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Mortella Tower in Saint-Florent

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Posted on 04/01/2019 | Updated 5 years ago

Nearly 500 Years of History

Mortella Tower Saint Florent

The Punta Mortella marks the westernmost point of the Gulf of Saint-Florent and precedes the Genoese tower of the same name to the south of the Agriate desert. Set upon a rock bathed by the waves, the Genoese Mortella Tower was built in two years from 1553 to 1555 under the command of Admiral Andrea Doria, a great Italian general and seasoned sailor then 87 years old.

The 17th century put the Genoese tower to the test, becoming a theater of combat, pillage, and war, and it was guarded day and night by about ten soldiers.

Partially Destroyed in 1794

The Mortella Tower served for 240 years before being ruined in 1794 during the assault of British troops allied with Paoli's Corsica against the French troops who used the building to monitor maritime incursions in the Gulf of Saint-Florent. Today, the tower still stands, vertically split in two due to explosives placed by the British troops, but the observation of its still intact north face would suggest it is whole.

A Tower that Inspired the British

The resistance of the Mortella Tower for several days against the artillery of the British fleet in 1794 was particularly noted by English Admiral Nelson, who commanded the operation. He decided to take inspiration from the design of the building to erect dozens of identical towers along the English and Irish coasts, and their name, Martello Towers, recalls the original model with one small difference: the two vowels (o and a) were mistakenly reversed.

Martello Towers

Intended to prevent potential Napoleonic attacks that they would never witness, many Martello Towers have stood the test of time, experiencing different fates. While some were demolished (sometimes for military use tests), about fifty still remain on the English coasts. Among them, some are abandoned, others have been privatized, and some even inhabited.

One of these towers - built in 1805 in the small town of St Osyth in eastern England - was transformed into a museum and has its own website named after the tower: Jaywick Martello Tower.

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