Castles and Fortifications

Castles and Fortifications

Tangier, North Africa, Marocco

Military Architecture

The most important building was definitely a new castle of late medieval appearance built over the Islamic kasbah: a tall, compact and turreted building, partly blind on its lower level, but with openings on the upper level and topped with a tiled roof, which controlled Tangier from its highest point. It is difficult to attribute the direction of the work to any individual, although Rodrigo Anes, appointed master of works for the territories of Africa in 1473, is well positioned in chronological terms. The palace of Tangier occupied the southeastern corner of the castle wall. It must have had circular turrets, whose remains can still be seen in the fabric of the present day quarter of the kasbah in the form of a tower converted into the public kiln Hadj Tahar. Still in the 15th century, under the rule of King João II, another castle was built above the port, called New Castle, as opposed to the older one, which stood at the top of the city hill. The building was sited in a low part of the city on the northeastern side, a defensive and pragmatic structure that ensured, on the edge of the city, the protection of supply in the event of a siege. Typologically, the keep resembled that of Asilah. It was a quadrangular tower, crowned by a balcony with semi-circular lookouts on the corners, upon which was a wood structure with two tiled sloping roofs. The interior was divided into at least two sections with large windows. Dominated by the tower, the castle connected a series of walled extensions with round turrets at the corners. It included other appendages, crowned by domestic-style roofs and chimneys. A barbette descended from the base of the keep into the water; in its extremity stood a circular turret, with a horizontal battery. The New Castle had a pentagonal plan, surrounded by a moat, with four corners marked by circular turrets and a fifth one by the keep. The sea façade fronting the port had a lower barbican. Its extension to the south was interrupted by a small tower with a passage through two opposite doorways, with bevelled transoms on Roman arches. The still recognizable remains are: bits of the walled perimeter to be found on the outside walls of buildings facing the sea; a turret crossed by a lower passage and surmounted by another tower; a circular tower presently surrounded by houses between Amsrak and Sania streets in the Dar Baroud quarter; an apparently circular tower, with a projecting corner at Amsrak street; a gateway in Dar Baroud. This gateway, renovated by André Rodrigues in 1546, would have been starting point for the drawbridge that crossed the moat. Near the castle built by King João II stood a wide empty space, which acquired the name of Chouriço, a public courtyard for military parades, a meeting place for the people or open-air canteen for the sailors that arrived at Stream.
What is known about the renovation of the fortifications of the Portuguese settlements in the Maghreb is that the Biscay-born master Francisco Danzillo came from Portugal in 1511. These works were inspected by master Boytac and Bastião Luiz starting in 18th July 1514. The works focused on two particular areas: the New Castle and the Stream where the military architecture in the southern and southeastern sections of the city required a more drastic renovation. The general plan forsaw a new Stream Bastion, angled at 90 degrees, designed to defend the city and port against sea approaches from the southeast and east, and the design can still be perceived in the urban plan. The same ideas that went into the building of the thick curtain was applied to the reconstruction of the southern wall which was strengthened by two indentations and with a solid cavetto anchored in the dry moat and interrupted by a semi-circular turret that has now gone. Nowadays remains of this can be seen along the Rue du Portugal.
In 1549 King João III decided to send Miguel de Arruda to the city which at the time was stagnating in the progress of the modernization of its fortifications. Half a decade of rule by Queen Catarina was marked by the presence of royal architects/engineers Diogo Telles and Isidoro de Almeida working in collaboration with the master of works of the city, André Rodrigues. It was the latter who suggested and planned the monumental works on the Old Castle. While the most ambitious project went on stand-by, he inspected works on the Bishop’s Tower, now known as the Tour des Irlandais (Irish Tower), a bastion that was aimed at defining a new modern, formal conception. It would be under the rule of Lourenço Pires de Távora that in 1565, Tangier would finally be outfitted with a modern citadel which projected beyond the borders of the city, introducing a new military dimension through walls connected by cornered bastions.
The new structure, with a low horizontal outline was built on the acropolis surrounding the alfonsine castle with a curtain of thick walls which, through three solid bastions outfitted with orillons, was built at a right angle and ensured its adaptation to the boundaries of the city. Overlooking the scarp, another similar bastion without orillons overhung; two smaller tong–shaped bastions called “of the fidalgos” (noblemen) fronted the land, united by an artillery platform. There are remains of this fortification to the east, with openings to the kasbah, Bab Haha and Bab el Assa, and to the west amongst houses, in which the remnants give some evidence of what it must have been like: a sill for the placement of the artillery descended to a short, vertical segment, separated by a rope from the large, inclined escarpment.
As mentioned above, the city was ruled by names chosen by the kings of Spain who repressed the Portuguese crown between 1581 and 1643. When Jorge Tavares took charge of the works of the city in 1610 he suggested an important change: the execution of a new wall that would cut the city from the Land Gate to the Sea Gate following a line above the then Rua Direita. This proposal would eventually be rejected by the king.

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