MILITARY ARCHITECTURE ON THE ISLAND OF LANZAROTE

CASTLES ON THE ISLAND OF LANZAROTE

1-        GUANAPAY FORTRESS OR SANTA BÁRBARA CASTLE

2-        SAN GABRIEL CASTLE OR ARRECIFE FORTRESS

3-        TORRE DEL ÁGUILA OR DE LAS COLORADAS

4-        SAN JOSÉ CASTLE OR HAMBRE FORTRESS.

The OceanDreams Villas are located just opposite the Torre del Águila or de las Coloradas. Today, we’re going to have a look at its fascinating history. 

Plan of the Torre del Águila in the harbour of Papagayo on the island of Lanzarote.
This plan, drawn by military engineers in 1742, is kept in the Institute for Military Geography and is very similar to the plans for the Torre de la Caleta de Fustes and the Torre del Tostón in Fuerteventura and the Torre del Gando in Gran Canaria.

On the plan you can see a cross-section and exterior profile of the tower, as well as a floorplan on which two spaces are shown:

A: Gunpowder chamber

B: Cistern

This castle, in Las Coloradas, was not built exactly as the plan shows.  

Therefore, this tower, which was supposed to be the typical model by military engineers of the era, was not built in Las Coloradas, at least not all of it.  

On the unsigned plan from 1742, you can see a floorplan and cross-section of the Torre de las Coloradas. On this plan, already made for the San Gabriel Castle as both towers appear on it, there is also a trench system in the south of Lanzarote running from the Torre de las Coloradas to the village of Playa Blanca. The aim, of course, was to prevent Arab and Algerian pirate boats from reaching land.  

The floorplan and cross-section of the Torre de las Coloradas seen here are very similar to the aforementioned plan drawn by military engineers, with just a few differences in the staircase and entrance to the tower. The two gunpowder chambers highlighted in the key exist nowadays, but the central pillar does not.

mapa-militar-lanzarote

In 1749, the tower was set on fire by Algerian pirates. On examining the island’s defence fortresses, in 1767 the engineer Alejandro de los Ángeles redesigned the tower. In his plans, he suggested changes to the Torre del Águila, also known as the Torre de las Coloradas.

Following Alejandro de los Ángeles’ proposals, the Torre del Águila was rebuilt, despite his disagreements with Commander-in-Chief  Miguel López Fernández de Heredia. Their rivalry ended in a complete breakdown in relations, with the engineer being arrested and deported, which is why some of his proposals for Lanzarote were never approved. However, the reconstruction and redesign of the Torre del Águila did go ahead, ending in 1769, the year mentioned in the inscription above the entrance to the tower and which still exists today. It reads:

“UNDER THE REIGN OF HIS MAJESTY KING CARLOS III AND THE RULE OF THE HONOURABLE MIGUEL LOPEZ FERNANDES DE HEREDIA MARISCAL DE CAMPO AS GOVERNOR OF THE CANARY ISLANDS, THIS TOWER WAS RECONSTRUCTED IN SAN MARCIAL, PORT OF LAS COLORADAS, PUNTA DEL ÁGUILA, IN THE YEAR 1769”.

On the whole, the plans of Alejandro de los Ángeles reflect the current design of the castle today, with the exception of the cellar and, above all, the sentry house, which does not appear in any of the original plans. There is also an unsigned plan from 1769 of the “Torre del Águila o Castillo del Colorado”, in which the design of the final building can be seen.

The Military Engineers Corps gives us full details of the tower back in 1846 thanks to the “Inventory of the Torre del Águila Castle”, which includes the most important aspects of its layout.

ruins-lanzarote

Due to the distance and isolation of the Águila headland, separated from the rest of the island by the Ajaches hills, the tower has been conserved without restoration, deteriorating only because of the passing of time but not suffering from vandalism. As it was of no use to the army, in 1936 it was handed over to the state at the request of the Las Palmas Office of Public Finance.

In 1978, the Spanish Military Command ceded the tower to Yaiza Town Council, which requested the author of the book consulted for this article, José-Félix Álvarez Prieto, to hand over the plans of the tower so that the council could restore it.

In the cellar, differences can be seen between the original plans, for instance the lack of a central pillar to support the ground floor, unnecessary to underpin the barrel vault. After the fire in 1749, it was probably rebuilt using the plans of Alejandro de los Ángeles

Source: “Military Architecture of the Canary Islands”

Author: José-Félix Álvarez Prieto

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