Fortaleza San Carlos
Palma, Majorca, Spain

Constructed: 1610-1660
Used by: Spain
Conflicts in which it participated:

There are other examples of starforts-within-starforts, but few are as gob-smackingly amazing as this Fortaleza San Carlos!

I say this Fortaleza San Carlos, because there are so many other Fortaleza San Carloses. At least as frequently as the British named forts after someone named George (which was frequently indeed), the Spanish named forts after someone named Carlos. In this case, the Carlos who was made a saint for the purpose of naming a fort was Carlos Coloma (1566-1637), who served as Viceroy of Majorca from 1611 to 1617.

Majorca is one of the Balearic Islands, so named due to their conquest by Roman general Quintus Caecilius Metellus Balearicus (born circa 170BC) in 123BC: The Romans founded the city of Palma that same year. The Vandals, led by Genseric (389-477), conquered the islands in the 5th century; The Byzantines reestablished control in the mid-6th century; The Umyyad Caliphate, a Muslim empire that would eventually include the middle east, northern Africa and most of Spain, sent its mighty fleet to the islands of our current interest at the start of the 8th century, establishing its control.

The namesake of this starfort, Carlos Colma, ol' doilyneck himself. Engraving by Paulus Pontius, based on a painting by Anthony van Dyck.

In the mid-9th century, the islands were thoroughly sacked by Viking king Björn Ironside and his comprehensively bearded hordes. On an unrelated note, during this period Björn & co. also laid siege to the Italian town of Luna, which he may or may not have thought was actually Rome at the time. Unable to breach its fortifications, Björn faked his own death, and let it be known that he had had a deathbed conversion to Christianity and wished to be buried within the town's holy walls. Luna's delighted clerics allowed Björn to be carried into the city by a small honor guard, and were likely dismayed when the dead man leapt from his coffin, hacked down everyone in sight and opened the city's gates for his men.

At the start of the 10th century, the Balearic Islands were used as a base for the pirate Emirate of Córdoba, an entity which split due to civil war, leaving the Taifa of Dénia in charge of the islands by the start of the 11th century. The islands' governor then rebelled and established the independent Taifa of Mallorca.

Let's see, what were we talking about here? A starfort? That's right. Before we get to the starfort, though, please note that after the Taifa, Christian crusaders, Berbers and various squabbling Muslim dynasties all took turns ruling the islands: Strategic location and nice harbors made the Balearic Islands must-have property for any up-and-coming naval power in the region.

For the last three months of 1229, crusader King James I of Aragon (1208-1276) besieged Palma, marching victoriously into the city on December 31st. This led to a few hundred years of Christian squabblings over the Balearic Islands, spiced by regular naval attacks by Barbary and Ottoman pirates.

In 1610, Spain's King Philip III (1578-1621) finally uttered the words that would secure Palma and the islands once and for all: Build me a starfort! Actually he asked for a square tower bastion, which is what we see now as the starfort-within-the-starfort: A high tower starfort!

Whatever this fort was initially called, it soon became known as Fortaleza San Carlos. Further expansion was undertaken starting in 1660, with the larger starfort area being added, along with a water battery outside the fort's walls to add to its firepower.

In much the same way that many American starforts were strengthened to support huge modern guns during the Endicott Period, at least seven such strongpoints were made for big guns at the Fortaleza San Carlos during the 1890's: Three on the fortaleza's southeast wall, and four in batteries to the west.

The original fortification is front & center in this shot (click on it, it's bigger). Note the circular bases for modern batteries that were added in the 1890's, on the fort's far wall. Click on this page's main fort image up top for a view of Fortaleza San Carlos' full breadth of defenses.

From 1890 until 1980, the Fortaleza San Carlos served as a shore battery, both passively protecting the harbor and serving out gun salutes to visiting warships, and as a prison. The fort was opened to the public as a museum of the Balearic Islands' military history in 1991.