Towering over the seafront at Lima’s Port of Callao is the Royal Felipe Fortress — a monument of 18th century military architecture well worth visiting with a knowledgeable guide.
Its star-shaped bastion towers and lookout posts, deep dungeons and elegant salons were built in honor of King Philip V.
For more than a century, Peru’s Viceroyalty had struggled to fend off some of the most famous pirates and privateers of the age: Sir Francis Drake, John Hawkins, Thomas Cavendish and Jacques L’Hermite.
Then the massive earthquake and tsunami of October 1746 devastated Callao, destroying the port town and washing away its fortified walls.
With the City of Kings left wide open to attack by buccaneers, Viceroy José Antonio Manso de Velasco commissioned Luis Godin, a French engineer, to design the new fortress and construction began in August 1747.
Its structure is an irregular pentagon shape, with five pentagonal bastions jutting out from the corners. After Viceroy Manuel de Amat y Junient arrived to Peru in 1761, the fortress’ defensive capacity was increased with the construction of three towers, named after the Spanish king, queen and the “Knight of the Twelve Cannons.”
Later, in 1811, Viceroy Fernando de Abascal ordered further consolidation of the defensive structure.
In the 1820s, Spanish royalists made their last stand in the fort during Peru’s war for independence. Spanish Brigadier José Ramón Rodil and his soldiers took it over in February 1824 and held it for nearly two years, until Spain’s capitulation in January 1826.
In 1974, the Royal Philip Fortress was restored and converted into a military museum to mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Ayacucho, in which the Spanish army was routed by Gen. Sucre’s forces, marking the real end of Spanish military domination in South America.
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