Sortie gate seen from Bornholms Ravelin


In the ramparts of ”Kastellet” there are 3 so-called Poterner, or sortie gates, one behind the Southern Magazine House, one behind the Northern Magazine House, and the last behind the General’s House.

Their purpose were to give access to some covered fields, from where an attack during a siege could be performed by pontoon bridges. This have never been tried, since the only time attacks at a besieging army was against the British army that bombarded Copenhagen in 1807 – and at that occasion all attacks were through the normal gates.

Instead the low gates found other uses. Among other things they were storage points for many things, like firewood etc, but most importantly it was through these gates that the so-called slaves carried the latrine out to pour it into the mound.

Even more directly were they important for the sanitary conditions in the “Kastellet”. In front of each there was a “water house” a small shed on poles in the water, each with a small bridge connecting it to the shore. One is shown beneath in a painting of Købke from around 1832. Those were the toilets. When the talking was about “going to the waterhouse” it really meant going to the lavatory. These were the most important toilet facilities in the citadel. Everything fell into the water. There were also water houses on the outside for use by guards and the artillerists manning the guns there.
But most astonishing the water in the mounds was also an important part of the water supply, until a severe cholera epidemic in 1853 convinced the authorities that the blending of toilets and drinking water was a very bad idea. After that, only the wells inside the citadel were used for drinking water.

During WW2 two of these sortie gates served as air raid shelters, that behind the Southern Magazine House for the Germans, the one behind the Northern Magazine Building for Danes, until the Germans expelled all Danes from the citadel in 1942.

Part of a painting by Købke showing a”water house”