Sunday, June 4, 2017

Citadel of the Spainards: Castillo de San Marcos

Last weekend I traveled down to St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, to engage with Spanish history, see the Atlantic ocean, and enjoy a town so architecturally rich and dense that it's almost like visiting Europe.

The Castillo de San Marcos was constructed by the Spanish, beginning in 1670, after the previous wooden forts to defend St. Augustine were destroyed. The star-patterned structure would withstand serious sieges, but never fall in war: it would only be surrendered in peace treaties.    A friend of mine  and I arrived early in the morning, shortly after seven, to walk around the fort area before it opened.  To be around the fort in the early morning is to witness a curious mix of the bellicose and the bucolic,  severe towers and cannons facing a beautiful morning on the bay. 

From the ramparts, a reconstruction of the old wall extends into the town itself, leading to the Old City Gate. 

A few of the fort's casements have been coverted into museum pieces, demonstrating living quarters, ammunition stockpiles, and so on.

If I understood the plan of the north wall, much of the city now regarded as downtown exists beyond the borders of the original wall.   Many of St. Augustine's major buildings share the architectural touch of one man, Henry Flager, who gives the skyline a distinctive flavor.   Anyone who lives in the Southeast  should see this city during sunset. 

This is my favorite shot from the weekend, as it captures so much of St. Augustine:  its military history, its beauty, and the energy in its cozy old town. The spirit I enjoyed so much in Albuquerque and Santa Fe's plazas was present here throughout the city, and consequently a friend of mine and I spent fourteen hours downtown on Saturday, and just over ten on Sunday.  I didn't even read when we returned to our motel rooms -- I just showered and fell into bed asleep.


  1. looks like a nice place; who destroyed the original fort(s)? indians, english, french, dutch, maybe... pirates, swashbucklers, freebooters...
    does it have a redan?

  2. Both the local Indians (Seminoles, probably) and the English can claim credit for some of the forts' losses. I think that bridged entrance might count as a redan, but I'm really not up on fortress architectural terms.

  3. Really like your shot of the blue cannon barrels with the city buildings in the distance! I could definitely see visiting St. Augustine again...I know what you mean about that contagious energy of the place.

  4. Remarkable! Just imagine an alternate history in which the Spanish rather than the English prevailed in American colonization efforts. What a different world we would be living in now! St. Augustine offers visitors a delicious hint of the possibilities. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit. I always enjoy my visits there.


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