Castle of Los Tres Reyes del Morro is a very attractive geographical location within Cuba, which during the colonial times was known as the “Pearl of the Antilles” for evident reasons; it inspired the desire of many corsairs as well as pirates who tried to take control of the village of San Cristobal de la Habana on multiple occasions.
In addition to this interesting fact, the Spanish Court also decided to turn the port of Havana into a concentration area for the many ships that were laden with the treasures of the New World before they departed for Europe. In turn this led the Spanish authorities to pass a royal decree to construct a reinforcement system that would defend the properties of the crown as well as keep the many attackers away if they were so inclined to take over the capital of the island.
The king at the time ordered his officials in Havana to construct defense facilities high on top of a rock at the entry of the bay, as a type of beacon for friendly ships that sailed in as well as to be used as a guardian against the enemy ships, in December of 1563.
Juan Bautista Antonelli, an Italian Military engineer constructed Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro as well as many other major fortresses within Cuba to be a Renaissance-style building that was constructed as an uneven polygon, as well as having three bastions that controlled the entry way to the harbor, the bay, as well as the city itself.
The ruler from 1600 to 1607 was Governor Don Pedro Valdes, he was the one that contributed to the completion of the works of building up the castle on a grand scale. Under his ruling a solid platform that a twelve piece artillery battery that was known as “The 12 Apostles” was constructed and still stands today. By the end of his ruling term, only the arsenal, water tanks, soldier’s barracks as well as some minor facilities remained unfinished. These were finished many years later when La Cabana Fortress was constructed.
This beautiful castle is considered to be a major fortification of the city’s security system against many pirates for over a century. Then the Morro Castle was apprehended by the English, who ultimately took it after opening a breach in one of its walls, and used it to have the capital yield to them.
By 1740, the unspoken witnesses of Havana’s expansion, both of the fortresses witnessed the development of the city beyond its renowned walls. Although, the habit of announcing the closing of the walls nightly by firing a cannon at nine o’clock has become a tradition that is still practiced today. The Guards would fire one of the pieces of artillery from the fortress in order to warn Havana citizens that it was time to take safe haven behind the substantial walls as well as to warn them to evade walking into the forest and exuberant vegetation that surrounded the city. This very development is what led to its own destruction of the walls; some of the small remains can still be seen today.
Guards that are dressed in Spanish uniforms much like the ones that were worn in the garrison in the colonial times march toward the designated piece of artillery that will be fired, as a part of the ceremony performed to this day. These guards are then closely followed by the foreigners and nationals who visit the Morro Castle Historical Military Park to bear witness to one of the most admired traditions in Havana. The cannons that are used in today’s ceremonies that keep this custom alive in an environment and colonial constructions go hand in hand, under the attentive silent watch of the guardian of the city, are the same cannons that were used centuries ago. “El Morro” Castle is visited on most of our tours.
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