Coral Forts and El Castillo de San Marcos

Coquina is made of shell fragments. the term "coquina" comes from the Spanish word for shellfish.
Coquina is made of shell fragments. The term “coquina” comes from the Spanish word for shellfish.

Although all forts are rich with history, the Castillo de San Marcos is especially rich with a history dating back to the 1670s.  Even this historical legacy owes its success to the land; the fort’s material “coquina” is made from bits of shells and coral that bind together similar to limestone.

Originally made of wood, the Castillo de San Marcos was built by the Spanish colonial government to protect the city of St. Augustine. When the wooden forts couldn’t protect the city from pirate raids and other attackers, coquina was found to be a desirable material alternative.

Coquina is a Florida legacy in itself, having been used for over 400 years. Similar to oak trees and “Old Ironsides,” coquina made an excellent material defense against cannons. Coquina is soft and when a canon strikes, it would absorb, instead of destroying, the walls of the Castillo de San Marcos.

Today, El Castillo de San Marcos is one of North America’s oldest masonry forts. It is now managed by the Parks Service and is a popular tourist attraction.

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