Cadiz Watchtowers

11/12/2013 10:52

The best one is undoubtedly the west tower of the New Cathedral. From there whole bay it’s seen, from Puerto de Santa María to Puerto Real, westward the endless ocean. But also is distinguished a small myriad of small turrets, undaunted, projected attention to the blue surface of the Atlantic. They are the watchtowers of Cadiz.

Until 1717 all trade that reached the New World was discharged in Sevilla. The river port of the Andalusian city monopolized the movement of goods between America and Spain since the second voyage of Columbus, as it was considered the safest harbour, protected from attack and easier to audit by the Royal Treasury. Seville harbour drawback was precisely the profile of the river bed, with shallow sandy waters in some spots, as the Sanlúcar bar, which hindered access to large tonnage galleons. In fact the transit of vessels over 400 tons were banned. Smaller boats handled the shift of goods from vessels up to Seville harbour.

That change in the route of the goods attracted countless traders, not only from the peninsula, but also Genoese, British, Dutch and French who settled in the Tacita de Plata, Cadiz. Getting richer they built new buildings two or three stories high to fulfil the needs of trade. They were called casas de cargadores a Indias, the houses of porters to West Indies. Ample arcaded courtyards for goods storage, family and service rooms, and, on the roofs, small towers erected to better monitor the arrival and departure of the ships. The viewpoints, small square towers built on the roof, used to have one or two floors. In top they hoisted a flag, each trader feature to be recognized from the distance by the ships. In the model of the city in 1777 as shown in Cadiz Museum there have been up to 166 lookouts, 126 still existing today.

The first to be build were simple terraces were a square tower were erected, then small booths to shelter from the weather were added. Armchair towers received its name for its shape, provided by their side walls. Also mixed towers rose. There is just a lonely exception, the only octagonal tower known as the Escondida, the hidden one, because only it’s seen from any other vantage point. It’s at José del Toro Street. Two other different exceptions are near Plaza de España. They are the Four and Five Torres houses, that to avoid the rule that only was allowed the construction of a lookout per house, endowed the building four and five doors.

Another particular tower was the Watchtower under the Marine which recorded the movement of ships in the harbour. Initially it was located in the house of the Father Calderon, in the Santa Maria quarter. After several transfers definitely stood, in 1778, the highest viewpoint of the city, in the mansion of the Marquis of Recaño, at the intersection of Sacramento and Marqués del Real Tesoro streets. The palace tower took the name of the first watchmen, the frigate lieutenant and his son Antonio Tavira Aurelio. When the sky is clear it’s possible to see the profile of the African coast from the one hundred twenty feet high floor.

Today the palace houses Manuel de Falla Music Conservatory. The Torre Tavira, has enabled a camera obscura inaugurated in 1994, from which it can be seen, with discretion, a curious view of the city.

© J.L.Nicolas


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