The People of Gibraltar
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 22 – The Gatehouse


Another enigma tackled with characteristic confidence by Alcantara. Unfortunately, most of what I have read about this gate is a series of confusing contradictions. Let me start with this quote:
Leopoldo Torre Balbás – Gibraltar, Llave y Guardia . . . 1942 P66
. . .la ciudad, a la que se entraba por un ingreso único, sólidamente fortificado, llamado Bab-al-Futuh. (Puerta de la Conquista).
. . . which I imagine he took from the following Islamic source.
Ibn Sahib al-Sala
. . . the gardens that had been planted close to the city which was accessed by a single, solidly fortified entrance called Bab al-Futuh. (The Gate of Victory)
This "single" entrance has usually been identified by most authors as a gate on the southern side of the city – which in turn is interpreted as being somewhere along the southern walls of the Castle’s Qasabah. This in itself is hard to understand as one would have expected the place to have some sort of gate facing north towards the Iberian Peninsula.
H.T. Norris – Ibn Battuta’s Andalucian Journey’s – 1956 P186
Two south facing gate. The two north facing ones – Land or Landport Gate and the uncaptioned Puerta de Granada were probably 14th century additions.

(1956 - H.T. Norris - Crop)

THE TWO INSCRIPTION – Where were they?

Inscription 1
Thomas James – History of the Herculean Straits V2 – P410 
This long inscription is over the gate at the entrance of the upper castle.“To the God that pacifies, and of peace, to the God that lasts for ever . . . “

Copy of actual inscription

The longer inscription 'over the gate at the entrance of the upper cattle' transcribed into "readable Arabic script" by Thomas James
Francis Carter – Journey from Gibraltar to Malaga – 1772 – P26
The few other remaining buildings (within the Qasabah) . . . is a little square building to eastward formerly a mosque, which would never have been known for a place of devotion were it not for an Arabic dedication on the wall which imports in English:
“To the God that pacifies, and the Peacemaker, to the God eternal, that lasts for ever . . . “
Unfortunately, there is a discrepancy between these two authors as regards the location for this inscription:

Thomas James – Over a gate in the upper Castle
Francis Carter – On the wall of an ex-Mosque inside the Qasabah.

And if we accept that that James is correct, then which gate is he referring to? There was now more than one gate to choose from.

Inscription 2
Thomas James – History of the Herculean Straits V2 – P408-409
This inscription is upon the outside of the Battlement of the upper tower
This is on the upper cattle, and in English is:
 “Prosperity and peace to our sovereign, and slave of God, king of the Moors, our sovereign Aby Al Hajaj, son of Joseph king of the Moors, son of our sovereign Aby Al Walid, whom God preserve."

Copy of actual inscription

As interpreted by Thomas James
Francis Carter – Journey from Gibraltar to Malaga – 1772 P28Over the south gate of this Castle, which fronts the soldiers hospital, is an Arabic inscription that ascertains the exact period of its erection, and which together with that on the wall of the Mosque, have already been published by an officer of this garrison: (Colonel Thomas James) his translation of both very nearly agree with mine which were given to me by a Barbary Jew, well versed in Arabick idiom. In English it is this. 
“Prosperity and peace to our sovereign and the slave of God, the supreme governor of the Moors, our sovereign Aby Abul Hajez, son of Jezed, Supreme governor of the Moors, son of our sovereign Aby al Walid, whom God preserve.”
Again, the authors disagree.

Thomas James – Outside the Battlement of the upper tower
Francis Carter – Over the South Gate of the Castle

To make matters worse identifying it as the south gate was no help at all - as explained by an exasperated Spanish historian:
Ángel J. Sáez Rodríguez - Las Defensas de Gibraltar (Siglos II-XVIII):
El problema se plantea porque la orientación del recinto hace que las dos puertas medievales estuvieran situadas al sur, una al sudeste (llamada Puerta de la Victoria) y otra al sudoeste (de origen Nasarí) . . . De las dos solo permanece una en pie.
So, that’s one unsolved problem. We really do not know where the inscriptions were. Here is the second one. The ibn Sahib al-Sala quote given above reveals that however many gates the castle precinct may have ended up with at least one of them had a name – Bab-al-Fath, sometimes known as Bab-al Futuh. Both names translate as the Gate of Victory.

