El castillo de san felipe del morro: Exploring Castillo San Felipe del Morro in Old San Juan

Castillo de San Felipe del Morro in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico – Uncover Travel

Uncover Travel

History of El Morro Castle in Old San Juan Puerto Rico, Places to visit in Old San Juan Puerto Rico, Three Flags Above El Morro In Old San Juan Puerto Rico

Castillo San Felipe del Morro owes its name to the headland on which it sits. El Morro literally means the headland, a high point of land that extends into a body of water. The castle has stood watch over the harbour since 1539; to pass through its gates is to step into the past.

Today, the National Park Service flies three flags over the fortifications at San Juan: the Burgundy Cross, the flag of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the flag of the United States of America. The Burgundy Cross was the Spanish military flag that flew here during most of the Spanish colonial period. It was adopted in 1506 by Philip I of Castile, to honour his mother, the Mary of Burgundy (at that time Burgundy was a territory of Spain).

The castle’s main plaza, Plaza de Armas, was completed around 1780. This square witnessed the activities of daily life in a Spanish fortress for more than a century and was a very busy place throughout the late 1700s and most of the 1800s. On the plaza floor, troops drilled, stood inspections and assembled for formal events.

The large, vaulted rooms surrounding the plaza, called casemates, housed a kitchen, a chapel, storage areas, officers’ quarters and barracks for enlisted men. Some of the outer casemates were used for firing cannons.  The centre of the plaza contains a wellhead, from which soldiers would draw water from three large cisterns beneath.

The main gun deck is called the Santa Barbara Battery and was designed to fire cannon at enemy ships in the harbour entrance or in the ocean. The battery, as it is today, was not completed until approximately 1870 and saw combat only twice, once in 1797 against the British and again in 1898 against the Americans.

The second level of El Morro is the oldest part of the fortification and the walls in this area date back to 1539. When the earlier fortifications in San Juan proved inadecuate, Spain decided to fortify the city’s harbour entrance. A circular tower was designed and built to hold four cannon overlooking the channel mouth. The original embrasures (gunports) remain today. As threats from enemies grew in the 17th century, so did the fortifications. Eventually the massive fortress engulfed the original tower.

Visitors to El Morro can see the artillery evolution over three distinct periods of San Juan’s defensive arms. Embrasures, of gun openings, in the walls date from around 1780 and framed the cannon designed to control the harbour entrance. Below, the semi-circular track made of bricks was built to support cannon from the 1890s, allowing them to fire over the wall toward the ocean. A large mass of concrete behind the walls supported an anti-aircraft gun in the 1940s, during World War II.


  • Information signs at Castillo de San Felipe del Morro

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Castillo San Felipe del Morro, also known as El Morro, is a citadel built between 16th and 18th centuries in San Juan, Puerto Rico.


Lying on the northwesternmost point of the islet of Old San Juan, Castillo San Felipe del Morro is named in honor of King Philip II of Spain. The fortification, also referred to as el Morro or ‘the promontory,’ was designed to guard the entrance to the San Juan Bay, and defend the Spanish colonial port city of San Juan from seaborne enemies.

In 1983, the citadel was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in conjunction with the San Juan National Historic Site. Over two million visitors a year explore the castillo, making it one of Puerto Rico’s leading tourist attractions. Facing the structure, on the opposite side of the bay, a smaller fortification known as El Cañuelo complemented the castillo’s defense of the entrance to the bay.

Structure for deployment

The construction of the citadel and its surrounding walls began in 1539 on orders of King Charles V of Spain. The original fortress was built under the direction of conquistador Diego Ramos de Orozco and its main purpose was to defend the port of San Juan by controlling the entry to its harbor. In order to have a viable defense while the rest of the fort was being completed, a small proto-fortress was erected during the first year of construction. It is estimated that this section comprises about 10% of the whole structure.

It was not till 1587, however, that Field Marshal Juan de Tejeda and the Italian engineer-architect Juan Bautista Antonelli drew the fort’s final design. The plan, which was based on the then firmly established Spanish military fortification principles of the time, included fortifying nine other sites in the Spanish Main and Spanish West Indies: Santo Domingo, Santa Marta, Cartagena, Nombre de Dios, Portobelo, the Chagres River, Panama City, Havana, and St. Augustine. San Juan construction began in March 1589 with skilled artisans, 12 stonecutters, 18 masons, 2 smiths, a cooper, metal founder, and an overseer assigned to the task, with the help 150 slaves. Captain General Diego Menéndez de Valdés, who was the governor of Puerto Rico, took over construction after Tejeda and Antonelli left to start construction of Santo Domingo’s fortifications. Capt. Pedro de Salazar took over construction in 1591.

