San Jerónimo Fort

Completed Project
World Monuments Watch
Portobelo, Panama

San Jerónimo Fort was built in several stages between 1596 and 1779 to protect the transportation of goods from South America to Spain. In the late sixteenth century, the Spanish, to protect the transportation of goods from South America to Spain, moved their port city on the Isthmus of Panama from Nombre de Dios to Portobelo and immediately began construction on a new fort. Because pirate attacks were frequent the fort was strategically sited along the shoreline to protect the movement of goods. The original fort was completed in 1596. Substantial portions of the fort were rebuilt after 1758, incorporating new developments in military architecture. Both the original fort and the additions are important examples of historic architecture with diverse European influences, constructed as part of an extensive defensive system in the Spanish Caribbean.

1998, 2000 and 2002 World Monuments Watch

In the early 2000s, working with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Panamanian Institute of Culture, along with local agencies, WMF developed a plan for cultural and natural resources management. The first phase of the project included research, field work, and supplementary studies, and resulted in the 2001 publication of Portobelo-San Lorenzo: an approximation to comprehensive conservation of sites with endangered cultural and natural resources. The second phase focused on the identification of threats to San Jerónimo and nearby structures in Portobelo, and the development of plans to address these issues. The third phase, completed in 2006, included the partial conservation of San Jerónimo and the development of a proposal for improving central Portobelo. In addition, the restoration of three colonial bridges in Portobelo was completed with the assistance of students enrolled in a masonry conservation training program for youths in the city.

San Jerónimo Fort is an important part of Panama’s heritage. The wealth that traveled through the region for more than 150 years was substantial and contributed to the economic growth of many countries tied to the trade of goods and materials passing through the Fort’s domain. The importance of the port necessitated regular upgrades to the fort, equipping it with the latest advances in military technology. Today the fort survives as an important example of the evolution of Spanish fortification architecture.

Last updated: June 2018.

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