Dilapidated, elegant and impressive, the fortresses of the Morro and the Cabana rise up in the very entrance of the bay of the Cuban capital to welcome all navigators arriving at the city that is close to reaching half a millennium since its foundation, brimming with history and tradition.
Built under mandate from Spain in the colonial era in the XV and XVI centuries, the Castle of the three kings of Morro and the fortress of San Carlos of the Cabana, their basic aim was defending Havana from attacks by corsairs and pirates.
Both constructions hoard great historical treasures from various centuries, since they were witnesses to countless events that shaped the life of the Cuban capital, one of which was the famous seizure of Havana by the English in August 1762. Built between 1589 and 1630 by the Italian military engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli, the Castle of the Three Kings of Morro rises up just besides the entrance to the bay of Havana, and in this period there was a total of 200 men and some gun batteries available for the defence of the city.
A few years after its construction, the lighthouse was added to the castle, which at first was made of limestones and mortar and used firewood as fuel for its illumination.
In 1845 it was replaced by another lighthouse of masonry, that stood 45 metres above sea level, the same one that still looms majestically over the entrance of Havana’s harbour, a well known sight that identifies Cuba’s capital.
A few metres from the Morro stands the Fortress of San Carlos of Cabana, which was the largest construction by the Spanish metropolis at that time. With a wall of over 700 metres, the building of the Cabana began under the patronage of the French architect M. De Valliére in November 1763 and was finished in 1774.
The land on which this was built was at that time the property of Don Agustin of Sotolongo, who donated the land in order to carry out building what would contribute to the city’s defence. This fortress takes the form of a polygon with ramparts and includes terraces, pits, drawbridges, wells and warehouses, and its unique position converted it into an impregnable place.
Inside were placed numerous pieces of artillery and cannons that had been cast in Barcelona in the XV111 century. Many of them can still be found in place today as a historical record.
In 1986 the Cuban state decided to restore the Castle of the Three Kings of the Morro and from then on together with the Fortress of San Carlos of the Cabana became a part of the historic military park Morro-Cabana.
These days it is visited by many tourists both foreign and Cuban because it is used as an exhibition area to stage, among other events, the International Book Fair, the International Tourism Fair and other similar activities.
Also there is to be be found the Museum that houses a valuable collection of antique arms in two themed rooms, where visitors are given information about the history of navigation into the port of Havana. One of the most highlighted pieces is an enormous catapult. Something unique and highly appreciated by those that visit the place is the cannon ceremony which takes place every night. Exactly at 21.00 a platoon of young recruits, in a beautiful ceremony, let off the old cannons, which has now become a tradition, because in past centuries, when Havana was a walled city, these explosions announced the closing of the city’s gates.