turin, Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome.
The aim of this article is to analyze the reasons that link form and geometry to the planning of the design and the layout of pentagonal fortresses.
The pentagon is a polygon tied to the golden section and to the Fibonacci sequence and it is possible to construct it starting from the golden triangle and its gnomon. This construction of the pentagon is already found in the book De Divina Proportione by Luca Pacioli and is particularly convenient for planning pentagonal fortresses. If one wants to draw the first approximated golden triangle, one can just consider the numbers of the Fibonacci sequence, for example 5 and 8, which establish the relationship between the sides: 5 units is the length of the base and 8 units the length of the equal sides. In the second isosceles triangle, which is the gnomon of the first, the base is 8 units long and equal sides are 5 units long; half of this isosceles triangle is the Pythagorean triangle (3, 4, 5). This characteristic of the golden triangles, that was already known by the Pythagoreans and, in a certain sense, contained in the symbol of their School, allows to build a pentagon with only the use of the ruler and the set square. The distinctive trait of the construction just described makes preferable to use the pentagon in the layout of the military architectures in the fieldworks. We have verified the relationship between numbers, shape and size in the layout of Castel Sant’Angelo (1555-1559) in which the approximate pentagon was the instrument for the generation of its form.