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San Salvador de la Punta Castle (Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta) may look familiar upon arrival. It is one of three fortresses appearing on Havana’s coat of arms. Wander around the area and imagine the maritime dangers of four centuries ago that created the need for these mighty protective forts.
Visit the fort on the south side of the entrance canal to the harbor, less than 1,000 feet (300 meters) from Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro, another famous fort on the opposite bank. For centuries a chain barrier was stretched between the two forts to prevent nighttime passage through the canal. This and the large cannons pointed toward the water prevented many attacks by pirates and other marauders over the years.
Giovanni Battista Antonelli designed both of the forts at the canal entry, with construction taking place between 1590 and 1630. Near the entrance is the inscription of the name of the man who commissioned the structure, Captain General Juan de Tejeda. Inside is a barracks building next to a wide central parade ground. Twin turrets rise from the thick stone surrounding walls. Notice the fort’s defensive cannons. Look for a cannonball from a British attack during the 1700s still embedded in the outside of the wall.
The fort continued in a defensive role through the 1800s. Later it served other uses, including a stint as a cow barn. Over time the surrounding moat filled in, giving the fort an appearance of sinking into the ground. Recent excavation recovered relics spanning 500 years. Appreciate the extensive renovation done in 2002 to restore the fort to its impressive historic appearance.
Today the fort has exhibits in several rooms. Learn about its history and construction as well as naval models and underwater archeology. The second floor has the original basic plumbing for resident troops.
San Salvador de la Punta Castle is a short walk from the center of Havana’s Old Town. There is a fee to enter the fort, which is open from Wednesday to Sunday. Appreciate the lengthy history of this prominent landmark and enjoy views over the water from its grounds.
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