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Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments, Cartagena

Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments, Cartagena

Situated in a bay in the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena has the most extensive fortifications in South America. A system of zones divides the city into three neighbourhoods: San Pedro, with the cathedral and many Andalusian-style palaces; San Diego, where merchants and the middle class lived; and Gethsemani, the 'popular quarter'.

Port, forteresses et ensemble monumental de Carthagène

Situé à l'abri d'une baie de la mer des Caraïbes, ce port possède les fortifications les plus complètes d'Amérique du Sud. Un système de zones divise la ville en trois quartiers distincts : San Pedro avec la cathédrale et de nombreux palais de style andalou, San Diego où vivaient les marchands et la petite bourgeoisie, et Gethsemani, le « quartier populaire ».

مرفأ و حصون ومجموعة أثريّة- كارتاخينا

يقع هذا المرفأ في فيء أحد خلجان البحر الكريبي وفيه حصون أمريكا اللاتينيّة الأكثر اكتمالاً. وتنقسم المدينة إلى أحياء ثلاثة منفصلة: سان بيدرو التي تحتوي الكاتدرائيّة والعديد من القصور من الطراز الأندلسي، وسان دييغو حيث كان يقيم التجّار والبورجوازيّون، وغتسماني وهو الحيّ الشعبي.

source: UNESCO/ERI



source: UNESCO/ERI

Порт, укрепления и памятники города Картахена

Расположенная на берегу залива Карибского моря Картахена обладает самыми мощными укреплениями во всей Южной Америке. Город разделяется на три зоны: Сан-Педро с кафедральным собором и многочисленными дворцами в андалузском стиле, Сан-Диего, где проживали торговцы и представители среднего класса, и Гефсемани – «народный квартал».

source: UNESCO/ERI

Puerto, fortalezas y conjunto monumental de Cartagena

Resguardado en una bahía del mar Caribe, el puerto de Cartagena posee el conjunto de fortificaciones más completo de toda Sudamérica. Un sistema de zonificación divide la ciudad en tres barrios diferenciados: el de San Pedro, con la catedral y numerosos palacios de estilo andaluz; el de San Diego, antiguo lugar de residencia de los mercaderes y la pequeña burguesía; y la barriada popular de Getsemaní.

source: UNESCO/ERI


source: NFUAJ

Haven, forten en monumenten van Cartagena

Cartagena ligt in een baai in de Caribische Zee en was een van de drie belangrijkste havens in West-Indië. Het is een goed voorbeeld van militaire architectuur uit de 16e tot de 18e eeuw; het heeft de meest uitgebreide en meest complete vestingwerken in Zuid-Amerika. Een zonesysteem verdeelt de stad in drie wijken: San Pedro, met de kathedraal en vele paleizen in de Andalusische stijl, San Diego, waar kooplieden en de middenklasse woonden en Gethsemani, de ‘populaire wijk’. De oude stad van Cartagena heeft z’n koloniale charme behouden, waaronder smalle straatjes geflankeerd door mooie binnendeuren en uitstekende balkons.

Source: unesco.nl

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Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments, Cartagena © OUR PLACE
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief Synthesis

Situated on the northern coast of Colombia on a sheltered bay facing the Caribbean Sea, the city of Cartagena de Indias boasts the most extensive and one of the most complete systems of military fortifications in South America. Due to the city’s strategic location, this eminent example of the military architecture of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries was also one of the most important ports of the Caribbean. The port of Cartagena – together with Havana and San Juan, Puerto Rico – was an essential link in the route of the West Indies and thus an important chapter in the history of world exploration and the great commercial maritime routes. On the narrow streets of the colonial walled city can be found civil, religious and residential monuments of beauty and consequence.

