The People of Gibraltar
1740 - Skinner's Moorish Wall

Barbarossa, Calvi and El Fratino - Spanucchi, Rojas and Skinner

From as far back as the 11th century the northern approaches to the town of Gibraltar have always been well fortified. Not so those on the southern side. Despite numerous references to Murallas Moriscas and Murallas Moras there were no walls protecting the southern end of la Turba in medieval days. Evidence for this comes from correspondence between 16th century engineers who were brought to Gibraltar to improve its fortifications - especially those on the southern flank.

In 1540 Barbarossa's Ottoman corsairs overran the town from the south. They landed in a small cove known as La Caleta del Laudero, took a leisurely stroll across the Red Sands and then walked unopposed into the defenceless southern area of la Turba. The result was an orgy of rape, pillaging and kidnap - and a demand by the inhabitants of the Rock that something be done to avoid a repeat performance.

In 1540 there were no fortifications to protect the town from attack from the south. This map has been doctored to show just how easy it would have been for a determined attacker to overrun la Turba from this direction. The town is shown bottom left . A favourite landing place - La Caleta del Laudero - is shown on the extreme right under it less common name of was La Caletita de Landeras     ( 1740 - Unknown )

According to the 16th century Gibraltarian historian Alonso Hernández del Portillo, the Emperor Charles V responded favourably to the inhabitant's petition. He sent them the Italian Engineer, Giovanni Bautista Calvi with specific instructions to fortify the south. Calvi was ordered to build a wall 'desde la Quebrada hasta el Mar'.

Calvi's original plans date from 1552. He proposed a structure that would start at the coastal end close to a place where the great Baluarte del Rosario would be built many years later. It would continue straight up the Rock for about 280 meters until it reached a steep cliff. From here a traverse would be built running north to south. This, according to yet another royal engineer called Bravo de Acuña was to be called La Muralla de San Justo y Pastor . The sharp turn south would occur roughly where Prince Edward's Gate is today. Calvi then proposed a zigzag wall which would extend from the south of the cliff right up to the top of the Rock.

Plan for the Baluarte del Rosario. Note La Puerta Nueba de la Ciudad which would eventually become Charles V Gate and later South Port Gate. ( 1621 - Unknown )   LINK

In 1558 Charles V abdicated and his son, Phillip II became King of Spain. Unimpressed by his father's efforts at improving Gibraltar's defences, Phillip sent Giovan Giacomo Peleari Fratino - usually referred to as El Fratino - to have yet another crack at Gibraltar's perennial defensive problems. By 1575 El Fratino - perhaps helped by his two brothers, Giorgio and Bernadino, had build another wall further to the north of the original one more or less in line with the bottom section of Calvi's work. He thought the zigzag wall was in the wrong place.

This is one of seven drawings of Gibraltar, which accompany a report by Colonel William Green, Chief Engineer dated 10 April 1778. It shows the first section of Calvi's wall ending at the foot of a steep cliff. The continuation of the wall on the top part of the cliff is referred to erroneously as the Moorish entrenchment    LINK

El Fratino also came to the conclusion that Calvi's idea of a north-south traverse was a mistake. It was not a particularly serious change of plan as that section of the wall had yet to be built. What was rather more surprising was his intention to demolish the rest of of Calvi's construction.

This act of capricious vandalism was stopped by the Sienese engineer, Tibúrcio Spanucchi, who had been ordered by Phillip II to take yet another look at Gibraltar's fortifications. - or as it was put to him by the Corregidor of Cadiz - to go and have a look at 'lo que falta por hacer.' As he also happened to be employed as Spain's chief engineer, his opinions carried some weight. His conclusion that there was nothing wrong with Calvi's top section saved it from being destroyed. It was eventually completed in 1599.

According to the Spanish historian Ángel Sáez Hernandez it was Spanucchi, who first came up with the name Muralla de Carlos V. Unfortunatly he failed to specify which wall or walls he was referring to with the result that the actual naming of Calvi's work was left in some sort of limbo.

To make matters worse, El Fratino went on to complete his own wall - a continuation of Calvi's lower section. It climbed more or less parallel but well to the north of Calvi's continuing right up to the top of the Rock close to El Hacho and to the chapel of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, a site known today as Signal Station.

Map showing the two recently built walls joined by what looks like a north south traverse but probably just refers to the cliff face between them as this section was never built. The wall on the left after the cliff is the one built by El Fratino, the distinctively zigzagged wall on the right is Calvi's, as is the bottom section ending at the newly build Baluarte del Rosario 
( 1597 - Unknown )    LINK

In 1597 a certain Captain Cristóbal de Rojas arrived in Gibraltar. Rojas, who was born in Toledo, had gained a certain notoriety as an architect. However in 1586 he met Spanuchi in Seville and became his Ingeniero Extraordinario - in other words his assistance. Something must have rubbed off as he was subsequently held to be the most gifted engineer of his generation.

Captain Cristóbal de Rojas ( Unknown )

Our interest in Rojas lies in a map of the Rock which he produced in 1608 and in which he somehow managed to omit Calvi's wall. It is a curious anomaly considering Spanucchi's efforts to save the wall despite El Fratinos attempts to destroy it.

