Galle Fort Constructed by Portuguese – Galle Heritage

Galle Fort Constructed by Portuguese

During the time Portuguese were ruling the coastal areas around Ceylon they constructed security fortresses at various locations along the coastal belt. It is said that they constructed Mannar fort in 1522AD, Baticaloe fort in 1528 AD, Galle fort in 1589 AD and Jaffna fort in 1618 AD.

There are legends about the construction of Galle fort. Dutch were compelled to come ashore to cure those who fell ill during the voyage. For that purpose hey requested for a piece of land to the extent of an ox herd or a coconut bough. When allowed they tore the ox herd to thin stripes, tied the pieces and strewed encircling   a large extent of land. Within that area they built a fortress. Legend says that the area called “Kalu Kotuwa” today is the extent of land thus encircled.

Alponso Perera De Lazar, who was appointed   Portuguese Governor of Ceylon arrived in 1555AD entered into an Agreement with king Mauadunne so thae taxes could be collected from the lands and harbours acquired by the king according to which taxes of nine thousand seven hundred  Panams were levied upon the haobours Matara, Bentara , Kalutara and Galle. They represented matters to the king of Portugal requesting permission to construct a Portuguese fortress in Galle. It is stated that the king of Portugal gave orders in 1589 AD  to Portuguese Visure  Mathies De Albar Kew Kew  several times to build a fortress in Galle. A map drawn by Mathies De Albar Kew Kew in water colours together with an estimate to build the fortress are observed in the course of a study of historical information. In 1589 AD Portuguese built the fortress and later in 1595 Don Joranimo De Asawedu developed the Galle fort with the approval of the king of Portugal. It is stated that a native chieftain named Don Fernando Samarakoon  Mudlier  helped Don Joranimo De Asawedu to build the fort. Don Fernando Samarakoon was a Disave of Matara and in charge of a Lascarin battalion he had been a chieftain who helped Portuguese in various battles.

Construction works of Galle fortress commenced in 1589 AD according to the plan presented by Mathies De Albar Kew Kew   and construction may have been completed during the tenure  of Don Joranimo De Asawedu. However it appears that churches were built at those locations prior to the construction of Galle fort. Rebeiro states that Anglican Priests who were among the team of priests that went to Portugal for coronation of the statute of prince Dharmapala and returned built the churches in Panadura, Beruwala, Galle and Weligama. He describes Galle, which had been a developed fortress town during the time the war took place between King Rajasingha the 1st (1581-92 AD) and Portuguese in 1588 AD. History books describe the battles between King Rajasingha the 1st and the Portuguese as quoted below.

Thomas De Sousa first attacked Kosgoda. Therafter went to Madampe andburned down two temples including Thotagamuwa temple near Hikkaduwa where many pilgrims used to gather. Thereafter marching towards Galle, stationed Domingo Perera at Gintota with instructions to keep alert on Galle which was one of the main towns of Rajasingha , proceeded with his ships and attacked Galle fort before dawn. A severe battle took place there but enemies were chased away. Within three days the warehouses in that big town were set on fire and after felling those coconut trees in the area and set fire to one ship. According to this disclosure by Robeiro, there had been a fort built by natives prior to the fort planned to be built by Portuguese in 1589 AD.

Spaniard, Anrthonio Mendis writes about Galle fort to king Philip- III in Spain in 1613 AD; “ A fort protected by a muddy  land and a fence  made of Talipat  stems has been constructed in point Galle About fifty men are on guard at that fort. There is the possibility to capture and also destroy enemy ships. It would be appropriate if your Excellency may please order to provide forces and canons to point Galle.”

According to descriptions of the historian Robeiro, Galle was governed by eight Portuguese Governors. It was during the tenure of Governor Konstantenu De Sar that a systematic development of the Galle Fort commenced.

The moat between land and rampart was excavated at that time. Progressive stages in development of Galle fort are reflected in the plans of drawn by Pedre Berete De Residence. In the maps prepared during 1635-1646 AD, reinforcements of Portuguese rampart and buildings of various types constructed inside Galle fort are clearly shown.

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