Under the Austrian Empire (16th-17th century)

Under authority of the Spanish Monarchy, Menorca became a cause for dispute with the Ottoman Empire. To protect the island, a system of watchtowers was constructed along the coastline.

The island suffered various assaults by the Turks, which are remembered as some of the bloodiest in all our history: the Turkish attack of 1535, in which Heyreddin Barbarossa and his army sacked the city of Maó and captured 800 individuals; in 1558, remembered as the “Year of the Disgrace”, Ciutadella suffered the most severe sacking by the Ottoman army, this time under the command of Piali Pasha. 4,000 slaves were deported to Constantinople.

The island was again fortified by order of King Charles I: the fortress of St. Philip’s Castle at the mouth of the port of Maó, new outer walls around the main population centres and new towers and the mouths of the ports of Ciutadella and Fornells.

Despite epidemics and Turkish attacks, the island’s population increased and its economy began to grow, especially through foreign trade. The port of Maó was essential to the recovery and urban growth of the island’s east. This prosperity fostered the growth of new town centres and the construction of convents and manor houses, primarily in Ciutadella.