|Terms for the Castillo de San Marcos
in the Presidio of St. Augustine
bartizan or gurite - A projecting cylindrical form, usually located high up on the corner of a fortified
structure, which served as a lookout or watchtower.
bastion - 4 sided salient which projects from the scarp of a fort. The bastion is an element of a
fortification that protrudes from the curtain wall. It is comprised of two faces and two flanks, and is
generally shaped like an arrowhead. The bastions here at the Castillo (San Pablo, San Pedro, San
Agustine, & San Carlos) allow for a broad range of fire and prevent any blind spots along the
exterior walls for aggressors to take cover. This nearly perfect tactical design has allowed the Castillo
to remain undefeated for over 340 years.
battlement - a wall or parapet placed on the top of a fort with open places for shooting cannons.
bombproof - a room built to resist destruction by bombardment
bonnet - a cap - or v-shaped work, raised in front of a fortification salient to shield it from frontal fire
Cisterns are watertight vessels that are built to capture and/or store drinking water. At Fort
Matanzas, a bottle-shaped cistern was constructed below the gundeck. A downspout from the roof
funneled rain into the tank, and soldiers used a pump to bring up the water.
coping - the highest or covering course of a wall. The coping of the scarp wall, which projects a few
inches beyond the face of the wall, is called the cordon. The Castillo’s cordon is mostly ornamental in
design, but it does offer some protection from weathering.
Cordon - the ornamental projecting course of stone where the parapet wall joins the scarp
counterscarp wall opposite the scarp; moat wall
covered way - area between the moat and the exterior embankment (glacis) covered from enemy
fire by this embankment.
curtain - the wall connecting two bastions.
embrasure - an opening in a wall or parapet, through which cannon are fired. Cannon were
mounted in the “cut outs” in the parapet walls called embrasures. These allowed artillery crews to fire
and reload while remaining protected. The Castillo de San Marcos currently has 33 embrasures.
en barbette - artillery positioned to fire over a parapet rather than through an embrasure in the
field of fire - area in front of an earthwork that can be covered by weapons
firing step - (banquette) the raised step or bank along the inside of a parapet
gate - entrance - sallyport
glacis -- the embankment or slope from the covered way toward the open country
gorge - the throat or entrance into a bastion
Loophole -Loopholes were traditionally put in place to provide protection for the fortification’s
occupants while allowing them to observe and/or engage the enemy from within the confines of the
structure. The Castillo de San Marcos has several loopholes that serve multiple purposes.
Magazine - The room highlighted in red is the original gun powder magazine. It became too humid
for storing gunpowder and was eventually abandoned. It was used as a trash pit during the 51 days
of the 1702 siege. This little room and narrow hallway were then sealed, not to be discovered again
until 1832 when a cannon fell through the gun deck. Many stories circulate about this room being a
dungeon, since bones were found inside it, but there is no documentation to prove this theory.
Moat - a ditch around the fort. It may be wet or dry. Protects the walls of the fort from cannon fire
and creates another obstacle for attackers. The walls of the Castillo were not meant to stand alone;
there was a complex of outer defensive works that protected the fort and the town of St. Augustine.
A 40 foot wide moat surrounding the Castillo was one of them. Moats are usually filled with water to
slow incoming attackers; however, the Castillo’s moat was dry and used by the Spanish as a corral
for livestock in times of attack. The moat originally encircled the fort on all sides, but the east side
was filled with earth in 1842 to create a water battery. The remaining three sides of the moat are
framed by coquina walls.
Between 1936 and 1938 the moat was filled with water. This caused portions of the foundation to
weaken and that resulted in some of the large cracks you can see on the southwest bastion. In 1996
the moat was drained and returned to its historically accurate state.
Necessary Room (Bathroom) - had a tide-operated flushing system. At high tide the waste pipe
would be flushed out into Matanzas bay. This controlled odors and disease within the fort. The latrine
top was made of two wooden covers and equipped with iron handles.
parade - (piazza) the interior ground surface of the fort - serves as a parade area or assembly area.
The courtyard or enclosure in a fortification where troops are drilled is called the Parade. This wide
open and centralized feature of the Castillo is 100’ by 110’. The parade was originally all sand and
was called “the place of arms.” Here the soldiers would assemble and drill several times a week. The
courtyard also served another purpose, as a camping area. It was here that the inhabitants of St.
Augustine would live when the town was attacked or under siege. In this sense the Castillo was a
true “castle,” it was initially built to house and protect the entire community in time of war. In 1702,
for example, the town was attacked by the English and about 1,500 townspeople and soldiers were
packed inside the Castillo for 51 days,
parade wall - the interior wall of a rampart which surrounds the parade area.
parapet - a short wall raised above the main wall or rampart of the fort to protect the defenders
from attacking fire. The parapet gives defenders a protected area atop the fortification to engage
attackers with muskets and cannon
portcullis - a grating to close the entrance of a fortification
ravelin - (Demie lune) an outer defense or detached fortification raised before a curtain, and before
the gate as a shield. The ravelin is the triangular structure just south of the Castillo’s entrance. Its
purpose is to protect the weakest part of the fort (sallyport) from both infantry and artillery attacks.
The Castillo’s original ravelin was completed in 1682 and in 1762 the one you see now was built.
Check out Fort Pulaski National Monument to see another example of the ravelin.
Rampart - Broad embankment round a place, upon which the parapet is raised. The mass of earth,
usually faced with masonry, formed to protect an enclosed area. The main wall of a fortress. These
are just a few definitions of rampart, and although different, they share a common theme, protection.
The main walls of the Castillo de San Marcos are up to nineteen feet thick at their base and over
thirty feet high. Atop the massive walls the terreplein is perched, and its job is to support dozens of
powerful artillery pieces and cover the casemates. Protecting the artillerymen is the parapet with
embrasures cut into it allowing a clear range of fire.
sally port - exit for troops, gate
sap trench - (Governor Moore, 1703) trench dug by the besieger to get close to the enemy's line
scarp - front slope of the rampart or main wall of the fort
shot furnace - A furnace for heating solid cannon shot prior to firing at ships. The hot shot would set
fire to the rigging, sails and wooden decks all susceptible to fire
terreplein - horizontal surface in rear of the parapet which guns may be mounted Terreplein
The main upper level of a rampart where guns are shielded by a parapet is called the Terreplein. Also
known as the gundeck, this is the “business” area of the Castillo de San Marcos. By 1740, 74
cannon of varying size were mounted on the terreplein.
traverse - barrier across part of a defensive area to give protection from enfilade fire. While we don’
t have traverses protecting artillery emplacements like those of Fort Moultrie and Fort Pulaski
National Monument, we do have traverse blocks and circles. These were used to aid in the aiming
and firing of large cannon. Lieutenant Henry Benham supervised their construction in March of 1844
during the modernization of the water battery.
turret - a small and slender tower, sometimes projecting from the main rampart.
water battery - A battery consisting of two or more guns that is nearly level with the water.
|Northeast Bastion, Bell Tower, Ramp Pre-1887
|Northwest Bastion, corner bastions with garitas, gun embrasures, curtains, moat,
covered way, counterscarp and glacis.
|1939 View - Note the entrance into the Mantanzas River.
|Cistern at Fort Matanzas
|Magazine location in red