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Castillo de la Real Fuerzae and its generalities
The Castillo de la Real Fuerza is considered a distinctive exponent of the military architecture of the Spanish Colony in the Caribbean area.
It is located in the Plaza de Armas, current Historic Center of Havana. On its tower stands the “Giraldilla”, symbol of the island’s capital and inside you can find a museum collection of the history of the fortification and various objects related to the history of navigation and naval construction in Cuba. .
From 1990 to 2005 it was the headquarters of the National Museum of Ceramics, although today it is the Castillo de la Real Fuerza Museum.
Between December 13 and 17, 1982 in the framework of the 6th Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of the Convention of World Cultural and Natural Heritage held at UNESCO in Paris, as an integral part of the Historic Center of Old Havana, it was This monumental architectural work has been granted the status of World Heritage.
The history of the Castillo de la Real Fuerza
The construction of the Castillo de la Real Fuerza begins on December 1, 1558, after the Fuerza Vieja, the first Havana fortress, was destroyed.
This fortress was erected in the space occupied by the original town square, in front of the entrance channel to the Bay of Havana.
The construction work began under the direction of the engineer Bartolomé Sánchez, which progressed slowly until in 1562 Francisco Calona replaced Sánchez and resumed work on the building that was still on its foundations.
Nineteen years later the property was terminated. However, from 1588 on, extensions were made to the upper floor, intended to serve as a dwelling for the governors, and around 1630 a floor was added to the tower on the corner of the southwest bastion.
In this place the “Giraldilla” was placed. During the taking of Havana by the English, in 1762, this fortification served as the organizational center for the defense of the city and became one of the main bastions of that conflict.
In addition to serving as the residence of the captains general and the governors of Cuba, the Castillo de la Real Fuerza served to keep the gold, silver and other valuable merchandise that arrived on the island in transit to Spain.
When the metropolis took back the colonial rule of the city, after 1762, the castle stationed the troops in the square and during the Ten Years’ War it became the Headquarters of the Havana Volunteer Corps.
Towards 1899 the North American interventor government ordered the transfer of the National Archives to the fortress, where it remained until 1906.
From that date it was used as the barracks of the Rural Guard and from 1909 it was occupied by the headquarters of that body. Between 1938 and 1957 the Castillo de la Real Fuerza was the headquarters of the National Library.
After the revolutionary triumph of 1959, the upper floor first housed the National Monuments Commission and then the National Center for Conservation, Restoration and Museology. The Museum of Weapons was located on the ground floor.
The Castle and its architecture
The Castillo de la Real Fuerza is characterized by its perfect symmetry, typical of 16th century Renaissance architecture.
The plan can be understood as a square that is divided into nine equal parts, which top four regular bastions or as four concentric squares.
The bastions were built following the new techniques imposed at that time in the use of the cannon, which determined that the fortresses had to be built with thick walls to have greater resistance to bullets.
Around the fortress was the wet moat bounded by the perimeter wall.
The Royal Force had numerous shortcomings, such as a small courtyard, too open loopholes in the bastions, tall and thin vaults, absence of stairs to access the upper deck, shallow pit, and deficient artillery.
It should be noted that some of these problems were corrected, although others never had a solution.