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History of Castle of San Pedro de la Roca
The growing boom of privateering in the Caribbean and the policy of Felipe II to fortify his colonies, starting with the loss of Spanish naval hegemony in 1588, determined the erection, between 1590 and 1610, of a morrillo with ravelin guns to the windward side of the entrance to the bay of Santiago de Cuba.
The naval innovations operated in the seventeenth century, together with the sharpening of the contradictions between the European powers, made it essential to further fortify this strategic place.
In 1638, after the visit of the military engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli, the governor of the city Pedro de la Roca y Borja, ordered the construction of a masonry fortress with four bastions which he called Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca del Morro.
In 1662, an English squad, evading the confrontation with the Fortress, landed four kilometers further to the east and seized the city; the Castle is evacuated, its woods destroyed and its artillery taken.
Between 1663 and 1669 it was rebuilt and expanded by the engineers Juan Císcara Ibáñez, Juan Císcara Ramírez and Francisco Pérez; even with interior areas of wood, but with its current perimeter, adding the flank defenses of the batteries of the Star and Santa Catalina and the upper platform of the Holy Trinity and enlarging others such as that of the Blessed Sacrament.
In 1678 he frustrated the assault of a French squadron and in 1680 that of the filibuster Franquesma.
Between 1675 and 1692 it was damaged by earthquakes which led to it being rebuilt by the engineer Francisco Pérez between 1693-1695; It again undergoes modifications between 1738-1740, this time directed by the engineer Antonio de Arredondo, who expanded the Castle and the Star, finishing the platforms of Sacramento, El Aljibe and Naples, warehouses and Church were located, its walls grew in heights and extended its coastal system.
Juan Martín Cermeño and Francisco Calderín, provided it with its current appearance after being devastated by new earthquakes between 1757 and 1766, including its front esplanade and the La Avanzada fort.
Starting in 1775, La Roca and La Estrella began to function regularly as political prisons without abandoning their military functions, a fact that was maintained until the 19th century.
Already in 1898 during the Spanish-Cuban-American war, the communications casemate, the battery of El Vigía, Punta Gorda, Socapa Alta and Baja and the torpedo lines at the mouth of the bay were erected; In the course of the 20th century, the fortified system of La Roca went into a dormant stage that almost led to its ruin, until in the 60s it was restored by Dr. Francisco Prat Puig.
Characteristics of the Castle
The Castle of San Pedro de la Roca and its associated defensive works are of exceptional value, because they constitute the largest and most complete example of the principles of Renaissance military engineering adapted to the demands of the European colonial powers in the Caribbean.
Its exceptional location and its adaptation to the topography puts the Castillo San Pedro de la Roca in a widely recognized group of three of those fortresses designed by the famous military architects, father and son, Bautista and Juan Bautista Antonelli; the others are the Castillo de los Tres Reyes in Havana (Cuba) and the Castillo de San Sebastián in San Juan (Puerto Rico).
The authenticity of the castle is high because it underwent little change from the 19th century, when it came out of use, until the 1960s, when restoration work began.
The Castillo San Pedro de la Roca, a World Heritage Site
The Castle of San Pedro de la Roca was declared a National Monument on December 25, 1979 and later declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site with the category of Cultural Site during the XXI Meeting of the World Heritage Committee, held from 1 to 6 December 1997, in Naples, Italy.
In their selection, cultural criteria IV and V of the Convention for the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage were taken into account, for “presenting eminent examples of a type of construction, architecture or illustrative landscape of a significant period (s) ) of the history of humanity, and for constituting an eminent example of a human establishment or occupation of a territory of a representative traditional culture (or cultures), especially when they become vulnerable under the effects of irreversible mutations ”.