Fort San Cristobal
La Garita del Diablo (The Devil's Sentry) at San Cristobal
This powerful fortress dominates every corner of the Old City.A masterpiece of 18th Century military engineering, San Cristobal was supported by a massive system of outworks which provided defense in depth and is is one of the largest defenses ever built in the Americas.The fort's mission was to defend the city from land attacks and to protect the north coast. These works were started around 1634 as part of the project to surround the city with walls. An English land attack in 1598 and the burning of the city by the Dutch in 1625 showed the need of defenses to the east, south and west. By 1678 San Cristobal had reached its full size but the outworks remained unfinished. The fort that we see today was finished between 1766 and 1783. During the British siege of 1797, San Cristobal's powerful artillery controled the eastern approaches to the city. A century later one of its guns fired the firt shot of the Spanish American War in Puerto Rico.
The walls of San Cristobal rise more than 100 feet above the sea..tunnels and dry moats connect the center of the fort to its outworks, a series of trenches, traps, bunkers and bastions arranged defensively, layer upon layer over a 27 acre site. The fort was linked by tunnels and mining galleries and some of them were used as dungeons for soldiers not obeying the Spanish Army regulations or for others with different political beliefs to the commanding powers. A two story building was used as barracks and was adjacent to te Plaza. The outer structures included the Revellin San Carlos; its military advantage was the ability for cross-firings in different angles. The Bastion de la Trinidad had to be partially demolished in 1897 to give way to the needed expansion of San Juan. The area where the Fort started taking shape in 1634, the area known as El Espigon, is known for the Garita del Diablo (Devil's Sentry Box). The large central patio was where all main functions took place. The Chapel of Santa Barbara, Patron saint of the Spanish troops was added in the 19th century.
San Cristobal is connected to El Morro by half a mile of massive walls filled with cannon-firing positions and garitas ( sentry boxes)Cannons used at that time were known by their names and the place and year of their construction was artistically engraved on the upper part of the cannon.