Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro (Morro Castle)
From the 16th century on, the advantages of the natural rocky elevation that lay by the bay’s entrance, called El Morro, became evident. At the beginning two lookouts were posted in this place to watch over the area. They had a slate roofed hut. In 1563, the authorities built a stone and mortar watchtower. The arrival of Tejeda and Antonelli gave El Morro a new importance. Alongside Antonelli worked his nephew Cristóbal de Roda as the engineer’s assistant. He takes the credit for drawing the first layout of Havana in 1603. In December 1588 the king appointed a keeper in charge of the fortress that was to be called ‘de los Tres Reyes’ (‘of the Three Kings’).
By 1594 El Morro already had a big moat and other changes that had been brought about by the survey made by the Fleet’s Captain Francisco Coloma, who had found El Morro too weak on the land side due to its low walls and the shallowness of the moat. Late in 1602 the wall facing the sea was erected by the entrance of the bay. Soon after a gun battery having twelve cannons was placed on a platform. From that time on they were known as Los Doce Apóstoles (The Apostles). Near the fortress another twelve were placed, known as La Pastora (The Shepherdess). Construction works ended by 1630.
El Morro is designed to fit in the sharp accidents of the elevation holding it, and to create successive levels of defensive fire all the way to sea level. It is an irregular polygon. The stones used in its construction were cut on the spot, dug out from the area of the moats. El Morro has wells, barracks, dungeons and a church. In the structure of the fortress there was a turret called El Morrillo used as watchtower. The number of ships within sight was announced with the tolling of the bell and with flags hanging over the gate of the castle. In December, 1845 a tower 30 meters high and 5 meters in diameter was inaugurated. It would become a symbol and a beacon of the city. The light of the lighthouse has a range of 35 miles.
El Morro was the main scenario of the battle when the English attacked and captured the city with a powerful fleet in 1762. As a result of that battle, the bastions and walls were practically razed, having received the impact of forty thousand bombs and projectiles, as stated in British documents of the time. Then the Spanish flag was pulled down and substituted by the English one until the next year, when the city was again under Spanish rule. The fortress was rebuilt.
Morro Fortress is itself a large museum piece which tells us about the solutions of the renaissance architecture applied on the military strategy. Two theme halls show the visitors the history of navigation in Havana harbour, where objects rescued from a sunken ship at the entrance of Havana Bay in the 19th Century can be seen. Several temporary expositions with a number of themes are simultaneously displayed.
The Three Morro Kings Fortress is included in the system of fortress that along with Old Havana was declared by the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Permanent exposition and a visit to the top of the beacon to enjoy the best views of the city are among its main attractions. In the evening the ceremony of lifting the flag takes place, according to the maritime traditions.
Address: Located at the Morro -Cabaña Park
in the municipality of Habana del Este.
Tel. (537) 863-7941
Open: from Monday through Sunday, 09:00 – 17:30
Entrance: $4:00 CUC
Visit the beacon: $2:00 CUC