Fortaleza San Carlos de la Cabaña (The Hut Fortress)

Cabaña fortress (view from Malecon)Restablished the Hispanic dominance in Havana, one of the first dispositions of the king Carlos III, with regard to the protection of the city, was the construction of a colossal fortification, the largest erected until then, in America, on “La Cabaña’s” hill. The project, undertaken by Silvestre Abarca, with plans by two French engineers, was finished in eleven years, between 1763-1774. Simultaneously, " El Príncipe” and “ Atarés” Castles.

La Cabaña, with its 750 meters long and ten hectares of surface, was considered as the summit of the fortification system of the Spanish military constructions and its eclectic style is given by the influence that received from the best of the military engineering of the time, when taking from France the curves flanks, the lobes of the bastions, and the external works, from Italy the ramparts and from Holland the hydraulic works. The combination of all these elements guaranteed its functionality, modernity and dynamics, when being adapted to the land, in function of the defensive necessities of preserving the city before a terrestrial attack from the east.

The crown-shaped polygon that conforms this fortress, is surrounded by a deep dry moat by it’s eat side and high wall panels facing the channel. It has a complex defensive structure where are integrated, with robustness and harmony, ramparts, tenails, caponiers, flanked ravelins, bunkers and barracks, with interior street that give access to the beautiful arms’ square, focal point of this military colonial enclave.

Cabaña fortressLa Cabaña‘s garrison had, toward 1859, around 1300 men that could be increased to 6000 in the event of war. It also had 120 brass cannons and howitzers of diverse calibres. For the capacity of storage of reservoirs and victuals, it could resist more than a year of blockade, without receiving supplies from the exterior.

In spite of its extraordinary warlike gifts, the “San Carlos de la Cabaña” fortress, never saw action. It is affirmed that its single presence, was enough to discourage the intents of assaulting Havana again.

It is told that the famous Antonelli said of La Cabaña hills that the one in control of them would own Havana. Those hills were the property of Agustín de Sotolongo, who gave them for free for the construction of the fortress. The capture of this area by the English, even though El Morro resisted, doubtlessly hastened the downfall of the Spanish. The name La Cabaña (The Hut) comes from some huts built in the area. The name of San Carlos comes from the king Carlos III. He requested a spyglass, headed for a balcony of the palace and responded to the question of some visitors, about what he wanted to see.
He claimed: “The Cabaña, such a valuable work, should be spotted from Madrid”.

Cabaña fortressIn the 18th century a cannon shot used to be fired to warn the townsfolk that the gates of the city were about to open or close. In the beginning, the shot was fired from a ship of the Fleet and then from La Cabaña. The scheduled time for the shot has changed over time. Nowadays the inhabitants of the area surrounding the bay can hear every day at 9:00 pm a shot fired by one of the several Spanish guns that the castle has kept since the 18th century. It remains as a ceremony of a deep historical meaning.

This fortress, along with the Three Morro Kings Fortress comprises the Military Morro -Cabaña Park, the largest museum in the country. It took in the main military bodies of the Spanish crown and served as a prison to the countless patriots of the war for independence in the last century where some of them were also shot.

The fortress holds the most important ancient weapon collection of the country: a catapult and a mediaeval ariet natural size; the snake shape swords from southern Asia; the Indian katar, the dreadful three blades dagger; the worshipped samurai’s katanas, the Islamic decorated rifles and the complete battery of cannons from the 18th Century made in Sevilla.

cabaña fortressThe Cabaña was venue to the headquarters of Ernesto Che Guevara during the first months after the triumph of the revolution in 1959. There is an exhibition of his personal objects and photos at the house where he settled.

The distinctive touch of this place comes with the most typical of Havana traditions: The Cannon Shot Ceremony, a ceremony taking place every night starting 20:30.

San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress, located in the municipality of East Havana, is included in the system of fortresses that along with the Old Havana was declared by the UNESCO as World Heritage Site.

Open From Monday through Sunday 10:00 – 22:00
Tel. (53) (7) 62- 06-17 to 19
(53) (7) 63-70-63.