Morro Castle

Morro Castle Spanish: Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro is a picturesque fortress guarding the entrance to Havana bay in Havana, Cuba. Juan Bautista Antonelli, an Italian engineer, was commissioned to design the structure. When it was built in 1589, Cuba was under the control of Spain. The castle, named after the biblical Magi, was later captured by the British in 1762.

Morro Castle in Havana shares the name with other structures in Santiago de Cuba and the Castillo de San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Perched on the promontory on the opposite side of the harbor from Old Havana it can be viewed from miles around as it dominates the port entrance.

Built initially in 1589 in response to raids on Havana harbor, el Morro protected the mouth of the harbor with a chain being strung out across the water to the fort at La Punta.

Seven Years War

It first saw action in the 1762 British expedition against Cuba when Lord Albemarle landed in Cojimar to the east of Havana, and attacked the fortress defended by Luis Vicente de Velasco e Isla from its landward side. It fell because the British successfully mined one of its bastions, so when they handed the island back in 1763 to Spain, the fortress at La Cabaña was built to prevent this from happening again.


Inside the gates is an exhibition on the lighthouses of Cuba – El Morro once housed a school for lighthouse keepers. There was actually a watchtower here until the British blew it up in their successful siege in 1762. The Faro Castillo del Morro lighthouse was added in 1846.

The cannons around the fort are now badly rusted but the walls are in great shape. The fort has central barracks up to four stories high. A small underwater archeology exhibition is also located here. Noteworthy are the old latrines and their chute into the sea as are the two sets of doors and the drawbridge mechanism. The current harbor master's office is still housed in the fortress. A plaque dedicated by the ambassador of the United Kingdom commemorates the 1762 siege and a small memorial is located between two strong powder rooms in the North East Bastion.

A small turret at the end of the wall offers views of the sea crashing onto the rocks 20 meters below and take in the dimensions of the huge dry moat. The opposite side of the moat holds more modern guns and cannons, La Bateria de Velasco, and offers a sweeping view down to Cojimar.


Morro Castle appears in the McDougal Littell textbook ¡En español! Level 2.

Morro Castle appears in the movie The Ghost Breakers (1940), in the background as Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard enter the harbor by ship.

Morro Castle can be seen in the background of John Singleton Copley's Watson and the Shark.

During his life, the Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990) was imprisoned at El Morro Castle by the Castro regime for his homosexuality. The film version of Arenas's autobiography, Before Night Falls, starring Javier Bardem, features scenes set in El Morro Castle prison. (A fortress in Mexico City doubled for the prison, since the filmmakers were not allowed to film in Cuba.)