There is, as far as I can see no evidence that pinpoints which of these gates is Bab-al-fath but for some reason most modern authors opt for the larger more imposing south-eastern gate, known today as the Gatehouse. But there are confusing exceptions.
Ángel Sáez Rodríguez, Antonio T. Silva - Gibraltar Almohade y Meriní 2001 P191/202,
Seis eran las torres que flanqueaban la muralla en el frente sudoriental de la Alcazaba, el más elevado topográficamente de la ciudad. Dos de ellas formaban parte de la puerta denominada de Yusuf I

In other words, according to these two gentlemen the Gatehouse was not the Almohad Bab-al-Fath. It was a Nasrid/Merinid gate constructed in the mid-14th century. However, a few years later, one of the authors of the Almohad, Merinid article changed his mind:
Ángel J. Sáez Rodríguez - Las Defensas de Gibraltar (Siglos II-XVIII): P54
 De las dos puertas . . . solo una permanece en pie, la sudeste o Puerta de la Victoria (in other words the Gatehouse – Bab-al-Fath) . . . Fue dada a conocer en 1998 en el Congreso “Fortificaciones en al-Andalus” de Algeciras, aunque citada por error como Puerta de Yusuf I . . .

Which means, although he does not specifically mention it, that the gate of Yusuf I is relegated to the one that no longer exists – the south-west gate of the southern wall of the Qasabah. while at the same time acknowledging that there are no unambiguous sources that identify either gate (p53). He is just making an educated guess. During the 21st century, the whole question of the inscriptions and gates were re-examined by local historians.
Kevin Lane et al – Myths Moors and Holy Wars – 2014
The Nasrid ‘quarrying’ of construction material after the razing of Algeciras in 1369–79 also added to the increasingly formidable defences of Gibraltar. The scale of this construction is perhaps best illustrated by an inscription that existed on the so-called Yusuf Gate, one of two recorded by James in the late 18th century and since destroyed.
One can glean two things from the above. The Yusuf Gate is referred to as so called because as we will see later, the article is going to claim that it ought to be called something else and – perhaps more importantly, the gate in question whatever its proper name is not the Gatehouse – identified after a second look by Sáez as Bab-Al-Fath - but the one facing south west which has long since been demolished. The authors, however, do not offer any references that might confirm that this might be so.

One of the main conclusions arrived at in this article is that the Islamic ruler that had previously been honoured by one of the inscriptions as Yusuf I should have been Muhammed V. Their conclusion was based on the following new translation:
Kevin Lane et al – Myths Moors and Holy Wars – 2014 P149
Succour, honour, strength and clear victory
for our lord Abu Abdallah commander of the Muslims (Nasrid ruler 1354–59 and 1362–91
son of Abu l-Haggag ibn Yusuf commander of the Muslims ((Nasrid ruler Yūsuf I 1333–54),
son of Abu l-Waiīd may God grant him victory. (1314-1325)
Unfortunately, they still manage to muddy the waters still further by getting their gate captions wrong on a town plan where the Gatehouse is labelled as Gate of Muhammad V and the one that now no longer exist has become the Gate of Victory.

(2014 - Kevin Lane et al)


The well-preserved lookout tower is probably the one shown on the engraving below.

(1828 – H.A. West)

As regards the view almost every tourist to Gibraltar who has bothered to write about their visit agrees with Alcantara. It’s a great view. However, both the ancient el Hacho, post-1704 Signal Station and other lookout towers such as the ill-fated O’Hara’s Folly, were all pretty useless when under cloud – especially when a heavy levanter was in the offing. In 1922 they gave up and all look-out facilities were moved to Windmill Hill.

To read the booklet without any interruptions from me - click on the link below:

711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar - J.J. Alcantara

To read the rest of my commentary click on the appropriate link below:

711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 1 - The Visigoths and Islam
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 2 - Tarik and Gibraltar
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 3 - Tarik’s Mountain
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 4 - Tarik Invades
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 5 - Covadonga
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 6 - Vikings and Almoravids
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 7 - Yusuf Ibn Tashfin
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 8 - Abd al-Mu’min
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 9 - Madinat-al-Fath
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 10 - Moorish Wall, Aqueduct and Town
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 11 - Abd al-Mu’min Revisited
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 12 - The First Siege
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 13 - Christian Gibraltar and the Second Siege
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 14 - La Giralda and the Third Siege
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 15 - Abu al-hasan
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 16 - The Tower of Homage
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 17 - The Line Wall and the Shrine
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 18 - The Mosque, St Mary the Crowned and Rio Salado
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 19 - Siege of Algeciras and Ibn Battuta
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 20 - Southern Defences and Moorish Baths
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 21 - The Nuns’ Well
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 22 - The Gatehouse
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 23 - The 6th and 7th Sieges
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 24 - The 8th Siege – Castilian Gibraltar