Battista Antonelli was born in Gatteo in 1547 in a prestigious Italian family of military engineers at the service of the Habsburg monarchs of Austria and Spain.
In 1570 Battista has entered the service of Philip II of Spain as military engineer working, with his older brother Giovanni Battista, on projects in Oran (Algeria) and Spain. In 1581 Battista Antonelli was commissioned by the king of Spain to build a fortress along the Strait of Magellan, to protect this vital sea lane from attacks by English privateers. The project, under the command of Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa and Diego Flores Valdez, was a complete failure, founding a short-lived settlement later named Port Famine (Puerto Hambre), without any fortification.
Battista Antonelli returned to Spain, ill and disillusioned. He was convinced, however, to take a second commission in 1586 to build fortifications for the city of Cartagena de Indias in Colombia. Using the state-of-the-art technology, he designed the city’s defences, the San Felipe de Barajas Castle, the San Sebastián de Pastelillo Fort and the San Fernando Fort. Battista Antonelli then sailed to Panama where he recommended the abandonment of Nombre de Dios settlement in favor of Portobelo. At Panama la Vieja, on the Pacific coast he developed a project for a fortification of the town, which was never realized. He then set sail to Cuba. In Havana he designed the fortifications which culminate in the fortress of El Morro. From there he returned to Spain. After several more journeys to the Caribbean, Antonelli settled in Spain, working on fortresses in Gibraltar and in other places. He died in Spain in 1616 after having one of the most illustrious careers in military architecture in the New World.
The Municipality of Gatteo dedicated to this important family the municipal Cultural Center ‘Gli Antonelli’.