El Morro Castle
El Morro Castle, locally known as Castillo del Morro but officially called Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro, is situated on a rocky promontory at the entrance of the bay of the city of Havana on Cuba. It is not to be confused with the El Morro Castle in Santiago de Cuba.
Construction work on El Morro Castle started in 1590, during the government of Juan de Tejeda, and finished in 1630, during the government of Lorenzo de Cabrera. It was built by the Italian military engineer Giovanni Battista Antonelli, who also built La Punta Castle, on the opposite shore of the bay entrance, about the same time.
El Morro Castle was linked with La Punta Castle, via an iron chain during times of uncertainty. In the case of an attack, this chain was tightened up and enemy ships were prevented from entering the bay. The ground plan of the fort has the shape of an irregular polygon as it is adapted to the shape of the rocks it was built on. It is composed of 3 bastions linked by curtain walls and casemented barracks. It also houses cisterns, a chapel, officers quarters, a wine cellar, stables, dungeons and vaults. Due to the fort's commanding view over the sea and the city at the entrance of Havana Bay it also served as a watch post to scout for incoming enemy ships.
In January 1762, the British, aware that Spain had made a pact with France to attack them, declared war and planned to seize Cuba. So, in June that year, a British squadron under Admiral Sir George Pocock arrived. They landed at Cojímar Cove and advanced to the city. The hills of La Cabaña were taken without any difficulty and from there began the siege of the fort supported by attacks from the sea. On July 30, they managed to breach the fortress' walls, after the north east bastion was mined, and took it.
Later in the 18th century Cuba was returned to Spain. The Spanish then built San Carlos de La Cabaña Castle on the hills east of the fort to prevent a successful siege like in 1762. Up until that new fort was built El Morro Castle was the strongest defense of Havana.
On the harbour side of the fort, built directly next to it, lies the Battery of the 12 Apostles, a crescent shaped fortification equipped with 12 large cannons.
The lighthouse at the north western end was built during the 19th century.
In the 20th century El Morro Castle was also used as a prison. During my visit I was told that Che Guevara also had held gatherings in the fort but I could not find any reliable source for that assumption.
At present El Morro Castle is used as a museum and can be visited for a small fee. The modern building on top of the castle is used by the Port Authority.
A great fort on a fantastic location offering beautiful views over the city.