Minorca’s history is marked by the different phases of foreign rule, making it the most complex of all the Balearic archipelago – the habour of Maó is a faithful reflection of this past. Here we can find the remains of San Felipe Castle, La Mola Fort and the former hospital of El Llatzeret, which all bear witness to another time period.
San Felipe Castle, designed by the Italian engineer Gianbattista Calvi, is located on the south bank of the entrance to the harbour of Maó. It was built in the mid 16th Century at Felipe II’s orders, after the attack by Barba Roja (“Red Beard”). It was a castle with four bastions surrounded by a deep, narrow moat excavated in the stone. The English conquered it in 1708 and when the Treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1713, they extended it and equipped it to give it an even greater defensive capacity. Rising up next to the castle was the Arrabal, a district which was used by the French troops in 1756 to take the castle by storm. The French rule lasted only a few brief years, as in 1763 the island passed back into the hands of the English until 1781.
In 1782 the castle once again played a leading role in Minorca’s history during the Spanish siege, which enabled them to recover the island after more than half a century in the foreign hands. Carlos III ordered its demolition and all that remains of it today are ruins, although its silhouette can still be perfectly seen from the air. As well as the remains of the walls, you can also visit its tunnels and a battery of 18th Century cannons.
Part of Admiral Nelson’s memoirs written during his stay in Minorca, has as their setting, this port which has had to withstand so many invasions and armies throughout the course of its history.
To visit San Felipe Castle, you need to make an appointment.