Moorish Castle, Gibraltar

Gibraltar Moorish Castle
Publisher: J. Ferrary & Co, Gibraltar

The fortifications on and around the site of the Moorish Castle were first built in 1160, or earlier. These were, however, destroyed when the Spanish re-conquered Gibraltar from 1309-1333. The Tower of Homage, its main feature, dominates the hillside and the landward approach to Gibraltar. A rebuilt tower dates primarily from about 1333 AD when Abu’l Hassan recaptured Gibraltar from the Spanish. On another occasion, the Count of Niebla attacked the castle, was captured by the Medieval defenders and his body was suspended from the walls in a barcina, a net for carrying straw.

The Tower of Homage proudly displays the battle scars inflicted during the various sieges. Here a Spanish governor held out for five months against the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who took Gibraltar from his own sovereign, Queen Isabel of Spain. In 1540, hundreds of people found safety inside the castle when Turkish pirates ransacked Gibraltar. The lower castle formerly stretched all the way down to Casemates Square, the Grand Battery area and the Old Mole. It is interesting to note that the courtyard of the Moorish Castle served as a prison up until 2010.
HM Government of Gibraltar

The Moorish Castle is the name given to a medieval fortification in Gibraltar comprising various buildings, gates, and fortified walls, with the dominant features being the Tower of Homage and the Gate House. Part of the castle itself also housed the prison of Gibraltar until it was relocated in 2010. The Tower of Homage is clearly visible to all visitors to Gibraltar; not only because of its striking construction, but also because of its dominant and strategic position. Although sometimes compared to the nearby alcazars in Spain, the Moorish Castle in Gibraltar was constructed by the Marinid dynasty, making it unique in the Iberian Peninsula

Gibraltar’s Tower of Homage may not be the most elegant Moorish Castle in Iberia but it is probably the largest. In fact it is so big and imposing that one would have imagined it would be easy to trace its origins and find out exactly who was responsible for having built the thing. Nothing could be further from the truth. At the time of writing and despite much research into obscure Arabic documents and tentative archaeological investigations we still really haven’t a clue.
The following therefore covers my own very limited research into this conundrum. It is based entirely on whatever documents I have been able to uncover. But to start at the probable beginning.
The People of Gibraltar

A stroll around Gibraltar No. 18 : Moorish Castle (internal photos)

Gibraltar Old Moorish Castle
Publisher: V.B. Cumbo, Gibraltar (1905-1911)

Sforza Castle, Milan

Milano – Torre Filarete

Google Street View

Given its distinctive and recognisable shape, the tower, which owes its name to the architect Antonio Averulino, also known as il Filarete, has become a symbol of Milan. The tower that Averulino designed in 1452 was elegant and embellished with marble inserts, however his plans were executed by Lombard architects, who lacked the imagination of their Tuscan counterpart. Less than a century after its completion in 1521, the tower, which had been converted into a gunpowder magazine, collapsed. The current edifice is the result of a tireless study of the available documents and iconography, by Luca Beltrami, in order to reconstruct the tower as faithfully to the renaissance original as possible. Inaugurated in 1905, the Filarete tower was dedicated to King Umberto I, assassinated only 5 years earlier in Monza. Beltrami inserted a clock into the top cubic section of the tower, whose radiant sun motif was inspired by the Sforza coat of arms. In addition he commissioned Luigi Secchi to sculpt a statue of Saint Ambrose in late 14th century style for the niche, as well as a Candoglia marble bas-relief portraying Umberto I on horseback. Finally, in commemoration of the Sforza, Beltrami decided to add to the tower the painted coats of arms of Francesco, Galeazzo Maria, Gian Galeazzo, Ludovico il Moro, Massimiliano and Francesco II.
Castello Sforzesco (Official Website)

Rumeli Hisarı, Istanbul


Constantinople — also known as, amongst other things, Byzantium, New Rome, Kostantiniyye, Islambol, Stamboul, Astanih and (since c.1930 although also before) Istanbul

There is, as you might expect, some debate about the origin of the name Istanbul, but the dominant theory is that it’s a local corruption of the the Greek phrase eis tan polin “in the city” (Online Etymology Dictionary). Constantinople is, obviously, Constantine’s City.

Rumeli Hisarı was a 15th century fortress, built to the north of the city. Approximately here on Google Street View (the two main towers can be seen).