The new fortifications consisted of a hornwork, crossing the headland, to protect the landward side of the existing tower and water battery. Two half-bastions, one on the Atlantic side called «Tejeda», and another on the harbor side called «Austria», were connected by a curtain wall fronted by a moat, and spanned by a drawbridge in the center. The gate and drawbridge were protected by a ravelin, and just inside the gate was a guardhouse. A pair of batteries behind the hornwork overlooked the sea and harbor.

In 1634, construction of the city walls surrounding San Juan began. By 1650, the town was enclosed on the east, south and west, while natural battlements protected the city along the Atlantic.

In 1765, Alejandro O’Reilly, Inspector General of Cuba, and Colonel Tomás O’Daly, San Juan Chief of Engineers, agreed on a plan to strengthen San Juan’s defenses, which was approved by Charles III of Spain. San Juan became a Defense of the First Order, and one of the most powerful plazas in the Americas by 1790. El Morro’s improvements included 3 cisterns under the main plaza containing 216,000 gallons of water collected from times of rain. The walls were strengthened to be 18–40 feet thick. These walls consisted of limestone and sandstone blocks forming the exterior and interior, with rubble sandwiched in between. The Santa Bárbara battery became the main battery with 37 cannon, supported by casemate guns at a lower level, and backed by a great wall with casemates at a higher level.

The top of the Castillo de San Felipe del Morro Lighthouse was destroyed during the 1898 bombardment of the city by the United States, and the American flag replaced the Spanish on 18 November 1898.


Spanish Rule (1539–1898)

Upon the advice of Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, a battery was constructed on the rocky promontory called «the Morro», when the location of La Fortaleza was deemed unsuitable. This battery consisted of a tower with 4 embrasures, and a Water Battery at the foot of the slope for 3 guns. By 1555, Morro had 8 bronze cannons, as a defense against French privateers.

During the Spanish government of the island, El Morro, also known as Castillo de San Felipe, survived several attacks from foreign powers on various occasions.

In 1593 Portuguese soldiers, sent from Lisbon by order of Phillip II, composed the first garrison of the San Felipe del Morro fortress in Puerto Rico. Some brought their wives, while others married Puerto Rican women, and today there are many Puerto Rican families with Portuguese last names.

In 1595, Englishman Sir Francis Drake unsuccessfully attacked San Juan with his fleet in the Battle of San Juan (1595). In 1598, the English attacked again, led by George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland. Clifford succeeded because he attacked San Juan over land instead of trying to enter through the San Juan Bay. However, an epidemic of dysentery forced him to flee the island after the Battle of San Juan (1598). In 1625, the Dutch, led by Boudewijn Hendricksz, also attacked the island emulating George Clifford’s overland invasion. To the amazement of the citizens, the invaders were able to pass in front of the castle’s defenders and into the harbor, out of reach of the city’s cannons. El Morro managed to resist the siege and eventually made the Dutch retire, although the attackers were able to sack and burn the city before leaving the Battle of San Juan (1625). In 1797, British General Ralph Abercromby and Admiral Henry Harvey, with a force of 7,000–13,000 men, invaded the island of Puerto Rico. Captain General Don Ramón de Castro and his forces repelled the attack. Abercromby and Harvey were defeated in the Battle of San Juan (1797). El Morro’s last active fight occurred during a naval bombardment by the United States Navy during the 1898 Spanish–American War, ending the age of naval warfare in the Caribbean, at least in the classical sense. During the Spanish–American War, the castle was attacked at least three times by American naval forces, the largest being the Bombardment of San Juan on May 12, 1898. The war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, in which Spain ceded ownership of the islands of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States.

American military occupation (1898–1961)

El Morro and many other Spanish government buildings in Old San Juan became part of a large U.S. Army post, called Fort Brooke. In the early 20th century, the U.S. military filled up the esplanade (the green space in front of «El Morro») with baseball diamonds, hospitals, officers’ quarters, an officers’ club and even a golf course.

On March 21, 1915, Lt. Teófilo Marxuach was the officer of the day at the El Morro fortress. The Odenwald (built in 1903 and not to be confused with the German World War II warship of the same name) was an armed German supply ship which tried to force its way out of the bay and deliver supplies to the German submarines waiting in the Atlantic Ocean. Lt. Marxuach gave the order to open fire on the ship, which was forced to return; its supplies were confiscated. The shots ordered by Lt. Marxuach are widely regarded to be the first shots fired by the United States in World War I, although the first actual wartime shot fired by the U.S. came on the day war was declared, during the scuttling of the SMS Cormoran off Guam.

During World War II the United States Army added a massive concrete bunker to the top of El Morro to serve as a Harbor Defense Fire Control Station to direct a network of coastal artillery sites, and to keep watch for German submarines which were ravaging shipping in the Caribbean. A lighthouse, rebuilt by the U.S. Army in 1906–08 is the tallest point on El Morro, standing 180 feet (55 m) above sea level. Flagpoles on El Morro today customarily fly the United States flag, the Puerto Rican flag and the Cross of Burgundy flag, also known in Spanish as las Aspas de Borgoña, a standard which was widely used by Spanish armies around the world from 1506 to 1785.

