WARNING: LOTS OF PHOTOS IN TODAY’S BLOG
“If you’ve seen one fort, you’ve seen them all,” was Don’s philosophy. I admit I’ve dragged him through many a fort in the 30 years we’ve been together but even he had to eat his words once inside the Castillo de San Marcos.
The Coquina built fort is well over 300 years old. In fact, the ground was broken on Oct. 2, 1672 to begin the erection of the fortress. It wasn’t the first fort built to defend St. Augustine which was established in 1565. There were nine previous ones. Those structures were wooden and failed to protect the city and Spanish ships from attack. Hence, the Spanish Crown authorized the construction of a stone fortification. Once again in 1738, Castillo’s walls were strengthened and raised to the height of 35 feet. Only the area called the Ravelin was never fully completed.
The Ravelin is the triangular section at the fort’s front. It was built to protect the only entry into Castillo from enemy fire. Had it been completed it’s wall would have been 5 feet higher and openings in the wall would have allowed for placements of cannons. It is here that the fort’s 2 drawbridges are located. The smaller and most forward bridge is called the Ravelin bridge, it would have been secured each evening at sunset. The second inner and much larger bridge would only be secured if the fortress was under attack.
This is known as the Burgundian Cross or the cross of St. Andrew. This became the flag of Spain after Phillip of Burgundy, married to Juana, the daughter of Isabel and Ferdinand, ascended the Spanish throne in 1505. The Castillo itself was once plastered white and trimmed in red to match this flag as a symbol of Spanish power and claim over La Florida.
In some of the photos you can plainly see a moat. The interesting thing is that the Spanish kept the moat dry. They used this area as a pen for domestic animals. However, if the fort should come under an attack by land, the moat could quickly be filled with salt water by opening floodgates on the seawall.
Upon exploring Castillo, we could see what a vantage point it was in erecting the structure at this location. There is an unbridled view of Matanzas Bay and it’s opening into the Atlantic Ocean. Of the 2 sections open to a land attack, one, the entry, faces toward the walled city of St. Augustine, only the second section is totally exposed. The city wall was made from earth and palm logs with a wide shallow moat dug into the outer side. The wall was constructed after the British laid siege to the city in 1702, burning portions of it. You can still see sections of the old wall and the only entrance into it, City Gate.
Notice the two door openings under the stairway? These are where the “necessary rooms” were located. These rooms had a tide operated flushing system. A posted sign reads that at high tide the waste pipe would be flushed out into the bay. This controlled the odors and disease within the fort. The latrine top was made of two wooden covers and equipped with iron handles. This facilitated the servicing and cleaning of the latrine box. A barrel of water and a bucket was kept in the room. After each use water was poured into the latrine to flush the waste between high tides. My, what modern conveniences these Spanish employed. Of course one can only imagine what the surrounding waters must have been like….
The chapel had a structure similar to this one. Religion was an important part of daily life. A priest conducted mass for the soldiers and later the Indians as they were introduced to Christianity.
While here we purchased this years National Park Pass at a cost of $80. It may sound a bit steep initially but our plans are to visit several National Historic Sites, Parks and Monuments this year. This entitles both of us to enter and two others besides should we have company as we travel. For places such as the National Seashores that we love to frequent, everyone riding in our vehicle, no matter the quantity, can enter on this pass. I also received 3 more stamps in my National Park Passport book.
After leaving this National Historic Monument we walked along the Matanzas River up to the Bridge of Lions. When I was here last, the bridge was under reconstruction so I was never able to see nor appreciate the full beauty of it. It is truly a remarkable structure. The bridge is part of State Road A1A and spans the Intercoastal Waterway connecting Anastasia Island with downtown St. Augustine. The bridge began construction in 1925, it took 2 years to complete the task. It is ranked fourth on the list of our nation’s Top Ten Bridges.
We continued our stroll into the Old Market Park/Plaza de la Constitucion stopping to view the statue of Ponce De Leon, the Constitution Monument and all of the ornate architecture.
On March 19, 1812 the Spanish Parliament wrote the first Spanish Constitution and issued a Royal Decree for all Spanish towns throughout the empire to build monuments and rename their main plazas La Plaza de la Constitucion in commemoration of the new constitutional government. The St. Augustine monument was erected in 1813. On Sept. 15, 1814, news arrived from Havana that the government in Spain had been overthrown and returned to the Monarchy. A second Royal Decree was issued to destroy all of the monuments. St. Augustine officials refused to tear down the monument. It is believed that this Constitution Monument is the only surviving, unaltered monument in the world.
We continued making our way down King Street pass the Lightener Museum and the Villa Zorayda Museum turning down Sevilla Street to stroll the campus of Flagler College.
The Villa Zorayda has intrigued me since I first saw it in 2008. The villa also known as the Zorayda Castle is a scaled down version of the 12th century Moorish Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. Notice that each windows size and shape are different. According to superstition, the spirits would be able to leave the house but have difficulty finding their way back in. The villa was built by an eccentric millionaire in 1883 to be used as his private home when he was in St. Augustine. It was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in Sept., 1993.
Eventually we made our way back to St. George Street where we decided to have a late lunch. We chose the Taberna del Caballo housed in one of the old city structures for two reasons. First, it had fish tacos on the menu and second, because of my fond memories of the old Cock of the Rooster Tavern that had once been housed here. Alas, the newer tavern lacks the atmosphere of the old one. I had wanted so much for Don to see and experience the reenactors that had once “drank” at the Rooster Tavern. Don ordered the fish tacos and I had the Cubano. Don’s platter came with 3 tacos so I split half of my sandwich with him in return for one taco. After just two bites I placed it back on his plate. The tavern taco is made using Mahi Mahi instead of the Grouper that is usually used. It tasted fishy. To me a fishy taste means old fish. Yuck! Fish lover Don even stated that it left a lot to be desired. We both agreed that the Cubano was good though.
After a little shopping we felt it was time to return to the rig where Tucker was once again waiting for our homecoming.
We did make one more outing last evening, this time with Tucker in tow. There’s a little hole-in-the-wall barbecue joint just up the road from the campground. It has it’s smoker out back where they do their pork, turkey and brisket. No fast food here. The brisket is smoked throughout the night in preparation for the next days meals while the pork and turkey are done fresh each day in the wee morning hours.
We ordered brisket, turkey and ribs which we shared, of course, with Tucker. He was in Dog Heaven!
Here’s lookin’ at you kid…………………