At the narrowest part of the Bosphorus, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror ordered the great fortress of Rumeli Hisarı to be built on the European shore in order to control commercial and military traffic in preparation for the siege of Constantinople. He pitted his pashas (generals) against one another, daring them all to be the first to complete his particular tower and crenellated walls. The competition was fierce, and the huge fortress was completed in only four months.

Once completed, Rumeli Hisarı, along with Anadolu Hisarı on the Asian shore just opposite, controlled all traffic on the Bosphorus, and cut the city of Constantinople off from resupply by sea from the north. The mighty fortress’s useful military life was less than one year. Mehmet’s armines conquered the Byzantine capital several months later, and then there was no need for Rumeli Hisarı.
Turkey Travel Planner

The Rumeli Fortress (Rumelihisari) is located on the European (Rumeli) side of the Bosphorus. It was built by Mehmed II in four months beginning in the spring of 1452 across the waters from the Anatolian Fortress (Anadoluhisari or Güzelce Hisar) built by his grandfather Bayezid I (1389-1402). The aim was to establish control of the waterway at this narrowest point of the strait (660m) where ships would need to approach the shore to avoid the strong currents. A batallion of four hundred soldiers were stationed at the fortress (hisar) beginning in 1452, and prevented the passage of ships with canon fire during the siege of Constantinople. It is hence, also known as the Bogazkesen or the Controller of the Straits.
Archnet vis the WayBack Machine.

Citadel, Sedan, France

SEDAN – La Citadelle pendant l’occupation allemande (1870-71)
Citadel during the German occupation (1870-1871)
(Card dated c.1910)

Sedan is a large town in north-east France near the Belgium border. (Google Maps.)

From “The Historic Town Of Sedan Ardennes France”:
Sedan was originally a sovereign principality presided over by the illustrious Marshall Turenne. It later became a part of France when it was surrendered back to the main state to spare the life of Frederic Maurice de La Tour d’Auvergne. He was a prominent member of the ruling family and represented a threat to the French state; he was sentenced to death.

Much more recent history records that the Emperor Napoleon III was taken prisoner along with 100,000 of his troops at Sedan during the Franco Prussian War in 1870. It was one of the early Prussian victories and led to an annual national holiday in Germany that remained until 1919. The holiday was called ‘Sedan Day’.

Sedan was occupied again by Germany for four years during the Great War. The German Crown Prince paraded his 13th Infantry Division around the town to mark their conquest.

It’s the Franco-Prussian War that the image in the postcard relates to.

From Wikipedia:
The Battle of Sedan was fought during the Franco-Prussian War from 1 to 2 September 1870. It resulted in the capture of Emperor Napoleon III and large numbers of his troops and for all intents and purposes decided the war in favour of Prussia and its allies, though fighting continued under a new French government.

The newspapers of the time, even in Australia, filled many columns with account of the battle: before, during and after, and from both sides; and descriptions of the locations. I’ve posted some extracts below. If you want to read the longer versions, click on the links. They are full of many details, if you have a need or interest in such things. Many, many details. The writer of the last article below goes on to say “There were long rows of graves which marked the exact positions of the opposing forces. On some graves were pieces of wood, chalked with the numbers of those who lay beneath. Thus I read—’Thirty-four sleep here,’ ‘One hundred rest here;’ and on scores of other mounds the numbers varied from forty to one hundred.”

On the other side of the frontier, right at our feet lay the little town of Sedan, famous for its fortifications by Vauban, and the birthplace of Turenne, the great Marshal ; known also as the place where Sedan chairs originated. As we were only about two and a quarter miles from the town, we could easily distinguish its principal edifices without the aid of our glasses.

On the left was a very pretty church, its Gothic spire of sandstone offering a conspicuous target for the Prussian guns had General Moltke thought best to bombard the town. To the right, on the south-east of the church, was a large barrack, with the fortifications of the citadel beyond it, and beyond this to the south-east again, was the old chateau of Sedan, with a picturesque group of round turreted towers of the sixteenth century, very useless, even against the four-pounder Kruppfield pieces. This building, I believe, is now an arsenal.

