Tour de Mortella

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Tour de Mortella
Tour de la Mortella.jpg
Location Saint-Florent, Haute-Corse
Coordinates 42°42′54″N 9°15′25″E / 42.71500°N 9.25694°E / 42.71500; 9.25694Coordinates: 42°42′54″N 9°15′25″E / 42.71500°N 9.25694°E / 42.71500; 9.25694
Built 1563-1564
Architect Giovan Giacomo Paleari Fratino
Designated 1991
Reference no. PA00099279

The Tour de Mortella (Corsican: Torra di Mortella) is a ruined Genoese tower on the French island of Corsica, located on the coast near Punta Mortella (Myrtle Point) in the commune of Saint-Florent, Haute-Corse. It was a progenitor of the numerous Martello towers the British built in the 19th century throughout their empire.

The Italian architect Giovan Giacomo Paleari Fratino designed the Mortella tower, while Colonel Giorgio Doria directed the construction between 1563 and 1564. It was one of a series of coastal defences the Republic of Genoa constructed between 1530 and 1620 to stem attacks by Barbary pirates.[1]

On 7 February 1794, two British warships, HMS Fortitude (74 guns) and HMS Juno (32 guns), unsuccessfully attacked the tower at Mortella Point; the tower eventually fell to land-based forces under Major-General David Dundas and Lieutenant-General John Moore after two days of heavy fighting.[2]

Late in the previous year, the tower's French defenders had abandoned it after HMS Lowestoffe (32 guns) had fired two broadsides at it. Then the French were easily able to dislodge the garrison of Corsican patriots that had replaced them.[2] Still, the British were impressed by the effectiveness of the tower when properly supplied and defended and copied the design. However, they got the name wrong, misspelling "Mortella" as "Martello". When the British withdrew from Corsica in 1796, they blew up the tower, leaving it in an unusable state.[3]

The ruined tower was listed as one of the official Historical Monuments of France in 1991.[4][5]

The tower c.1794. The artist was probably a British army officer

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Graziani 2000, pp. 115-117.
  2. ^ a b Sutcliffe 1973, p. 20.
  3. ^ Sutcliffe 1973, p. 22.
  4. ^ "Tour de la Mortella" (in French). French Ministry of Culture. Retrieved 11 May 2014.  The database incorrectly gives the date of construction as 1553-1554. This earlier date is when Spanish and Genoese troops led by Admiral Andrea Doria besieged the French forces occupying the port of Saint-Florent after the Franco-Turkish invasion of the island.
  5. ^ "Protection juridique des tour génoises de Corse" (in French). Direction Régional des Affaires Culturelles de Corse (DRAC). Retrieved 4 May 2014. 


  • Graziani, Antoine-Marie (2000). "Les ouvrages de défense en Corse contre les Turcs (1530-1650)". In Vergé-Franceschi, Michel; Graziani, Antoine-Marie. La guerre de course en Méditerranée (1515-1830) (in French). Paris: Presses de l'Université Paris IV-Sorbonne. pp. 73–144. ISBN 2-84050-167-8. 
  • Sutcliffe, Sheila (1973). Martello Towers. Cranbury, NJ: Associated Universities Press. ISBN 0-8386-1313-6. 

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