Cartagena was for several centuries a focal point of confrontation among the principal European powers vying for control of the “New World.” Defensive fortifications were built by the Spanish in 1586 and were strengthened and extended to their current dimensions in the 18th century, taking full advantage of the natural defences offered by the numerous bayside channels and passes. The initial system of fortifications included the urban enclosure wall, the bastioned harbour of San Matías at the entry to the pass of Bocagrande, and the tower of San Felipe del Boquerón. All of the harbour’s natural passes were eventually dominated by fortresses: San Luis and San José, San Fernando, San Rafael and Santa Bárbara at Bocachica (the southwest pass); Santa Cruz, San Juan de Manzanillo and San Sebastián de Pastelillo around the interior of the bay; and the formidable Castillo San Felipe de Barajas on the rocky crag that dominates the city to the east and protects access to the isthmus of Cabrero. Within the protective security of the city’s defensive walls are the historic centre’s three neighbourhoods: Centro, the location of the Cathedral of Cartagena, the Convent of San Pedro Claver, the Palace of the Inquisition, the Government Palace and many fine residences of the wealthy; San Diego (or Santo Toribio), where merchants and craftsmen of the middle class lived; and Getsemaní, the suburban quarter once inhabited by the artisans and slaves who fuelled much of the economic activity of the city.

Criterion (iv) Cartagena is an eminent example of the military architecture of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, the most extensive of the New World and one of the most complete.

Criterion (vi) Cartagena, together with Havana and San Juan, Puerto Rico (already inscribed in the World Heritage List), was an essential link in the route of the West Indies. The property fits within the general theme of world exploration and the great commercial maritime routes.


Within the boundaries of the Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments, Cartagena, are located all the buildings, structures and spaces necessary to express its Outstanding Universal Value. The 192.32-ha property is of sufficient size to adequately ensure the complete representation of the features and processes that convey the property’s significance, and it does not suffer from adverse effects of development and/or neglect.


The components that make up the Port, Fortifications and Group of Monuments, Cartagena, are authentic in terms of location and setting, forms and designs, and materials and substance. The property constitutes an exceptional example of Spanish military architecture of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and the existing fortification works remain authentic examples of some of the most important military engineers of this period, including Juan Bautista (Giovanni Battista) Antonelli, Juan de Herrera y Sotomayor, Antonio de Arévalo, Ignacio Sala and Juan Bautista MacEvan.

Several changes have occurred over time to the port and monuments of this living city and its surroundings, especially related to development and increasing tourism. Renovation and infrastructure projects have been developed or are in the process of development in the city, among them a new urban transportation system known as “Transcaribe.” These changes have the potential to threaten the property’s authenticity. Changes in uses because of the impact of tourism could also have a negative impact on the authenticity of functions and of the spirit of the place. Dredging works in Bocachica channel constitute a risk factor for the fortifications.

Protection and management requirements

The ownership of the Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments, Cartagena, is shared among private individuals, institutions, the Roman Catholic Church and national and local government authorities. The historic centre was declared a National Monument under the provisions of Law No. 163 of 1959. Other legal instruments for the protection of the property include Law No. 32 of 1924 (conservation and enhancement of the monuments of Cartagena); Law No. 11 of 1932 (Commission on Historic Monuments and Tourism); Law No. 5 of 1940 (Law on National Monuments); Law No. 49 of 1945; Decree 264 of 1963 (which regulates Law No. 163 of 1959); Law No. 397 of 1999 (General Law on Culture); and Law No. 1185 of 2008 (interventions require prior authorization of the Ministry of Culture). At the local level, Decree 977 of 2001 approved the Plan of Territorial Management (Plan de Ordenamiento Territorial, POT), which has a section dedicated to the historic centre. Organizations concerned with the management of the property include, at the national level, the Ministry of Culture, the Direction of Heritage, the Group on Protection of Properties of Cultural Interest, and the National Monuments Council; and, at the local level, the Secretary of Planning (District Government of Cartagena), the Institute on Heritage and Culture of Cartagena (IPCC), the Society on Public Improvement, and the Corporation of the Historic Centre of Cartagena. At the local level there is a certain overlapping of functions between official and non-governmental agencies, which sometimes results in a rather complicated system of management. There is a 304.09-ha buffer zone (“Zone of Influence”).

