El Mina Castle, also known as St George’s Castle, was built by the Portuguese in 1482 under the command of Don Diego d’Azambuja, and is a very important fortification in terms of history. It is the biggest and the first European building in tropical West Africa. It was captured by the Dutch in 1637, who again sold it to the British in 1872 when they left the country. It is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The large dungeon was used for transitting the slaves from their penitentiary confinement to the exit door. There were no lights, the dungeons took twists and turns, and the doorways were deliberately kept low in order to disorientate the slaves.
In 1637, the Dutch dragged a cannon to the top of San Jago Hill and bombarded St George’s Castle, then in the hands of the Portuguese. Realising the strategic position of the hill, and wanting to protect their newly acquired castle, the Dutch built a fort atop the hill for defense. Also known as Santiago or St James’ Fort.
The women were separated from the men and about 150 women were kept to each room for up to six weeks. Like their male counterparts, they were given little and poor food, had no facilities and poor sanitation. The first picture shows the original iron bars and the second one the original floor constructed by the Portuguese.
The women were herded out into the courtyard, in order to picked by their male captor for sexual favours – rape in other words. If they refused, they were chained to this cannon ball and left exposed to the elements, the rain and/or the baking sun, for several days without food, drink or sanitation.
The final exit to their ‘new life’ was deliberately kept narrow and low, to stop slaves from thronging together and making a dash for freedom. As there is no harbour in Elmina, the slaves were taken by canoes to waiting ships for the long and arduous journey to the New World.
Dubbed the Door of No Return as this was where the ‘freedom fighters’ and rebels would spend their last days. Kept in extremely cramped conditions, with minimal ventilation and no light, the mutineers would be starved to death. The Door of No Return.
The castle St George stands between the ocean and the lagoon. The castle is rather imposing.
The castle is open every day.
The entrance fee includes a guide, who explains what the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English have done in Elmina.
The St George's castle has a spacious great courtyard. At the left side of the building are the governor's apartments.
In the middle two broad staircases lead up to a terrace and a loggia for overlooking the court.
In the courtyard between the two big stairs is a dutch tombstone with an epitaph.
''vanveeremitscadersBewindhebberDerWestIndischeCompagnie ..." died at the 12th march 1758 at the age of 41.
That is what we could read.
Opposite of the entrance of the castle is a lifely fish landing place of Elmina. Here the fishermen bring the catch of the day.
I like it a lot to walk there and have a look at this landing place and the work of the fishermen.
Opposite the castle in the lagoon, it is very lifely with boats, especially when the fishermen return from sea with the catch of the day.
At that time your can stand here for a long time to see what's going on.
If you make a walk around the town, there are some beautifull views at the town, the lifely lagoon and the Fort St Jago uphill.
Best time for a walk early is in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the sun is less burning.
Before the Dutch beated the Portuguese in Elmina, they already attacked them twice from the sea. Twice, they were defeated. In 1637 however, they attacked them from the inland, with the help of the local chief. From St. Jago hill, in the heart of today's Elmina, they opened fire on the Portuguese who were too surprised to react.
When the Dutch had their base in St. George's Castle, after their victory, they wanted to prevent enemies from doing the same thing as they did. Therefore, they built a second fort in Elmina, right op top of St. Jago hill. In 1666 Fort Coenraadsburg was finished, currently known as a more neutral "Fort St. Jago". The building only has a military purpose, and was ideal to rule of the area: from there they could even look further into the ocean than from St. Goerge's.
The fort is not open to public at the moment, a heavy renovation is going on. But still, from the village and from the other fort, it is a nice sight to look at the large, white building, situated wonderfully, high above the town.
One of the best preserved buildings in Ghana is St. George's Castle (or Elmina Castle) in Elmina. It used to be one of the many slave forts at the former Gold Coast, mainly used by the Dutch.
The fort was originally built in 1482, when the Portuguese first set foot on Ghanaian land. The building they made was strategically situated on top of rocks, and at 3 sides surrounded by the sea. The Portuguese built the fort as a trading post when goods from all over West-Africa were brought to. Because this wealth of products they called the place "El Mina", the mine.
In the 17th century, the Dutch conquered the fort, and in the beginning they used it for the same purpose as the Portuguese. There was a church inside, a large dining room, several luxurious suites for the highest officers and a lot of storage rooms. Later however, it was no longer gold and spices that was the main business. For the colonisation of the New World, slaves were needed and the West Africans were the right persons for that. That was the reason of a big expansion of the fort. Large dungeons were made to keep the slaves in, and the fort became twice as big as the original size.
In Elmina, there are two main dungeons: the male- and female dungeons who together could keep up to 1200 people at a time. From Elmina tens of thousands of slaves were "transported" from here. The stories you hear during the tour are terrible, and the smell in the dungeons still smells like horror and emprisonment.
A visit to Elmina Castle is interesting, the view is beautiful, but at the same time it is a horrific thing to see and imagine all that happened there. At least it made me as a Dutchman be ashamed of my ancestors.