The Santisima Trinidad Returns to Havana
By Mercedes Ramos, Photos by Jorge García Alonso
The greatest and most powerful battleship of the 18th Century, the Santisima Trinidad, has arrived at the new Maritime Museum, La Real Fuerza Castle, in the well-known Plaza de Armas in the historic centre of Old Havana, thus enriching Cuban maritime history.
After 36 months of dedicated hard work by a group of Cuban artisans, led by Juan Carlos Zuloaga, this model has been constructed through the research, funding and collaboration of the Canadian based Friends of Santisima Trinidad Association, the Havana City Historian's Office, chaired by Dr. Eusebio Leal, and the Embassies of Canada and Spain in Cuba. The four-metre-long replica, was created on a 1:25 scale with such perfection that one can see the smallest details of life on board a naval vessel from the 18th century, originally built by the Royal Shipyard of Havana.
Interior construction details are exposed on one side of the vessel, and visitors will be able to use a computer interface and touch screen to take a virtual tour of the ship in Spanish and English.
At the ceremony of delivery to the museum, the Canadian Ambassador Jean Pierre Juneau spoke of the importance of the work as a treasure of the island's maritime heritage and thanked those who contributed to the successful achievement of the project. The Canadian Embassy has also worked with the Friends of Santisima Trinidad through the Canadian Local Initiatives Fund to create a second model ship constructed by Cuban artisans; that of Montreal born Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville who sailed to Havana aboard his ship Le Juste in 1706. A monument to D'Iberville stands along the Malecon near Castillo de la Punta.
Canada's most famous sailing vessel, The Bluenose also had an important piece of her history in Cuba during 1942-46 when she was based in Havana. Through the Friends of Santisima Trinidad and the generous support of the Bluenose ll Preservation Trust Society, a model of the Bluenose was constructed in Lunenburg and also donated to the maritime museum of La Fuerza where she resides beside Le Juste.
The Friends of the Santisima Trinidad, leaders of the project, will also work with the Historian's Office to create a workshop for youth of all ages in La Punta Fortress, at the mouth of Havana Harbour, to teach the craft of modelling.
The Santisima Trinidad was the largest ship in the world during the 18th century with 140 canons on four gun decks. She was constructed of rare Cuban woods like mahogany, jucaro and caguairan, but she did not have an enviable history. Its designer, Irish engineer Capt. Matthew Mullan died in Havana in 1767 some days after placement of the ship's keel and construction was completed by his son Ignacio and Pedro de Acosta.
The ship was launched in October 1769 with great pride as a three-decker of the Spanish Armada. The original dimensions of the ship were 63.36 metres long, with a 50.82 metre keel, a 16.67 metre beam and a depth of 8.50 metres. She displaced 2 475 tons and her weaponry consisted of 120 canons. In 1795, her forecastle was joined to her quarterdeck to create a fourth deck with a battery of eight guns and was unique in her epoch as a four-decker.
After participating in many battles — the most important the Battle of Cape St Vincent on 14 February 1797 — she had a tragic end during the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805, as part of the combined Franco-Spanish fleet. Her great size and position immediately ahead of the fleet flagship Bucentaure made her a target for the British fleet, and she came under concentrated attack by several ships. She lost her mast and eventually surrendered. She was taken in tow by the Prince, but sank in a storm the day after the battle having been scuttled by her British captors 28 miles off the coast of Cadiz, Spain.