Sustaining the Outstanding Universal Value of the property over time will require completing, approving, adopting and implementing the Special Protection and Management Plan (PEMP) of Cartagena’s Historic Centre; completing the delimitation of all elements of the fortification system; undertaking the identified priority measures for the conservation of the ensemble of walls and the fortified city; defining and implementing a systematic plan of interventions and monitoring for the defensive walls and neighbouring fortifications; giving the unique natural setting of the bay of Cartagena the best protection possible, and creating a broad area where ordinances would limit the height of contemporary construction; strengthening residential and tourist-related activities, changing inappropriate use in buildings and developing strategic projects in the historic centre and its “Zone of Influence;” and ensuring that interventions, including those related to the Bocachica channel dredging and “Transcaribe” projects, do not compromise the Outstanding Universal Value, authenticity and integrity of the property. A clarification of missions and functions and a more articulated work among the diverse social actors (official and non-governmental groups) would be desirable, to enhance the dialogue and common work among them.

Long Description

Cartagena, together with La Habana and San Juan de Puerto Rico, was one of the three most important ports in the West Indies. It is an outstanding example of the military architecture of the 16th-18th centuries - the most extensive in the New World and one of the most complete.

On 1 June 1533 the Madrileño Don Pedro de Heredia founded Cartagena de Indias on a tiny coastal archipelago in the Caribbean. Located in the Gulf of Darien, 100 km west of the mouth of the Rio Magdalena, Cartagena used the advantages both of its position and of its site: a narrow band of land cut off from the continent by a succession of bays offering good anchorage and by narrow channels which constituted an excellent natural defence. A century later, this was where all the stolen treasures from the Indians of New Granada were stored before being moved to Spain. Cartagena grew rich on palaces, gardens, convents and churches, adopting the Catalan and Andalusian styles.

In 1586, the most famous military engineer of the Crown of Spain, Bautista Antonelli, was charged with the fortification of the city. His work, finally completed in the 17th century, made Cartagena an impregnable stronghold, which successfully resisted the attacks of Baron Pontis until 1697. In the 18th century, new additions gave the fortified ensemble its present spaciousness. The initial system of fortification included only the urban enclosure, the bastioned harbour of San Matias at the entry to the pass of Bocagrande, and the tower of San Felipe del Boqueron which controlled the Bahia de las Animas. Little by little, all of the passes were dominated by forts: San Luis, San José and San Fernando in Bocachica, San Rafael and Santa Barbara in Pochachica (the south-west pass); Santa Cruz, San Juan de Manzanillo and San Sebasi de Pastellilo around the interior Bahia; San Felipe de Barajas, on the rocky crag which dominated the city to the east and protected the access to the isthmus of Cebrero. The fortifications of San Felipe de Barajas protected Cartagena during numerous sieges, giving the city its unconquerable character and reputation. They are described as the masterpiece of Spanish military engineering in America.

Within the shelter of the formidable defences, the city continued to grow. The plan, characteristic of colonial foundations of the 16th century, illustrates a rigorous zoning system, divided into three quarters corresponding to the major social categories: San Pedro, San Diego and Gethsemani.

The old city conserves all the enchantment of the colonial period, with its narrow streets flanked by beautiful inner doors and projecting balconies. Entry by the Puerta del Reloj, the main entrance of the walled enclosure, gives access to the Plaza de los Coches, where long ago the slave market was held. The quarter of San Pedro, where the nobles and the notables resided, still preserves monuments of high quality such as the cathedral (1575-1612), the church and convent of San Pedro Claver, the church of Santo Domingo, and the building that once was the monastery of San Diego. In the Palace of the Inquisition, a beautiful structure with a magnificent inner door in Baroque style, the Court of the Holy Office carried out its functions, judging witchcraft and heretical cases. Today it houses a historical and archaeological museum; the Palace of the Government, and the home of Marquia de Valdehoyos.

The quarter of San Diego, to the north-east, was where the merchants and middle-class craftsmen resided; to the south-west, on a small island which slowly became attached to the mainland, was Gethsemani, the popular quarter. In the north sector of the walled city is the Plaza de los Coches, under whose arches ammunition and military equipments were stored and where troops were stationed during the colonial period. Outside the perimeters of the walls the Monasterio de la Popa, built on the summit of a hill that dominates the whole city.