Grand Casemates Square
View of Grand Casemates Square, looking northeast towards the Rock of Gibraltar (2007).
|Former name(s)||La Barcina, La Esplanada|
|Owner||Government of Gibraltar|
Grand Casemates Square (colloquially Casemates Square or Casemates) is the largest of the two main squares within the city centre of Gibraltar (the other being John Mackintosh Square). The square takes its name from the British-built Grand Casemates, a casemate and bombproof barracks at the northern end of the square completed in 1817.
The square is built on sand that was once a beach. In May 1160 Moroccans sent by the Almohad ruler Abd al-Mu'min landed to lay the foundations of the first substantial settlement. This "City of Victory" (Medinat al-Fath) was small and included the area within the Moorish Castle and the land just below. It was this new ruler who changed the name of the rock to Jabal al-Fath meaning Mount of Conquest.
This land was an intertidal zone used by the Muslims to beach their galleys. After the Siege of Gibraltar in 1309, Ferdinand IV of Castile gave orders that a galley house be built where his ships could be repaired. This house gradually sank into the sand over the next few centuries.
The area of Grand Casemates Square formed part of the old town Spanish: Villa Vieja during Spanish times, being walled with its own gates and towers. Early 17th century plans refer to this area as La Barcina.
Following the problems the Spanish faced with the buildings sinking into the soft wet ground, the British begun to construct fortress walls and battlements on higher, more solid ground. In 1770, chief engineer William Green began preparatory work for the construction of Grand Casemates as bombproof barracks on the square's northern flank. However, its construction was not started until after the Great Siege of 1779-1783 and it was finished in 1817 under the governorship of General Sir George Don.
After the Great Siege the British decided to demolish most buildings within the square which had suffered great damage. This opened up the area into an esplanade which could be used for public events such military parades and public executions.
Nowadays Grand Casemates Square has become a commercial hub housing numerous pubs, bars, restaurants and shops following the refurbshment of the square in the 1990s to replace a car park which occupied half the square. The square is also used to host various cultural events from live open-air concerts, to National Day celebrations. In 2012 the square was host to celebration for Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee celebration which was attended by the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
Monuments found within the square include:
Notable fortifications in Grand Casemates Square
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