The People of Gibraltar
1462 - Gibraltar - The Spanish Fortress - Part 9
The Southern Front


The southern flank of la Turba does not seem to have been surrounded by a wall during the mediaeval period, despite the often referred to “Moorish Wall” might suggest otherwise. This is quite evident from the copious correspondence between the Spanish engineers of the 16th and 17th century and the Council of War of the Cortes.


The “Moorish Wall” was constructed well after 1540   (1831 - W.H. Smyth - detail)

The ease with which the Turkish raiders in 1540 were able to enter the town after landing in the Caleta del Laudro south of la Torre del Tuerto confirms this.



Plan of the south showing la Calita de Landeras south of the New Mole and the Turkish raiders most likely landing place - It also probably known as la Caleta de Laudro - The most like     (1733 - Hermann Moll -Detail)

Barrantes described this as:
This suburb is only defended on one side and that is the side by the sea.
It is therefore possible to confirm against tradition that Calvi’s southern wall is a new one and not a remodelling of an older one. Portillo tells us that Juan Bautista Calvi was ordered by the Emperor Charles to come to Gibraltar in order to fortify and fence off the place from the top of the Rock to the sea in order to defend the town from an attack from the south.  The wall Calvi built is known today as Charles V Wall and still exists. 


Charles V Wall during the British era        (1769 - William Test)

Calvi’s design of the southern defences date from 1552 but the need for this work had been recognised from before the attack by the pirates took place and had been included in previous plans which were carried out too late to stop the Turkish raiders. Calvi’s Wall would begin by the coast at exactly the same spot where the great Baluarte del Rosario would later be built. 


The “Moorish Wall” - nowadays known as Phillip II Wall - on the left - the zigzag of Charles V Wall on the right - bottom left “the great Baluarte del Rosario”    (1627 - Luis Bravo de Acuña)


The wall would travel up the Rock for 280 meters until it reached a cliff where he designed a redoubt. It was called the Casemates or Bastion of Santa Cruz by Portillo but it was later reformed by Bravo de Acuña and became known as the Baluarte de San Felipe.  British Gibraltar simply called it the Demi-Bastion. 

The idea of having a wall of connecting both walls from north to south seems to have been discussed at least by both Rojas and Spannochi - although it appears they were not in agreement as to where exactly on the cliff face it ought to be built.


(1606 - Cristóbal Rojas)

The text on the above plan by Rojas reads as follows:
Plan showing the trenches the the Marquis has agree should be built. These are shown in yellow. They join Calvi’s Wall (Charles V wall) with (the beginning) of that of el Fratino (start of Phillip II Wall). They occupy the top of the highest cliffs as shown on the plan.  The red lines follow Tribulcio’s (Triburcio  Spannochi’s) suggestion.
As shown on the plan below, Bravo presumably had the last word.



(1627 - Luis Bravo de Acuña)

N = Baluarte de Santiago (Flat Bastion) 
P = Reducto de San Felipe (Demi-Bastion)
Q = Murallas de  San Justor y Pastor 
R = Reducto de San Agustin 
S = Muralla de San Reymundo  (Phillip II Wall)
T = Reducto de San Domingo
V = Muralla de San Benito (Charles V Wall) 

The Redoubt of Santa Cruz (San Felipe) was constructed just east of Flat Bastion (el Baluarte de Santiago) where Prince Edwards Gate was later built. 



In the middle background, Prince Edward’s Gate with a demi-bastion to its right that was once known as el Reducto de San Felipe   (1846 - J.M.Carter)

The redoubt (see P on Bravo’s plan above) or “traverse below the mountain” was finished In 1599 other than for land levelling and tiling so as to be able to create a platform for the artillery.

On the cliff situated above this redoubt there was a parapet running from north to south that joined the two walls - Moorish and Charles V - which ascended right to the top of the mountain. Bravo de Acuña called them las murallas de San Justo and Pastor. (See Rojas  Illustration above)

These created flanking positions that dominated both the arenales (rojos) found just after la  Puerta Nueva and the dangerous litoral area which was relatively easy for enemy troops to disembark despite its wall. There was also interaction with the Baluarte de Rosario and of Santiago. 



View over the arenales rojos (red sands) from Prince Edward’s Gate    (1790 - George Bulteel Fisher)   

The arrival of the engineer known variously as Pelearo Fratin, Captain Fratino or El Frattino, during the reign of Philip II seriously compromised the defensive plans suggested by other engineers. The new man, now made responsible for the overall defences of Gibraltar was against the construction of a north- south wall  (San Justo y Pastor) as had been suggested by his predecessor but which had not yet been built.

He also even planned to destroy the Charles V Wall on the premise that its trajectory was faulty. Although Frattino’s ideas date from 1575, in 1587 yet another engineer - Tiburcio Spannocchi - judged it a “very good Wall” as well as commenting on the fact that El Frattino seemed to very critical of Calvi’s work.

Spannocchi, however, decided to finish off what little was left of Calvi’s Wall before beginning work on the wall to its north as preferred by El Frattino. He also abandoned the destruction of the rest of Calvi’s work. By 1610 Portillo writes that that El Frattino had noticed that Calvi’s Wall had not yet been destroyed and that it wouldn’t be. Today it still exists in its entirety in an area which has not yet been urbanised because of its steepness. Its zigzag shape can easily be seen from the opposite shores of the Bay.


Charles V Wall from the air   (20th century)

The other wall along the steep incline is the “Moorish Wall”built by El Frattino in 1575 and known as San Reymundo (sometimes spelt Raimundo) by the Spaniards. As such it is not medieval. Its starting point is el reducto de San Agustin. It connects the works of the engineers employed by both Charles I and Phillip II and ends up at El Hacho and Vera Cruz or Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, a location today known as Signal Station.


(Left - 1627 Bravo de Acuña -detail - Right - (Unknown date - P.Gurriaran) 

As shown on the left El Hacho - Signal Station to the British - was at the top of Phillip II Wall. The building originally used for signalling was once a church known as Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.



Signalling at el Hacho  (1860 - A Guesdon)

This was done by hanging black leather balls which - depending on their number and position on the masts at the top of el Hacho - would signal to those in the town below the movement of ships in the Straits and Bay. I have not been able to find any evidence that this system was inherited from the Spanish but my guess is that they used a similar system.


Sierra Carbonera - a Spanish Hill to the north of Gibraltar - (1785 - Roberts)

The signalling tower at the top is of Islamic origins. It appears to be using a similar signalling system as el Hacho at the top of the Rock.

For reasons that are as yet not entirely clear theSierra's sinalling tower, as well as the hill itself and yet another tower on it were once known to the British as "The Queen of Spain's Chair. In Spain the tower which now no longer exists, was also known as "la Silla de la Reina" although the reference was to a different "queen".  





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