Valdivian Fort System

Valdivian Fort System
The main fort in Corral
General view of the fort in Corral
Map of Corral Bay and the location of the coastal defences. The four largest forts are marked with red
Niebla Fort's former headquarter (now a museum), during a representation of the capture of Valdivia

The Fort System of Valdivia are a series of Spanish colonial fortifications at Corral Bay, Valdivia and Cruces River established to protect the city of Valdivia, in southern Chile. During the period of Spanish rule (1552–1820), it was one of the biggest systems of fortification in the Americas.[1] It was also a major supply source for Spanish ships that crossed the Strait of Magellan.



Valdivia was founded in 1552 by the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia. Its original name was Santa María la Blanca de Valdivia. Some years later in 1598 the Spaniards suffered several reversals in the War of Arauco, and the defenceless city was abandoned. In 1643 the Dutch arrived at the ruins and settled in the zone, planning to use Valdivia as a base for attacks on the Spanish empire. After some conflicts with the Mapuche Indians of the zone, the Dutch had to leave Valdivia.

It was then when Pedro Álvarez de Toledo y Leiva, Marquis of Mancera ordered the re-population of Valdivia and the construction of several forts. The main forts were built at Corral Bay, but some other forts where built to protect the city from the Mapuches. Then the city came to be called The key of the south sea and Gibraltar of the Pacific. The forts where reinforced several times, and new additions were made until the late 18th century. At the time of Chilean independence Valdivia remained a Spanish stronghold, and was perceived as threat to Chile's independence by Lord Cochrane, admiral of the Chilean navy who captured the forts in 1820 without facing the batteries by using a surprise land assault. Valdivia surrendered when the news about the fall of Corral Fort came.


The four largest forts in this system were the forts in Corral Bay that controlled the entry to Valdivia River, thus Valdivia. Other fortifications were built to defend the city from land attacks (mostly from indigenous Huilliches).

  • 1 - Fuerte Aguada del Inglés
  • 2 - Fuerte de San Carlos
  • 3 - Batería del Barro
  • 4 - Castillo de San Luís de Alba de Amargos
  • 5 - Batería y Reducto de Chorocamayo
  • 6 - Castillo de San Sebastián de la Cruz Fort (Corral Fort)
San Sebastián de la Cruz Fort in Corral at the southern side of Corral Bay was the headquarters of the coastal defences. It was built in 1645 by order of the viceroy Pedro Álvarez de Toledo y Leiva.
  • 7 - Castillo de San Pedro de Alcántara (Isla Mancera Fort)
The fort of Mancera Island lies between Niebla and Corral. Due to its strategical location, several times the city of Valdivia was proposed to be moved into the small Mancera Island - a proposal Valdivias citizens opposed.
  • 8 - Batería del Carbonero
  • 9 - Batería del Piojo
  • 10 - Castillo de la Pura y Limpia Concepción de Monfort de Lemus (Niebla Fort)
The fort in Niebla faces Corral Fort and lies at the northern entrance of Valdivia River. The fort was undergoing an enlargement when works stopped in 1810. In 1834, when controlled by Chile it worked as deposit for the whole system.
  • San Luis de Alba Fort (not shown in the map)
San Luis de Alba Fort is located in the shores Cruces River north of Valdivia. It was built to secure the land route (Camino Real) to Valdivia where the road passed by the river.
  • Los Torreones (not shown in the map)
Los Torreones (Spanish: The Towers) are two towers built once in what was the outskirts of Valdivia to protect the city against land attacks. The towers are now a local landmark and are used as logo by the local newspaper El Diario Austral de Valdivia.


  1. ^ "The Defensive Complex of Valdivia". Entry on the UNESCO Tentative List. Retrieved 2007-08-15. 
  • Flandes Indiano, Las Fortificaciones del Reino de chile (1541–1826), Ediciones Universidad Catolica de Chile

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