Cartagena (World Heritage)
Cartagena, located on the Caribbean Sea, experienced a rapid rise to become a trading metropolis after it was founded in 1533. Today the historic port facilities and the largest urban defense system in South America are a reminder of the importance of the city in the 16th and 17th centuries.
|Port, fortifications and monuments of the colonial era in Cartagena
|the port – called »la Perla de las Indias« -, 11 km long defensive belt (Murellas) together with fortresses such as the Castillo de San Félipe de Barajas and the Fort San José as well as the three districts of San Pedro with the cathedral and numerous palaces such as the Palacio de la Inquisición and the mansion of the Marqués del Premio Real, San Diego – the quarter of the middle class and merchants – and Gethsemani
|Cartagena, on the Caribbean Sea, north of Bogotá
|the most extensive urban defense system in South America
|Landing of Amerigo Verspucci on the Colombian Caribbean coast
|Foundation of the city by Pedro de Heredia
|1544, 1560 and 1586
|Attacks by the privateers under Sir Francis Drake
|Construction of the cathedral
|Introduction of inqusition
|Battle of Cartagena between the English Armada of 186 ships under the command of the English Admiral Edward Vernon and the defenders of the city under Don Blas de Lezo
|Completion of the Palacio de la Inquisición
|Cartagena’s detachment from motherland Spain and the end of the Inquisition
|Recapture by Spanish associations under Pablo Morillo
|Battle of Boyacá and
|in the spring
|internationally recognized independence from mainland Spain
A bulwark against pirates and renovators
The scene of countless battles against pirates and other looters, shielded from land and water by a gigantic wall, equipped with castles and bulwarks, Cartagena rises on the shores of the Caribbean Sea. Behind the fortifications, churches, monasteries and arcades brave the decay. The witnesses of modern times, hotels and offices, residential towers and shopping areas, respectfully keep their distance from the symbols of history.
Since Cartagena did not hold any significant mineral resources, the Conquistadores prompted geopolitical considerations to secure the port and city against hostile attacks like nowhere else on the American continent. Cartagena de Indias was ideally located in the traffic between the Old and New World, between Panama, the trading center for gold and silver from the south, and Havana, the obligatory stop on the way back to mainland Spain. Here the galleons anchored, were supplied with drinking water and provisions, upgraded and repaired.
After the foundation stone for the city’s construction was laid in the first half of the 16th century, it was barely ten years before pirates launched their first attack on the initially quite defenseless settlement. From Francis Drake to Edward Vernon, hardly any of the corsairs could fail to attack the rapidly blossoming Cartagena and then plunder it extensively. Towards the end of the 16th century, in distant Spain, the realization matured that this anchorage, one of the most important on the other side of the Atlantic, had to be fortified with a grandiose bulwark if they wanted to protect themselves from attacks by privateers in the future.
It took two hundred years to build; Hosts of craftsmen and slaves populated the city. The then King of Spain, Charles III., Supervised the work personally at times; the nobles and even the middle class had to help finance the fortress. In the fight against artillery, new concepts of defense were necessary. The wall around the city center should be up to twelve meters thick in order to withstand the projectiles. Towers and bastions in a long row had to prevent enemy ships from entering.
Proud buildings testify to the efforts of many generations: the castle of San Félipe de Barajas with its confusing network of tunnels and the imposing Fort San Fernando, but also the Augustinian monastery of La Popa and the Palacio de la Inquisición, in which the Santo Officio on the dogmas of faith in the The New World and colonial-style townhouses with ornate wooden balconies have survived the storms of time and the greed of the invaders. Mighty fortifications saved Cartagena de Indias from collapse, fortunate circumstances prevented destruction.
After the War of Independence in the early 19th century, the focus of world trade shifted to the north. The “heroic city” gradually lost its strategic importance. But the British, French and Italians still wanted to attack it – now with the intention of collecting debts from the Colombian state according to ehealthfacts.
With the arrival of the 20th century, new factors revitalized the port of Cartagena: coffee, oil, rail and later tourism. And so new needs threatened the old monuments. Little was missing that the city had to share the fate of Milan and Barcelona. Already in the Gethsemani quarter they were tearing down and tearing down, and bastions and batteries were being blown up in the harbor. The rapidly growing traffic took its toll. In good time, however, the citizens of the city remembered their heritage and their pride, so that the plans for a “final renovation” were dropped.
From 1928 onwards, Cartagena rallied almost unanimously around its monument protection association, the Sociedad de Mejoras Públicas. Since then, says Rodolfo Segovia Salas in a study of the fortifications and colonial structures, “nostalgia, tourism and a sense of aesthetics have come together to strengthen the action of the state and the local population and to save the wonder of a walled city.”