Cartagena

Article and pictures by Marcelo Caceres, all rights reserved.

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San Lorenzo Redoubt San Jose Battery

San Lorenzo

FROM REDOUBT TO BASTION. THE HISTORY OF SAN LORENZO:

During the early days of the 17th century the city of Cartagena de Indias began to grow outside its original island location. The new inhabitants built their houses on the next island named Getsemani, which was seperated from Cartagena by a narrow channel.

This was the beginning of a new suburb of the city, which later accommodated all sorts of warehouses, dockyards for small vessels, the houses of the labourers of those facilities as well as artisans such as tailors, shoemakers, etc.

By 1631 the fortifications of Cartagena were blossoming and the circuit of the city wall was more than halfway completed, but the new growing suburb was left defenceless.

To rectify this, Governor Francisco de Murga, a veteran of the Dutch Wars'and talented engeneer, familiar with the newer designs from the Netherlands designed and ordered the construction of a redoubt'in the southernmost corner of the triangular-shaped island of Getsemani and gave it a patron Saint, San Lorenzo (Saint Lawrence).

It was built on a sand bank off the shore in order to flank as much of the bay and the fortifications of the town as was possible and was connected to the land at its rear.

The definition of the word redoubt comes to us from the Italians - the Word 'riducto' means reduced, seperated and for tactical purposes was a small enclosed fortification that protected a fortified place but was seperated from it by a short or medium distance.

Since San Lorenzo was originally a redoubt it has some features that makes it different from the other bastions'that are now linked to it. For example, it had a powder magazine'of its own, toilets and a inside there was a vault with a door in the flank, giving access to a small dock.

San Lorenzo was linked to a simple almost medieval style wall a year after its construction, but its status of redoubt must have remained for some years, until the simple wall was transformed into a curtain and the redoubt of San Lorenzo became a bastion, integrated into the rest of the fortifications of Getsemani.

VISITING SAN LORENZO:

El reducto (the redoubt) as it is affectionately known to the residents of Cartagena since colonial times, was one of the most ruinous and ill-maintained fortifications of the city until it underwent significant restoration work in 2005 to install a bar on it.

The restoration included 90% of the parapet, one of the two flanking sentry boxes, the capital sentry box, the sloped stone paved terrace for the cannons, the ammunition boxes and the powder magazine was made into the bar's restrooms.

The destroyed vault that accessed the dock has been partially restored. It is presumed that this vault was destroyed during one of the sieges that the city suffered, because its ceiling and the paving above can be seen crumbled on the vault's floor.

Article and pictures by Marcelo Caceres, all rights reserved.

San Jose Battery

San Jose (Saint Joseph) was one of four coastal batteries built to reinforce San Luis castle, which was designed to defend the Bocachica (narrow mouth) strait, the only entrance to the bay of Cartagena. It was designed by Spanish military engineer Juan de Herrera y Sotomayor.

Herrera, a resourceful and dedicated colonel who was the founder of the first military academy in the Spanish Main, was tasked with repairing and rebuilding Cartagena's damaged defenses after the French capture of the city in 1697. He arrived in the city in 1717 and by 1730, the year of his death, he had almost completed his task.

San Jose is located on a small island right in the middle of the Bocachica strait, its main array of cannons faces towards the open sea, covering the approach route to the bay. The battery's initial design was a square base with a small redan'facing the landward side of the island.

There were 13 embrasures, only one of which covered the redan with flanking fire. The landward approach to the battery was to be defended by musketeers only.

The San Jose battery saw action during the 1741 British siege of Cartagena and it was severely damaged. Remarkably this battery was the only one that received repairs and improvements after that attack, the other three were abandoned and the San Luis castle was replaced by the smaller but more effective Fort San Fernando.

The work on improving the battery lasted from 1751 to 1759 under the supervision of military engineer Juan Bautista MacEvan, adding a new battery at sea level adjacent to the original work, a second story over the original battery, bombproof barracks, a cistern and a reinforced powder magazine.

VISITING SAN JOSE:

Despite the excellent condition of the battery and a neighbouring Coast Guard station, as of 2007 there is no direct transport from Cartagena's historic old town to the island where San Jose is located.

To reach the battery, visitors must take the local speedboat transports (5 USD per trip) from the tourist marina to arrive at fort San Fernando and then hire one of the locals' canoes (1 USD) to cross the strait to San Jose. An alternative is to hire a speedboat for the day.

Unfortunately there is no set price for this transport nor the ones mentioned above, so it is necessary bargain until an agreement for a reasonable price is reached.

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