The People of Gibraltar
1462 - Gibraltar - The Spanish Fortress - Introduction

Ángel J Sáez Rodríguez’s magnificent book - La Montaña Inexpugnable - seis siglos de fortificaciones en Gibraltar (XII-XVIII) was published in 2006. The run must have been a small one as it no longer easily available. In fact I can’t find a copy anywhere. 

Which is unfortunate as its 480 heavily illustrated pages do exactly what it says on the tin - and indeed more. It is undoubtedly required reading for anybody remotely interested in the history not just of Gibraltar as a military fortress but as place subjected to the often capricious dominions of various Muslim Caliphates, Spaniards and Britons.

Sáez also wrote  Las Defensas de Gibraltar (Siglos- XII-XVIII) which was published two years later and covers more or less the same ground as in his previous book - possibly in a dryer and less excitingly illustrated manner than in his Montaña. Perhaps the main difference between the two books is that Las Defensas includes a large section on the many “Torres Almenaras” - or watch towers - not just in Gibraltar but in the entire hinterland.

In 2018 I read the equally interesting if much smaller 64 page The Fortifications of Gibraltar 1068-1945 by local historians Darren Fa and Clive Finlayson which was published the same year as Saez’s work. 

The Fortifications book is particularly strong in its treatment of the Muslim era with engagingly attractive illustrations by Adam Hook. It also impressively describes Britain’s eventual development of Gibraltar’s endless defensive walls and fortifications - slightly less succesful is its chapter on the Spanish era which is covered in about six pages.

Sáez’s section on his own country’s involvement is far more extensive and wide ranging in its research. It suggests many an hour spent reading up the available literature in the British Library and similar institutions elsewhere.  

In November 2018, I was discussing some obscure point on the history of the Rock with my good friend Juan Antonio Garcia Rojas from San Roque. He ended up sending me copies of several pages of the Montaña book which more than answered my queries. The book of course is written in Spanish which made me think that it might be useful to produce a loose translation of the Spanish era section for those who might find it easier to read it in English - such as myself.

This is a period that stretches from the 15th to the 18th century when the advent of gunpowder made many of the fortifications on the Rock obsolete - Fa and Finlayson distinguish between pre- and post-gunpowder fortifications, while Sáez used the terms "medieval" and the "modern" or Renaissance era.

As regards my translation, I have taken the liberty of dividing the topic into more or less arbitrary chapters - links to which are shown below. Everything that appears on all of them in blue are comments and asides from me. The rest is from Ángel J Sáez Rodríguez’s marvellous book.

Finally my acknowledgements and thanks to Juan Antonio Garcia Rojas - without him I would not have been able to write this. Gracias Juan Antonio.