San Salvador de la Punta Castle

Punta fortressLa Punta just like El Morro was designed to protect the entrance to the Havana Bay that became an important and strategic entranceway to the harbor since the settlement of the town.

What came to be known as La Punta was originally covered by heavy woods that cut off communications between nearby areas. This was considered harmful to the townspeople’s health and to the line of sight of the fortress’ artillery.

On the other hand, the nonstop landings of corsairs in the area endangered the harbor and the town. That was why in 1559 it was resolved to post lookouts at La Punta. In 1582 the king Felipe II, convinced that it was necessary to reinforce fortresses and fleets, ordered the creation of a fortress system in several places of America having its center in Havana.

To fulfill the task Juan de Tejeda was appointed governor of the island, because of his expertise in the matter of fortifications. He brought along the Italian engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli, who has been considered the most renowned professional to practice in 16th century Cuba.

Punta FortressThe works began by 1590 and went on slowly. In 1595 a hurricane severely damaged the fortress, among other reasons, due to the thinness of its walls that were then more solidly rebuilt.

By 1602 there was such a delay in the construction work that the engineer decided to make the fortress into a keep holding some 10 to 12 artillery pieces. Finally, as the years went by it was taken apart, leaving just 3 bastions.

In 1630, due to the short distance between La Punta and El Morro and to increase the protection of the bay, a heavy copper chain was laid between them. This chain can be appreciated in some of the engravings of that time.

In 1762 as a consequence of the fighting when the English attacked Havana, the English superiority took its toll on all the fortresses. The safety curtains and bastions of La Punta castle were destroyed during the invasion. At this time a chain branching out in several directions and held by heavy wood beams was laid. Its ends were tied to guns set-in at La Punta and El Morro. Some fragments of this piece still remain.

Punta FortressLater on, with the Spanish back in power, a new governor arrived, fixing and enlarging the fortification system. In the 16th century some changes, such as the 4 esplanades built to accommodate a corresponding number of artillery pieces, were added at La Punta

The castle, in 1997, was under an intense work of restoration, (by the City’s Historian Office), that gave it its original position on the rocks. Thanks to this work canons that were engraved in the rocks. The park that surrounds it, paved with striking red ceramic tiles, is a memento of the San Antonio, a Spanish ship foundered in front of the castle with a heavy load. Some of the cargo was recovered from the flotsam and now gives the area just outside the building a special and highly distinctive character.

According to the historian of the city, Eusebio Leal, the most important part of this Museum of Maritime and Submarine archeology, is its interior vaults. It holds an exhibition of the objects discovered of the shipwreck from all the areas that had been researched in the Cuban seashores, providing a great amount of evidences as coins, ingots of valuable metals, wonderful stones, chains, ceramics, porcelain, weapons, navigation tools, sextants, etc.

The exhibition at San Salvador de la Punta Castle, seems to complete the fantasy of a city that do not resign to abandon its domain on the sea.

Address: Avenida del Puerto and Paseo del Prado, Old Havana. Havana City.
Open: From Wednesday through Sunday 10:00 to 17:30
Entrance: $3.00CUC