The People of Gibraltar
1462 - Gibraltar - The Spanish Fortress - Part 15
The Gates - Puerta de Mar 

People living in medieval ports invariably counted on having their own Puerta de Mar, while other gates would usually be given the name of the nearest principle town towards which the road from it - as was the case for the towns of Algeciras and Tarifa. But if the town happened to have only one - as was the case for Gibraltar and Cadiz - the name given to it would usually be simply  . . Puerta de Tierra.

The notable changes brought about along the sea front took place in several different epochs. La Puerta de Mar opened between two flanking towers. Its entrance had a bend which allowed people to pass into la Barcina from either the beach or the anchorage. 

La Puerta de Mar (1608 - Cristóbal Rojas - detail)

La Puerta de Mar - A somewhat more complex defensive system some twenty years later  (1627 - Luis Bravo de Acuña - detail)

It suffered several changes which fortified it gradually until it was dismantled by the British who substituted it with another gate. In 1884 General Adye ordered its enlargement leaving two large openings for vehicles and two for pedestrians on either side. Today it is known as Grand Casemate Gates.

(20th Century)

Documents from the 15th and 16th century mention a Puerta de Mar which corresponds with another one known as Puerta de las Atarazanas in the days of Portillo as at the  same time a second  one was opened which was also called Puerta de Mar. This apparent confusion has a simple explanation.  

In Medieval days la Barcina had just one gate on its litoral side. It was called la Puerta de Mar in contrast to the nearby Puerta de Tierra - but was also used to access the atarazanas. Which means that the Puerta de Mar and Puerta de las Atarazanas were one and the same in the medieval era. In 1540 the chronicler of the House of Niebla wrote the following.
La Barcina has a puerta de tierra, another to the sea and another to the arrabales (la Turba).
But in 1587 Spannocchi  identifies two sea gates:
In front of the gate known as de Mar there is one called taracana (atarazana) 

Casemates Square excavations - la Atarazana building    (Early 21st century)

The construction of the Old Mole from the final decades of the 16th century created an alteration to the literal dynamic of these waters as currents deposited sand and silting the shallower waters. It formed beaches which made the ancient water gate unusable. It was then that a new and more defendable water gate was built which would soon receive the name of Puerta de Mar.

The old one which was now no longer in use as access to the old interior arsenal (atarazana) probably kept its name as la Puerta de las Atarazanas. These two elements, the atarazanas and its access from the sea were related to the Gibraltar of 1600 both for their antiquity and their uselessness. The gate disappeared in the 19th century without a trace as did the eastern stretch of the encircling wall. 

View of the Moorish Castle and the old town from the market place showing the single gate that had replaced the old Puerta de Mar and a newer pedestrian pathway through the line wall     (1881 - Tristam Ellis)

Going back even further, Las Cronicas de Alfonso XI 's mention the King’s failed attempt to recover the Rock from the Moors in 1331 and in which the Spanish Admiral Alonso Jofre Tenoria found himself unable to sustain his attack on the Rock because his Moorish enemies had constructed a palisade of tall, thick wooden poles right across the beach in front of the Atarazana. There is no mention of a gate and the very need for a defensive palisade suggests that there was none.  

Admiral Alonso Jofre Tenoria

The town in the earlier Muslim days  - No gate, just a beach possibly with a wooden palisade as protection   (20th century Tito Benady)

As can be seen in the "Perspectiva del muelle de Gibraltar" dated 1609, the interior of la Puerta del Mar was simple affair. Its later double bends was achieved by walling part of its exterior space between the two towers that flanked it which offered a lateral access reinforced by an exterior fence.

Perspective of the (Old) Mole of Gibraltar  (1609 - Unknown)

In 1627 Bravo de Acuña pointed out that:

. . .  the fencing of la puerta de la mar has been repaired as have the towers which allow flanking fire from musketry and harquebusiers.

This planning is fundamental to an understanding of the process of the conversion of the late medieval fortifications of Gibraltar to those of the modern era. As has already been mentioned the Puerta de las Atarazanas had already been closed up during Portillos’s days as he himself tells us:

The galleries were put into this place (las Atarazanas) through a Gate near la Puerta del Mar which is now closed up.