Ibiza’s Pirate Towers - History and Facts | History Hit

Ibiza’s Pirate Towers

Amy Irvine

26 Jul 2023
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / JanManu / CC BY-SA 3.0

About Ibiza’s Pirate Towers

Ever since Ibiza was first discovered by the Carthaginians over 3,000 years ago, the island has been invaded by many civilizations. Its strategic location – between mainland Spain and North Africa – also made it susceptible to invasions and pirate attacks, given the high value goods transported in the nearby waters.

As a defence, a network of coastal watchtowers were constructed at strategic vantage points, serving as lookouts to warn the island’s inhabitants of any impending threats. 7 of these watchtowers still stand on the main island, providing visitors with spectacular views.

History of Ibiza’s Pirate Towers

After being under Arab rule for over 300 years, Ibiza and Formentera were recaptured by the Catalans in 1235 during the Reconquista. However, the island’s former rulers used their knowledge of the archipelago to carry out pirate attacks, raiding homes, stealing goods and animals, and capturing women and children for ransom. This prompted the Catalans to build a series of watchtowers around the island, strategically positioned to enable sentries to spot incoming pirate ships and raise an alarm.

Initially an acoustic warning was given, using a shell horn, though a more advanced system involving fire signals was later adopted. The nearest watchtower would be lit as a warning signal, and this signal would be relayed from one tower to another until the entire island was aware of the impending danger. The watchtowers were crucial for protecting the island’s inhabitants, who would then either seek refuge in the fortified towers or nearby churches (which were also fortified).

The watchtowers were constructed between the 16th-18th centuries by royal stonemasons. They were round, with 2.5 metre thick walls, and around 9 metres tall. The towers had 2 storeys, with a spiral staircase along the inner wall and an exterior platform with arrow slits. The doors were only accessible with a ladder, which could be retracted once defenders were inside, making the towers difficult to breach.

The towers proved so effective that local people were inspired to form their own group of vigilantes, known as ‘corsairs’ (effectively similar to pirates themselves). These armed corsair ships were granted royal permission to hunt down pirates and protect the island from seaborne threats. One notable corsair captain, Antonio Riquer Arabi, is claimed to have conquered over 100 pirate ships, preventing significant damage to the island. To honour him and these corsair defenders, a monument was erected on the harbour front in Ibiza – the only known pirate statue in the world.

Ibiza’s Pirate Towers today

7 of these pirate towers are still preserved today on the main island, including the: Torre Des Carregador, Torre d’en Rovira, Torre d’en Valls, Torre de Portinatx, Torre de Balansat and the Torre des Savinar (one of the best places to watch the sunset in Ibiza).

Most of the towers are still in good condition. As they were strategically built on raised ground (such as mountain ridges, headlands, and cliffs), they consequently provide fantastic views of the island’s beautiful countryside. Over the last century, several of the watch towers have been inhabited, yet still remain testament to Ibiza’s cultural heritage.

Getting to Ibiza’s Pirate Towers

The towers are easy to find and are clearly marked on every tourist map. Most are located along a stretch of the coast which can easily be accessed by car and are also easily accessible by foot. Popular routes start at the corsair monument in Ibiza’s harbour, then head south.

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