Military Architecture

Military Architecture

Ceuta/Sebta, North Africa, Spain

Military Architecture

When the settlement was taken over it was walled in the medieval style - as we described before, making use of the Islamic defences with some repairs. Essentialy it made use of neuroballistic weapons. In the surrounding hinterland a more elaborate system of lookouts and watchtowers was developed to “control the field”. In the 15th century a number of stonemasons, carpenters and master builders carried out small works of reinforcement. At the end of the century a plan was drawn up for the reinforcement of the castle and walls, in order to better withstand fire and enable the work of the defensive bombards.
The most important works of refurbishment of the fortifications in the city took place during the 16th century, both at the time of Manueline expansion and the retraction under King João. The first decades saw the execution of works of adaptation to the use of artillery without significant evolution in terms of the design of the walls. This was a period of transition in military architecture, which can still be seen in Asilah, Ksar Shgir, Safi and Azemmour. Under the rule of King Manuel I a bastion was built to defend the Almina Gate, and a new barbette, and it also had a bastion at its edge.
The great alteration in the defensive system of Ceuta took place, as in El Jadida, due to the increase in Muslim pressure, starting in 1541, with the fall of Agadir. In that year, architects Benedito de Ravena and Miguel de Arruda went to Ceuta and drew up a plan to make the city stronger, modernizing its obsolete and decaying defences. The works began on the land side with the bastions of Saint James and Saint Sebastian and a wide curtain wall with a deep moat that went from sea to sea; only later were the works on the side of the sea built. On the Mediterranean front, a barbette was constructed to protect the landing-place and a buttress was built on the Atlantic side. Over the years, two very long curtain walls were built. They covered the fortified front of the city and connected three bastions. To the east, near the Mediterranean, the Bastion of Saint Anne; at the centre, that of Saint Paul; to the west, near the Atlantic, that of Saint Peter. This exterior work sought to prevent the near approach of the enemy. The wide yard that stood between the curtains and the city moat was reinforced with walls and stockades to improve defence.
Works of preservation and renovation continued to be necessary, beyond the Philippine period because of the state of insecurity, due in part to the evolution of enemies’ systems of attack. With the incorporation of Ceuta into the Spanish crown in 1640, the defensive effort continued. There was a profound increase in external defence works on the land side and, across the peninsula of Ceuta, with bastions and ravelins. More recently Spain has undertaken the development of the defensive systems in the city, building batteries of artillery and bunkers. The access to the autonomous territory through Morocco is presently controlled by a sophisticated fence and by electronic means. In the centuries-long dispute over the Mediterranean by the peoples of both sides of the Strait, Spain assumed continuity to a Portuguese presence on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar.

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