Or the discovery of one of the greatest fortresses of its time
Fort San Felipe is located on the southern shore of the mouth of the port of Mahón and was built in the mid-16th century to withstand periodic attacks by the Turkish squadron. The fortress was rebuilt in the 18th century during the British occupation of Menorca and became one of the largest fortresses of its time. After the reconquest of Menorca by Spain, the demolition of the fort was ordered.
Start of tour
Castillo de san Felipe is one of the lesser known and visited fortresses of Menorca. The tour must be booked online for a specific day and time. The tour is with a guide who will pick you up at the entrance to the fortress a few minutes before the start of the tour. With the guide, you will then drive to a set of smaller buildings where the tour begins. At the beginning, the guide will introduce you to the history of the island and the local fortress, which will then be recapitulated in a video of several minutes. You will learn that only the perimeter walls and the remains of the buildings remain from the original huge fortress. The red building in the photo has been partially renovated.
The size of the perimeter walls tells us how monumental a building it was in its time.
Ruins of residential premises
After the introductory talk, we get into the cars and move to the central part of the fortress. Here are the remains of living quarters, a well and a chapel. When asked where all the stones from the demolished fortress went, we are told that they were used for further construction.
The entrance to the port of Mahon can be seen beautifully from the whole promontory. Fort San Felipe defended this harbor along with other smaller forts, making Mahon essentially impregnable.
Although it may seem that the ruins of the fort have little more to offer, the opposite is true. The fort had several kilometers of underground passages on several floors below.
All the underground passages were built during the rule of the English. It is hand-made, which can be seen on the walls themselves, where there are scratches from licks. The corridors were built in such a size that entire horse-drawn carriages could pass through them. During the demolition of the fortress, a large part of the corridors was filled in, which today is gradually being restored with the help of volunteers.
Events from the underground
Even the underground itself tells a story. During the fighting, over 3,000 people found „asylum“ here and stayed here in terrible conditions for six months. After the fort surrendered, the enemy formed a stockade and allowed the survivors to pass with respect and reverence.
If you are a history buff and have enough time in Menorca, definitely visit San Felipe Fort. The guide speaks excellent English and you can see that he is a real enthusiast. The tour lasts about two hours. In general, it is said that the tours in the morning are less crowded, due to the great heat. We took the risk and because of that we had the tour to ourselves and it was a really special experience.
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