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Castillo de Santa Catalina - Cadiz

El Castillo de Santa Catalina © Michelle Chaplow
El Castillo de Santa Catalina

Castillo de Santa Catalina - Cadiz

The castle is the oldest military construction in Cádiz city, and is a good example of historic preservation. Situated to the north of Playa La Caleta and Castillo San Sebastian, it is well worth a visit.

History

Construction started in April 1598, led by architect and military engineer, Cristóbal de Rojas. The city's defences needed to be improved after the Anglo-Dutch navy, under the command of the 2nd Earl of Essex, had sacked the city two years earlier.

The Castle of Santa Catalina, Cadiz  (Baluarte de Santa Catalina y Castillo) © Michelle Chaplow

King Felipe II decided to reinforce the Playa de Cádiz, leading to the Castillo de Santa Catalina project by Cristóbal de Rojas to reinforce Santa Catalina cove on the city's seafront. Five months after the building works started in 1598, Felipe II died. The castle was completed exactly 23 years later, in September 1621, at the end of Felipe III's reign.

The castle's footprint is shaped like a three-pointed star, comprising two bastions and a moat. These regulated the water level, with sluice gates to protect the single entrance to the fort.

Views to The Castillo de San Sebastián © Michelle Chaplow
Views to The Castillo de San Sebastián © Michelle Chaplow

The castle ramparts offer excellent views of the coast in all directions. The castle was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 1985.

 

View from Santa Catalina castle out to the Atlantic. (c) Michelle Chaplow
View from Santa Catalina castle to the Atlantic.

Chapel

Inside the castle, ranged around a central parade ground, are various buildings.

Muchacho desnudo (Nude boy) by sculptor Cornelis Zitman is a permanent art work in the main patio of the Castillo de Santa Catalina in Cadiz.
Muchacho desnudo (Nude boy) by Dutch sculptor Cornelis Zitman is a permanent art work in the main patio of the Castillo de Santa Catalina in Cadiz

In 1693, under the reign of Carlos II, the Chapel of Santa Catalina de Austria was built. Francisco de Velasco y Tovar, governor and military politician, began the construction. The chapel is composed of a single nave covered by a barrel vault. Above the nave is a vaulted steeple supporting an iron cross. The paving of the chapel is the original black-and-white marble in a checkerboard design, typical of Cadiz.

The Chapel of Santa Catalina de Austria © Michelle Chaplow
The Chapel of Santa Catalina de Austria

The castle had some notable artefacts, including the original wooden baroque altar piece, which were transferred by the Military Government of Cádiz to the Castrense military chapel. This is the popular name for the Capilla de Santo Angel de la Guarda, located in the city's Plaza de Fragela.

Military Prison

In 1769 Carlos III repurposed the castle as a military prison. Conscientious objectors, including 300 Jehovah's Witness who refused to undertake Spanish military national service, were held in the castle from 1965 until 1976. The castle continued to be a military prison until shortly before the Ministry of Defence handed the castle over to the city in 1991.

Renovation

The renovation created multi-disciplinary art spaces in the buildings around the original central parade ground. These are named Sala San Nicolas Alta and Baja, Sala San Juan Alta and Baja, and Polvorin. They house both permanent and temporary exhibitions, as well as creative workshops. There is a permanent exhibition of the Cadiz dockyard munitions explosion in 1947. Concerts and other outdoor events are held in the parade ground during the summer months.

An exhibition dedicated to the 1947 explosion in the Navy ammunition depot of Cadiz
An exhibition dedicated to the 1947 explosion in the Navy ammunition depot of Cadiz

Opening times:

Monday-Sunday, 11:00-17:45

Admission

Free entrance

Contact

Tel: 956 22 63 33

Location

Calle Campo de las Balas.

Destinations