The Castle of San Felipe

The defense of the Port of Mahón


On the southern shore of the mouth of the majestic port of Mahón in Menorca, we find the remains of one of the most beautiful castles in the Mediterranean.


Built by King Philip II in the sixteenth century to defend the island of Menorca after two bloody attacks by the Ottoman squadrons under the command of the feared ed- Dim better known as Barba Roja, in the years 1535 and 1558 respectively.


Designed by the Italian military engineer Giovanni Battista Calvi, it was an essential piece for the defense of the port of Maó and a sought-after fortress by the European maritime powers of the time.


After its construction it passed through several hands after different sieges, in 1708 the British conquered the Castle and became in their hands and later in 1713 after the treaty of Utrecht was extended by themselves.


It passed through French hands to return to British hands and in 1782 after a long siege by the Spanish crown, it became Spanish again with the Treaty of Amiens, a siege that lasted six months and during which civilians and military took refuge within its walls and galleries.


As you can see they were very turbulent years in the Mediterranean, Menorca and the port of Mahón were key for the powers of the time given its strategic position and the dimensions of its port.


Upon returning to Spanish rule, Charles III ordered its demolition to prevent anyone else from becoming strong within its walls.


During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it was a key piece in maritime communications between Spain and Italy and later during British domination a strategic arsenal of support for Gibraltar.


There are many legends and stories hidden within its walls, among the best known is that of the invention or, as we prefer others, appropriation by the chef of Admiral Richelieu in his siege of the Castle of San Felipe in 1756, of the sauce known worldwide as "mayonnaise" but which we call " Mahonnaise".


Legend has it that the admiral's chef invented it to celebrate his victory over the English, but we, as Menorcans, prefer the version of the appropriation by said chef of a sauce for local consumption, possibly coming from Menorcan cuisines and already at that time with a great tradition on the island.


Anyway, only they know the truth.


Nowadays it is possible to visit the enclosure that, although in ruins and dismantled, offers an endless number of spectacular underground galleries, excavated by Spaniards and British, which will not leave you indifferent.


The privileged views of the mouth of the second largest natural harbor in the world are also spectacular and you can have a great time touring its intricate underground defenses.


With the Don Joan, we will travel through the spectacular port of Mahón with more than 5 km of cove protected from all winds. It is not in vain that the Genoese admiral Andrea Doria said: "July, August and Mahón, the best ports in the Mediterranean are", or so the legend goes.


And the Port of Mahón is full of legends, while we sail through its calm waters we will tell you its history and that of its people so that you can understand the reason for the interest of the naval powers of those years to possess such a precious enclave.


Then we will skirt its shores to have one of the best views on our comfortable boat with underwater vision, the Don Joan, a 23-meter long catamaran that provides the best safety and comfort you can expect.


As we pass the buoys that mark the entrance to the port so that sailors from all over the world can safely access its waters, we will leave the Castle of San Felipe on our starboard side and it will be then that you will understand its strategic importance in the defense of Mahón.


The walls that are still standing will give you an idea of what it was.


We hope that our article will help you understand a little more about the mysteries and history of Menorca, a place far from the peninsular coast that has had and still has its own space in the history of the Mediterranean Sea.


And even more so in these times when Menorca has come to the fore and visitors from all over Spain and Europe visit us in increasing numbers.


We look forward to seeing you on board!