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Colonial Fortification System of the Historic Center of Old Havana
The Old Havana municipality is the smallest in the Havana province, its measurements do not exceed 5 km2, and it is divided into 7 Popular Councils.
This small city has in its Historic Center a diverse and extensive Colonial Fortification System that gives an exclusive stamp to that capital city.
An interesting and varied mix of architectural styles such as baroque and neoclassical converge in these old buildings.
In 1982, UNESCO granted the title of World Heritage to the Historic Center of Old Havana and its Colonial Fortification System.
This appointment is based on the fact that these constructions are a living and characteristic sample of a historical stage of the city and the country, also preserving part of the cultural identity of that city.
These buildings were built between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, and have been an obligatory point of view for artists, historians and researchers who every day try to keep them as well preserved as possible.
Main Squares within the Colonial Fortifications System of Old Havana
An attraction of the Historic Center of Old Havana are undoubtedly its four main squares. They are that of Armas, that of the Cathedral, San Francisco and La Vieja, the four of them communicate with each other through narrow cobbled streets.
In the times of the colonial period, the buildings that served as headquarters for the work of the magistrates and the Spanish military were in the current Plaza de Armas.
This is the oldest of the squares in Old Havana, its construction is located around the year 1520 and there in the XVI some military exercises were carried out.
This space had the functionality of a shopping center during the day, there were the same handicraft items as fruits and edible products.
At night the space was transformed to host the walks of the wealthy Spanish class.
At the moment in that square you can find a small used book market and it is surrounded by important facilities such as the Automobile Museum, the Archeology Museum and the Natural History Museum.
Plaza de San Francisco
This square was named after the Franciscan convent that was built there since the 16th century. Looking towards the port of Havana was the position chosen when this square was built.
Currently there is a church built in 1608 and the Convent of San Francisco de Asís. As part of the rich cultural life of that area, the minor basilica of this sacred site is used as a concert hall.
Also the Museums of Religious Art and the Museum of Rum are in that square waiting for visitors who want to know their insides.
Not because it is the last to be built, this square loses its beauty and importance.
There in the sixteenth century some families built their homes and that area was known as the Ciénaga because the waters that ran throughout the city passed through there on their way to the sea.
As its name indicates, on that site is the popular Havana Cathedral.
All the constructions that were erected in this square date from the 18th century, which gives it a predominantly Baroque stamp in terms of its architectural characteristics.
Close to this esplanade you can find the Palace of the Counts of Casa Bayona, where the Colonial Art Museum is located and also the Wifredo Lam Center, dedicated to the proliferating career of that Cuban plastic artist.
In addition, very close to that square, visitors can find the La Bodeguita del Medio bar, a site made famous by the writer Ernest Heminghway.
The Old Square was built in 1559 with an eclectic style, although other architectural styles are appreciated within the surrounding buildings.
Although in its beginnings it was used mainly for the realization of military exercises, today it offers visitors a set of bars, cafes, restaurants and breweries that allow to know some attractions of the Cuban culinary and traditional art.
Main Castles within the Colonial Fortification System of Old Havana.
Old Havana, within its Colonial Fortification System, has several castles, but the ones that stand out the most are El Morro, San Carlos de La Cabaña Fortress, Real Fuerza and San Salvador de Tip.
All these strong colonial constructions were part of the necessary security system of the Villa de San Cristóbal de La Habana in previous centuries.
Castle of the Three Kings of Morro
The engineer Giovanni Bautista Antonelli was commissioned to design this fortress in the year 1585, and for its strategic position it was widely recognized since the port of Havana began to rise in colonial times.
This constructive work is among the most recognized and visited in the Cuban capital, next to the Capitol and La Giraldilla.
A ceremony that is held there every night at just 9:00 pm is the traditional cannon shot, which is attended by many Havana residents and visitors every day who come to this military complex, which also includes the San Carlos de La Cabaña fortress.
This ceremony was carried out to make known to the inhabitants of that Villa that the gates of the city were going to be closed to avoid attacks by pirates and other thugs.
Fortress of San Carlos de La Cabaña
When the English took Havana in 1762, it was shown that the Villa was not safe enough. The Cuban authorities at that time determined that it was necessary to fortify the area where the intruders had advanced.
It is at that time that the construction of the San Carlos de La Cabaña Fortress is considered, which is currently part of the Morro-Cabaña military complex.
Castle of the Royal Force
This fortress was completed in 1576, and until today it is one of the best preserved ancient military constructions in the country, and many claim that it is also on the American continent.
This castle is surrounded by the Museums of Navigation and the Museum of the Royal Force, located in a moat. Also in that area you can see the Templete, and a small museum in a chapel, where the founding of the Villa de San Cristóbal de La Habana is celebrated every November 16.
Castle of San Salvador de La Punta
Although it seemed to have a minimal role according to its constructive composition, this fortification was extremely necessary to be able to cross fire with the Castillo del Morro and not allow any unwanted entry to take place through the Havana bay.
Its design was in charge of the Italian engineer Giovanni Bautista Antonelli, the same one who designed the Castillo del Morro.
According to some documents, the story goes that at night from that fortress to Castillo del Morro a chain was placed to join both constructions and thus protect the bay.
Currently the Castillo de San Salvador de La Punta has a museum where you can see ship models, some objects found in sunken galleons of Spanish fleets, and detailed information on the slave trade.
Main Palaces within the Colonial Fortification System of Old Havana
Among the colonial constructions that date from previous centuries in Havana, the presence of several Palaces is also highlighted, where the Second Cape and the General Captains stand out, as well as that of the Count of Lombillo, built in 1741 and where it is currently located. the Office of the Historian of Old Havana.
Palacio del Segundo Cabo
Built in 1772, and with a neoclassical architectural style, this palace throughout its history has served as the headquarters of several government institutions on the island.
Initially there was the mayor of the Royal Treasury, then the Second Cape of the colony, and in the neocolonial stage the Upper House or Senate was installed in that place.
Then it was delivered to the academies of History and National Arts and Letters.
After the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 it became the headquarters of the National Council of Culture, and later several Cuban publishing houses settled there, being for several years the headquarters of the Cuban Book Institute.
Palace of the Captains General
In 1791 this old Palace, currently the city museum, was built by the engineer Antonio Fernández de Trebejos y Zaldívar.
Within the varied architecture of the Historic Center of Old Havana, the Palace of the General Captains stands out for its Spanish-Cuban colonial baroque style.
Initially it was the headquarters for the permanence of 65 general captains sent by Spain to govern Cuba, later it was used by the Administrator of the United States during the time of the military intervention in the Antillean country.
During the neocolony it was the seat of the President.
In its inner courtyard it has a statue of Christopher Columbus, and currently has furniture and carriages of the time and has 40 permanent exhibition rooms.