Fort San Felipe del Morro
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Fort San Felipe del Morro —or El Castillo San Felipe del
Morro in Spanish— is a sixteenth-century citadel which lies
on the northwestern-most point of the islet of San Juan,
Puerto Rico. Named in honor of King Philip II of Spain, the
fort, also referred to as "El Morro" or "promontory", was
designed to guard the entrance to San Juan bay, and defend
the city of San Juan from seaborne enemies.
In 1983, the fort was declared a World Heritage Site by
the United Nations and is part of San Juan National Historic
Site. Over two million visitors a year explore the windswept
ramparts and passageways making the fort one of Puerto
Rico's main visitor attractions.
Facing "El Morro", on the opposite side of the bay, a
smaller fort known as "El Cañuelo" complemented the fort's
defense of the entrance to the bay.
Architecture and Design
The construction of the Fort San Felipe del Morro begun
in 1539 when King Charles V of Spain authorized its
construction, including the surrounding walls. The purpose
was to defend the port of San Juan. Construction started the
same year with a tiny proto-fortress that was "completed" in
1589. This small section comprises perhaps 10% of the
structure people see today.
In 1587, engineers Juan de Tejada and Juan Bautista
Antonelli designed the actual appearance of the castle
following well established Spanish military fortification
design principles. Similar Spanish fortifications of the
1600s-1700s can be seen in Cuba, St. Augustine, Florida,
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Veracruz and Acapulco,
Mexico, Portobello and Panama City, Panamá, and many other
Latin American locations which were governed as part of the
Spanish Empire during the Age of Exploration.
Many complex additional new structures were added to El
Morro over the next 400 years. The outer walls are six
meters thick. In 1680, Governor Enrique Enríquez de
Sotomayor begun the construction of the walls surrounding
the city of San Juan, which took 48 years. By the late 18th
century, El Morro's walls had grown to be 18 feet thick.
Today El Morro has six levels that rise from sea level to
145 feet high. All along the walls are seen the dome-covered
sentry boxes known as garitas, which have become a cultural
symbol of Puerto Rico itself. A lighthouse was built atop
the fort in 1843, but in 1908, it was replaced by the US
military with the current lighthouse.
Including the exterior open killing grounds, known as the
glacis and esplanade, dominated by cannon in the 17th and
18th centuries, El Morro can be said to take up over 70