The “Spanish Tower”

The “Spanish Tower”

The Spanish tower of Santa Maria Navarrese is clear evidence of how seriously this area regarded the problem of pirate raids, which frequently harassed the coast between Villaputzu and Arbatax. Nowadays, there are 93 coastal towers along the Sardinian coast: the first were built in the time of Charles V (1516-1556) in the mid-sixteenth century, but it was during the reign of his successor Philip II (1556-1598) that the defence system became institutionalised, with the establishment of a special “Royal Administration of towers” in 1581, which in addition to overseeing the design and construction of new towers, also managed the costs and repairs of existing ones in detail. The Spanish tower of St. Mary, curiously known as the “Saracen tower” despite having been built in order to combat piracy, was built around 1591 according to historians, when the towers along the Sardinian coast numbered forty in all. Built on a small promontory that separates the Central beach from that of St. John, the tower has direct visual contact with the one at Arbatax, a logistical solution that allowed the garrisons on duty in the two buildings to monitor the entire gulf. Documents of the “Royal Administration of Towers” show that these two were among those armed with cannons. The soldiers serving at the coastal towers had to be alert both during the day and at night, as specified in the “Annual Report on the Administration of the towers”, dated 29 January 1798, in which it was recommended to have ready “kindling in order to perform, in case of sightings, fire signals at night and smoke signals by day” on the terrace.
In 1833, Angius found the tower of Santa Maria Navarrese still armed and “guarded by a governor with a gunner and some soldiers”. The truncated-conical shaped tower has a domed ceiling with a pillar and is on three levels. On the ground floor, a large door provides access to an ample living room, while the first and second floors can be reached via an outside staircase that ends in front of the door of the first floor entrance. It is possible to climb up to the second floor by a narrow ladder against a wall; another series of steps leads to the terrace. In the sixties, the tower was used as an office and was used by the Italian Finance Police for a long time. Since the eighties, thanks to a kind of popular uprising, the tower is back under the control of the municipality of Baunei. It can only currently been visited during shows or expositions.

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