Beyond this was the citadel, the heart of Sedan, on a rising hill above the Meuse to the south-east, but completely commanded by hills on both sides of the river which runs in front of the citadel. The French had flooded the low meadows in the valley before coming to the railroad bridge at Bazeilles, in order to stop the Germans from advancing on the town in that direction. With their usual stupidity, for one can find no other word for it, the French had failed to mine the bridge at Bazeilles, and it was of immense service to the Prussians throughout the battle.
Sydney Mail, 29 October 1870

(A French correspondent.)
To one entering the town as I did were was no longer any battle to describe-it was first a retreat and too soon a rout. I thought myself lucky to get away from the field as I did, for an hour afterwards the rout of those forces near by was complete. Already soldiers were crushing against each other in the struggle to get inside the town. Dismounted cavalry were trying to make their way even by the ramparts, leaping down the counterscarp, others forcing their way in by the postern gates. From a nook of the ramparts, as I rested a moment, I saw also cuirassiers jumping, horse and all, into the moat, the horses breaking their legs and ribs. Men were scrambling over each other. Officers of all ranks, colonels, and even generals, in uniforms it was impossible to mistake, mixed in this shameful melee. Behind all came guns with their heavy carriages and powerful horses, forcing their way into the throngs, maiming and crushing the fugitives on foot. To add to the confusion and horror, the Prussian batteries had by this time advanced within range, and the Prussian shells began falling into the midst of the struggling mases of men. On the ramparts were the Garde Nationale, manning the guns of the town, and replying with more or less effect to the nearest Prussian batteries. It was a scene horrible enough to have pleased the fancy of Gustave Dore himself. I could form but one idea of our unhappy army that it was at the bottom of a seething cauldron.

I hurried back as best I could to my hotel, following the narrow streets where the shell were least likely to reach the ground. Wherever there was a square or open place I came upon the bodies of horses and men, quite dead, or still quivering, torn to pieces by bursting shells. Beaching my hotel, I found the street in which it stood choked, like the rest, with wagons, guns, horses, and men. Most luckily, the Prussian fire did not at this moment enfilade the street, for a train of caissons filled with powder blocked the whole way, itself unable to move backward or forward. There was every chance that these caissons would explode, the town being then on fire in two places; and I began to think that Sedan was a place more uncomfortable than even the battle-field over which a victorious enemy was swiftly advancing.
Adelaide Observer, 29 October 1870

(A German correspondent)
The small drawbridge was already let down, and a number of men and women hastened towards us, asking whether the Prussians would allow them to pass. The walls were empty ; not a soldier, to be seen on them. A peasant woman was standing like a sentry, with an umbrella under her arm, on the wall over the gate, probably seeking her sou. We passed in unmolested. “Prussians! Prussians!” was the general exclamation. The narrow, dirty streets, soaked with rain, swarmed with townspeople, from whose heart a heavy load seemed to have fallen, and with unarmed soldiers—Turcos and Zouaves, cavalry, artillery, and Line, all streamed together, and amidst the throng rushed horses who had lost their masters in the battle. It was a frightful chaos. Tho townspeople seemed happy to have escaped a bombardment. The soldiers were evidently glad to be free from their weapons. Many had thrown them into the moat. A cavalry soldier was engaged before us in thrusting his sword into a sewer. At our request soldiers were ordered to conduct us through the mud and the crowd of French troops to the citadel. As we passed through the streets no abusive word was addressed us, though we were the first Prussians who had to-day entered the place. The troops allowed us to pass peacefully. If McMahon really declared he could do nothing more with such soldiers, I endorse it. And yet on the 1st of September they had fought with great bravery. After a long promenade, in which loose horses rushed against us, and everywhere a picture of the direst confusion met our eves, we reached the citadel.

Mount Alexander Mail, 26 November 1870

The barracks have been turned into an ambulance, which is under the superintendence of Dr. McCormack and Miss Pearson. The fortifications of the citadel are of enormous strength, but they are commanded by hills in several directions. Preceding the surrender the Prussians fired shells, a few of which struck the hospital, but without doing much damage; but a large number of French soldiers were killed, and they are buried on the left of a steep plateau which leads to the highest point of the fortifications.

Sydney Mail, 3 December 1870

Tower of London, London

The Tower of London
Publisher: H. Vertigen & Co (1906-9)

I’ve marked the locations of the cards below on this map. (Click for larger version.) The base map comes from Hipkiss’s Scanned Old Maps

Historic Royal Places: Tower of London (aimed at visitors)

UNESCO World Heritage Listing

Authorised Guide to the Tower of London, 1904 (on Project Gutenberg)

Read moreTower of London, London