Portuguese Town Plan and War Constructions – Galle Heritage

Portuguese Town Plan and War Constructions

Several main architectural constructions can be identified in the Galle fortress town constructed by Portuguese;

  • Protection outwork and constructions for war strategies.
  • Street network
  • Groups of buildings, open spaces and gardens.

Portuguese had reached the final stages in construction of protection outwork by 1640 AD. A study of old maps would reveal clear information on construction and expansion of street networks and architectural aspects those buildings.

In a comparison of maps prepared by Antonio Bocaro and Pedro Berete de Resendo, differences can be identified in the buildings within the fort and outside. Among the buildings outside fort are those temporary buildings in Closenberg area and the area facing the front of the fort made using local building materials. Those buildings were made of basic local raw materials and were thatched with cadjans or similar local roofing materials.

Those buildings show features of old farmhouses. In a study of construction of buildings in Ceylon in the olden days, same features can be seen in the buildings of Portuguese times in the vicinity of fort shown in the maps of that period.

Natives were living in those buildings located outside fort most of which were dwellings of fishermen. In some of those buildings, influence of European architecture in 16th and 17th centuries can be identified. Those buildings can be considered as having been constructed by Portuguese. An inspection of features of those clearly shows that those had been made using strong, durable raw materials and with tiled roofs.

Some architectural features noted in those buildings are;

  • Most of the buildings are taller than usual
  • Several windows and fanlights for ventilation and lighting
  • Gable roof with main wall ridging.

Most of the buildings within Galle fort are constructed using durable building materials using lime mortar and reefs are covered with lasting roofing materials while in some others, walls are made of clay stuffed in wooden tats made using sticks and bamboo. Walls are plastered with lime.

In the Galle town plan, few special features are prominent. Some groups of buildings are constructed within walls covering all four sides and the open space within was used as a garden. Some buildings are constructed on either side and the garden space in between which can be considered a middle court was encompassed by a low parapet.

In designing the buildings inside fort it appears the builders paid more attention to their security. Buildings that would not need special protection appears to have been constructed separately from each other and exposed to environment. In the development of the fortress, Portuguese had taken care to make sure of their protection within the town. This was necessitated due to threats aimed at them by local and foreign enemies during that time. Construction of watch towers and guard posts in many groups of buildings is distinctive. Those watch towers reflect architectural features seen in the European fortresses of 16th and 17th centuries. Buildings constructed by Portuguese inside the Galle fort show off direct influence of European architecture.

Natives supported Portuguese to construct Galle fort.A native chieftain named Samarakoon Fernando  or Samarakoon Mudali took an active hand in construction of rampart  from the beginning. Native engineering technology can be identified in the rampart built by Portuguese. Major part of the rampart from Kalu Kotuwa to Ealus watchtower was constructed for Portuguese by native labour. Remains of stones split using pegs are seen at many places around fort.All three main watch towers named “Sun” “Moon” and “ Star” were constructed during Portuguese period. Section of the rampart from the warehouse building with the old gate was changed by Dutch, the gateway and the reconstructed old gate belong to Dutch era. How the Dutch have changed the rampart by boring and splitting huge rock can be seen at the area presently known as Baladaksha Mawatha?

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