Curiously this very early 17th century map shows only one wall. The Baluarte del Rosario is highlighted an important fortification
( 1608 - Cristóbal de Rojas )    LINK

To add to the general confusion and despite the importance which the authorities of the day attached to place names acknowledging the patronage of royalty, the local authorities took the view that the names Charles the V Wall and Phillip II Wall were not good enough for their southern defences. Instead they chose Muralla de San Raimundo for the El Fratino's northern wall and Muralla de San Benito for Calvi's effort. It is not clear what the bottom section was known as.

These names were probably not in use for more than about a century as in 1704 Gibraltar capitulated after being attacked by Anglo-Dutch forces and has remained a British possession from that date.

Odd picture of the Rock drawn a few years after the British takeover. Both walls have been given a zig zag outline and the section of Charles V to the sea is missing
( 1710 - Unknown - detail )    LINK

It was now Britain's turn to have a good look at Gibraltar's defences. In 1724 the authorities ordered Captain Jonas Moore to carry out a general military survey of the Rock. He in turn employed Captain William Skinner to do the hard work for him. Skinner must have done a good job as he eventually became Gibraltar's Chief Military Engineer.

William Skinner ( 1730s - Unknown )

On one of his many notes on the subject of the Rock's defences, Skinner made a curious observation. During the battle for Gibraltar in 1704, the British troops were required to 'escalate' the remains of a 'Moorish Wall' which according to him, ran roughly in line with the New Mole. This would place it well to the south of Calvi's and as such fails to contradict the evidence that neither of these were originally Moorish. Nevertheless Skinner's comments do suggest the possibility of a real Muralla Morisca somewhere else to the south.

A View of the South Front of the Mountain of Gibraltar as taken by Lt General William Skinner in 1740. The barely legible writing on the middle right just after the end of the sea bastions reads as follows: remains of Moorish Line which the English Escalated in 1704. Also worth noting are the large Red Sand Banks and the fact that Skinner names El Fratino's wall as The Old Moorish Line
( 1779 - William Test )

 A contemporary picture of the Rock taken from the south which seems to confirm Skinner's observations on the existance of a Moorish Wall more or less in line with the New Mole 
( 1727 - Nicholls - Detail )    LINK

After the capitulation most of the Spanish fortifications were allowed either to fall into disrepair or were replaced with new ones by the British. Spanish place names were also changed to English ones. Similarly the importance of both southern walls diminished as the British became aware that their major defensive deficiencies lay either towards the north or from naval bombardment from the sea.

As early as 1720, a map of the Rock was produced by Hermann Molls showing Gibraltar's new defensive works to the north. It was a map which seems to have been the source of uncritical copying over many years by other map makers and engravers. Apart from the northern fortifications the map also indicates that El Fratini's wall had coped with the passage of time better than Calvi's. The information is somewhat compromised by some indifferent labelling. The north wall is called 'The Barrier' whereas the southern one is labelled , the 'Old Moorish Wall ' - with the added note that it was 'decayed'.

Map showing the North wall as The Barrier and the Southern one as the Old Moorish Wall - decayed. The Baluarte del Rosario now appears as a more modest structure surrounded by newer and even more impressive fortifications. The future Alameda Grand Parade is still an empty space
 (1720 - Hermann Molls )    LINK

During the next fifty or so years the walls seem to have become something of an irrelevance as regards map makers. Some even went so far as to leave them out altogether or to depict them as ruins.

French map in which the walls are dismissed as ruins ( 1780 - P. Platini - detail)

From the turn of the century and right up to the modern era map makers of Gibraltar identified both walls correctly but continued to insist in attributing El Fratino's creation to the Moors.

Map labelling the northern wall as Moorish and  of no use
 ( 1780s - Johann Argathelu - detail )    LINK

Map showing the two walls. Note the appearance of the Grand Parade and the recently created Alameda Gardens    (1831 - W.H. Smyth - detail )    LINK

Detail from a Baedeker map perpetuating the Moorish Wall myth in capital letters.
Note the first appearance of the name Southport Gate which at the time the map was created actually consisted of two openings . The original was created by Calvi in 1552. The second one dates from 1883. It bears the arms of Queen Victoria and General Sir John Adye, a former Governor of Gibraltar. A third archway known as the Referendum Gates, was opened in 1967 to commemorate the referendum in which Gibraltarians voted to retain their links with Britain.

The top photograph shows Charles V wall with only one main Gate, the bottom one with two. Both photos must have been taken in 1883 ( George Washington Wilson )  LINK    LINK

During the 20th and 21st century the British authorities continued to show a generalised indifference as regards the names of these walls, other than to the bottom section which was universally referred to as Charles V Wall. It was a consequence perhaps of the unimportant part played by either wall in the military history of the Rock as a British possession. Today - in so far as anybody in Gibraltar actually gives a thought to such matters - the walls have returned to their royal origins and are named after Charles V and Phillip II.