National Park (1961–present)

In 1961, the United States Army officially retired from El Morro. The fort became a part of the National Park Service to be preserved as museums. In 1983, the Castillo and the city walls were declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations. In honor of the Quincentennial of the voyages of Columbus in 1992 the exterior esplanade was cleared of palm trees that had been planted by the U.S. Army in the Fort Brooke era, and restored to the open appearance this «field-of-fire» for El Morro’s cannon would have had in colonial Spanish times. Parking lots and paved roads were also removed, and the El Morro lighthouse repaired and restored to its original appearance. El Morro was used as a film set in the 1996 motion picture Amistad. Steven Spielberg used it to represent a fort in Sierra Leone where African slaves were auctioned in 1839. African slave labor was used in addition to local labor to help build the castillo. El Morro was a defensive military fortification and a major component of San Juan’s harbor defense system. Puerto Rico as such was considered by the Spanish crown as the «Key to the Antilles»; no enemy ship could navigate its waters without fear of capture.

An annual artisans festival is held at the fort every July.

Historical timeline

  • 1508 – Spanish colonized the area
  • 1509 – Spanish settlers from Caparra found San Juan.
  • 1539 – Construction of the first harbor defenses at El Morro and La Fortaleza authorized by King Charles V.
  • 1587 – Engineers Juan de Tejada and Juan Bautista Antonelli lay out the main design for El Morro still seen today.
  • 158…

Text taken from Wikipedia — Castillo San Felipe del Morro under the CC-BY-SA-3.0 on July 29, 2021

San Juan, lighthouse at Fort San Felipe del Morro, Puerto Rico Stock Photo ©Bertl123 35568819

San Juan, lighthouse at Fort San Felipe del Morro, Puerto Rico stock photo ©Bertl123 35568819

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San Juan Lighthouse at Fort San Felipe del Morro, Puerto Rico

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Boulevarda Korea, Puerto Rico — tourist attractions, most visited places

Boulevarda Korea is located on is on western part part of Puerto Rica (Vega Alta Municipio), 0 kilometers on southeast from Vega Alta Municipio. There is a lot to see in the surrounding area. On east (18 kilometers) is Luis A. Ferre Technopark, Casa Bacardi Cultural Center (23 km), El Moro Fortress (23 km), Castillo de San Felipe del Morro Castle (23 km), Fort San Felipe del Morro (23 km).

We invite you to visit the most interesting sights that we have found around:

  • Luis A. Ferré Technopark
  • Casa Bacardi Cultural Center
  • El Moro Fortress
  • 470817″ lng=»-66.123966″> Castil Morope San de Santo
  • San Felipe del Morro Fort
  • Church of San José
  • Casablanca Museum
  • Procession Square
  • Santa Catalina Castle
  • La Rogativa statue
  • Museum of the Americas
  • Feliza Rincón de Gautiere Museum

TOP 100 attractions in Boulevarda Korea, Puerto Rico,
with photos and reviews

TOP-100 attractions, Boulevarda Korea, Puerto Rico

Luis A. Ferre Technopark

Technopark Luis A. Ferren — science park of culture and recreation in Bayamón, an important landmark

3. 49


17.96 km

Cultural Center Casa Bacardi

The Bacardi Rum Factory Cultural Center is located in Catania, near the city of San Juan, table



22.7 km

Fort El Moro

El Morro Fortress — the first 16th-century defensive structure in the city, built by the Spaniards, cat




Castillo de San Felipe del Morro

Castillo de San Felipe del Morro is one of the most popular places in the old town of San Juan. CO


22.93 km

Fort San Felipe del Morro

Fort San Felipe del Morro — a 16th-century Spanish stronghold on the northwest side of San Juan Island


22.99 km

Church of San José

Church of San José, built in Old San Juan in 1532, the second oldest church in all of the Americas



22.99 km

Casablanca Museum

Casablanca Museum — the most historical museum of Old San Juan, located in the building of the city 1521, to

3. 02


Procession Square

Process Square or Plazuela de la Rogativa, was built in 1971. It has modern



Fortress — Palace of Santa Catalina

Fortress — Palace of Santa Catalina is the oldest active residence and government house, in



Statue of La Rogativa

The statue of La Rogativa, the symbol of the city of San Juan, was erected to commemorate the brave act of the locals,

3. 02


Museum of the Americas

The Museum of the Americas was opened in October 1992 as a non-profit organization with the goal of



Feliza Rincón de Gautiere Museum

The Feliz Rincón de Gautiere Museum is a wonderful monument to Old San Juan. Museum dedicated to life and work



23.24 km

FAQ about Boulevarda Korea, Puerto Rico

Nearby 5 attractions.

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