In one of his usual walks in the area of Playa de San Juan and Albufereta, D. Pedro Guillena Gómez, retired director of the now-defunct Hotel Playa (Playa de San Juan de Alicante) and a great passionate about archeology and painting, he spotted what was then a ruin of one of the defense towers of the Alicante garden in the early 80s. It was then when he decided that this could not be the case and wanted to leave his grain of sand in a legacy for our history of Alicante. Today the relatives of the late pioneer of the bastion live in it.
It was reduced to rubble until 1983. Only the ashlars in its corners remained standing, three higher columns and one practically on the ground in the middle of the rubble.
It currently consists of a ground floor and three floors, a garden and a pool, as well as pedestal tables and a covered barbecue area with a dining room. The roof with its battlements, from where you can see a large part of the Alicante orchard.
It is built with masonry with ashlars at its corners and at its base it has a small slope. In its basement there is a kind of curb with a blind tunnel that apparently led to the neighboring Torre de Sarrió. They say that after the Berber looting the method of escape was through these tunnels.
The condition of the fortification is impeccable. Pedro Guillena, an Andalusian living in Alicante, took the land from the ruin and after more than eight years of reconstruction, little by little, collecting adequate materials to make up what is now the Tower of Santiago, has left us a precious legacy for the history and cultural heritage of Alicante. Years later, on April 14, 1997, the then General Director of Artistic Heritage of the Generalitat informed her that the tower had been declared a Site of Cultural Interest.
In addition, he found a funeral stele of a Pompeian citizen, currently in the MARQ, as well as a ashlar with an inscription «1,511», an engraved number that perhaps marked the year of construction.
These towers were built in the 16th century and their purpose was none other than to defend the farmers from the attacks of the Berber pirates, who looted farms, stole cattle and killed their owners. Round watchtowers along the coast, such as the one in El Campello, were used to spot pirate ships, while peasants and cattle took refuge in those in the garden.
Currently, there are 26 towers declared of cultural interest in the municipality of Alicante; two in El Campello; three in Mutxamel’s; and four in San Juan. It is the most important concentration of towers declared BIC of the Valencian Community and, probably, of the entire peninsular Mediterranean coast. Of these, there are 24 located in the old orchard: one in Mutxamel, two in San Juan and the rest in Alicante.
Condolences letter from the Marq Museum to D. Pedro Guillena
«Yesterday he left us a good friend of #Marq , he had Number 01 of our Friend Card. He has left us a philanthropist and donor convinced of the commitment of civil society to historical heritage. D. Pedro Guillena, who has been since the 80s, when he landed in the city of Alicante, has left us an indefatigable fighter to recover what has been and is his home , Torre Santiago, a defense of the rehabilitated Huerta de Alicante with your effort and tenacity.
His link with MARQ goes back a long way, when at the end of 1986 he handed over to the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Alicante for safekeeping and conservation some pieces of great value and importance for the knowledge of the history of Roman Alicante, such as the fragment of a funeral altar, It is exhibited in the Rome Room of the Museum, dedicated to the Pompeian Publio Fulvio Asclas, a Pompeian in Lucentum, where he lived years before the destruction of his city by Vesuvius and whose epitaph marks the end of his adventure in our land to mid 1st century AD
D. Pedro, a man always linked to letters, ancient art, music, history, heritage, always kept his commitment to the defense and protection of the towers of La Huerta, a heritage and a landscape that he loved as an Alicante man more and that helped protect to avoid its total disappearance. May the earth be light to you, Pedro. »
Here we can see inscription on stone found in the rubble of the ruins of Torre de Santiago. In it you can read «1511», possibly the date of construction of the fortification. It is preserved on a wall as a projection without adapting or modifying it so that it was as a buttress of one of the oak wood crossbeams that support the roof of the house attached to the tower.
Today, the entrance through which one could flee was maintained, under the threat of being captured by enemy pirates. It is located in the basement of the semi-detached house of the Torre de Santiago and keeps all the mystery of its history inside.
In the 16th and 17th century it was customary for Berber pirates to attack the Huerta Alicantina by sea:
In 1557 there was a landing in the Albufereta of 14 galleys and many other ships, devastating the Condomina and killing those who could not flee. The attack was finally neutralized with the arrival of reinforcements from Alicante.
In 1558 the looting continued and the landings and attacks of the great Muslim army intensified. There are many hostages that are negotiated with. In view of this situation, the construction of Torres in La Huerta continues and farmhouses are attached to them. In the Torre de Santiago after clearing the ruins in 1983, a blinded tunnel was found that probably led to the neighboring Torre de Sarrio; When the inhabitants felt cornered and helpless, they fled through the only escape route to avoid being caught.
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