Around the World in 80 Clicks

inspiring you to travel

Colombia: Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

Mission accomplished image

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas | Colombia | Americas

[Visited: February 2009]

Cartagena de Indias was founded in 1533 by the Spanish conqueror Pedro de Heredia, who actually built it at the location of an existing settlement of the indigenous Carib Indians. It soon acquired importance as the main gateway for Spain into South America, and it became the warehouse of the Spanish treasures taken from the newly discovered territories. Not surprisingly, Cartagena became a prime target for pirates, and in order to defend it against attackers, the city was turned into a fortress, surrounded by a defensive wall. The Spanish also decided to build a real fortress, which was cleverly constructed to make it difficult to attack and impossible to conquer. Initially based on a design of the Dutch engineer Ricardo, the fortress was ultimately finished by Antonio de Arévalo. The design worked.

Picture of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Colombia): View of the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

The Castillo San Felipe, originally built in the 16th century and rebuilt in the mid-17th century, was so strong and so well located, on top of the San Lázaro Hill, that is was never taken. There were plenty of attempts, heavy battles, but in the end, the defenders always prevailed. The most famous battle was the one waged by the English admiral Edward Vernon in 1741. The British were so convinced of their victory against the Spanish, based on their much larger numbers of ship, cannons and men, that they even minted coints depicting a humiliated Blas de Lezo kneeling before Vernon. In reality, however, the Brits were defeated, and the physically handicapped Blas de Lezo, missing a leg, an arm and an eye, turned into a hero. He is still visible as a statue at the foot of the San Lázaro hill on which the fortress is built. Copies of the British coins depicting his defeat are attached to the sides of the pedestal on which his statue stands.

Picture of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Colombia): View of the statue of Blas de Lezo seen from below

Ultimately, the entire Cerro de San Lázaro, the hill on which the fortification was built, was completely covered by the structure, thus effectively making any unwanted entry into the city of Cartagena from land impossible. When you approach the fortress from the side of Cartagena, you realize how massive the Castillo San Felipe is. Climbing the winding access ramp brings you to the top of the fortress. Apart from a fine view over old Cartagena as well as the modern city, you can start exploring the different batteries here, the ammunition warehouses, hospital, the belfry, and the long tunnels that cut through the fortress and could be used to transfer ammunition from one side to the next, or for escaping the enemy. The fortress was constructed in such a way that, if needed, it could destruct itself in case the enemy would be about to take over. Because of the design, this, however, never happened.

Picture of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Colombia): Strong defensive walls against the intruder protecting the fortress
Picture of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Colombia): View of the Castillo San Felipe
Picture of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Colombia): Strong defensive walls at the top of the Castillo San Felipe
Picture of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Colombia): Fortress of San Felipe with a statue of hero Blas de Lezo in the foreground
Picture of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Colombia): Cannon defending the fortress of San Felipe de Barajas
Picture of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Colombia): Turret with pineapple on the top of the San Felipe de Barajas fortress
Picture of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Colombia): Thick and steep walls making the fortress impossible to conquer
Picture of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Colombia): View of the top of the fortress
Picture of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Colombia): Cannon pointed at the new high-rise city of Cartagena
Picture of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Colombia): Fortress of San Felipe seen from below
Picture of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Colombia): Warehouses for ammunition in the Castillo San Felipe
Picture of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Colombia): Close-up of the belfry of the Castillo San Felipe
Picture of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Colombia): Tunnel in the fortress

Around the World in 80 Clicks

Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Colombia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Castillo San Felipe de Barajas.
Read more about this site.

Follow us