Fort Jesus World Heritage Site

Fort in Mombasa, Kenya

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Fort Jesus, Mombasa
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Fort JesusMombasa.jpg
LocationMombasa, Kenya
CriteriaCultural: ii, v
Inscription2011 (35th session)
Area2.36 ha
Buffer zone31 ha
Coordinates4°03′46″S 39°40′47″E / 4.06278°S 39.67972°E / -4.06278; 39.67972
Fort Jesus is located in Kenya
Fort Jesus
Location of Fort Jesus in Kenya
Fort Jesus, seen from the inside

Fort Jesus (Portuguese: Forte Jesus de Mombaça) is a fort located on Mombasa Island. Designed by Italian Giovanni Battista Cairati,[1] it was built between 1593 and 1596, by order of King Philip I of Portugal, to guard the Old Port of Mombasa. Fort Jesus was the only fort maintained by the Portuguese on the Swahili coast, and is recognised as a testament to the first successful attempt by a Western power to establish influence over the Indian Ocean trade.[2]

Cairato, the designer of the fort, was inspired by Italian architect Pietro Cataneo, while the master builder was Gaspar Rodrigues. The fort was Cairato's last overseas work. Although the design of Fort Jesus is an example of Renaissance architecture, the masonry techniques, building materials and labour are believed to have been provided by the local Swahili people. The fort was built in the shape of a man (viewed from the air) and is roughly square, with four bulwarks at its corners. The fort is considered a masterpiece of late Renaissance military fortification.

Fort Jesus was captured and recaptured at least nine times between 1631, when the Portuguese lost it to the Sultan Yusuf ibn al-Hasan of Mombasa, and 1895 when it fell under British rule and was converted into a prison. After the Portuguese recaptured it from the Sultan in 1632, they refurbished it and built more fortifications, subsequently making it harder for the fort to fall. The fort was subject to an epic two-year siege from 1696-98 by the Omani Arabs, led by Saif bin Sultan. The capture of the fort marked the end of Portuguese presence on the coast, although they briefly captured and re-occupied it between 1728 and 1729 with the help of the Swahili city-states. The fort fell under local rule from 1741 to 1837, when it was again captured by the Omanis and used as a barracks, before its occupation by the British in 1895, after the declaration of the Protectorate of Kenya.

Fort Jesus was declared a national park in 1958, and in 2011, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and highlighted as one of the most outstanding and well-preserved examples of 16th-century Portuguese military fortifications.[2] The fort is Mombasa's most visited tourist attraction.

  1. ^ Parker, Geoffrey. "The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Fort Jesus, Mombasa". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 1 January 2017.

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