A' Famosa, Melaka
A Famosa, or "The Famous" in Portuguese, is among the oldest surviving European architectural remains in Asia. Once part of a mighty fortress, this tiny gate (called the Porta de Santiago) is all that is left of a once-mighty fortress.
In 1511, a Portuguese fleet arrived under the command of Alfonso de Albequerque. His forces attacked and successfully defeated the armies of the Sultanate. Moving quickly to consolidate his gains, Albequerque had the fortress built around a natural hill near the sea. The fort changed hands in 1641 when the Dutch successfully drove the Portuguese out of Melaka. The Dutch renovated the gate in 1670, which explains the logo "ANNO 1670" inscribed on the gate's arch. Then the fortress changed hands again in the early 19th century when the Dutch handed it over to the British to prevent it from falling into the hands of Napoleon's expansionist France.
The fort was almost totally demolished except for the timely intervention of Sir Stanford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, who happened to visit Melaka in 1810. Because of his passion for history this small gate was spared destruction.
The Porta de Santiago is the only thing that remains of the A 'Famosa. This used to be a grand city wall. The porta used to be the main gate. Pretty much the whole wall was cannonballed to pieces when the Dutch wanted to take over the city, and they did. This part of the wall was used by the Dutch and it has an inscription of the VOC, the Dutch East India Company.
Porta' refers to 'portal' which means gateway and true enough Porta de Santiago is actually the main gate into the Portuguese fortress of A' Famosa.
Thanks to the foresight of Alfonso d'Albuquerque, the leader of the Portuguese army that seized Malacca in 1511, work on the fort started in 1512.
True enough, the well-constructed fortress enabled the Portuguese to fend off attacks by the Malaccan and Acehnese armies for well over a hundred years.
The Portuguese had used slaves to construct the squarish fort with walls nearly three metres thick. At the northwest corner, there used to be a 40-metre keep, four storeys high that watched over the whole garrison.
There is one curious thing that discerning visitors will notice - this supposedly Portuguese structure bears the coat of arms of the Dutch East India Company. This is because the Dutch, or more specifically, the Dutch East India Company, had used the fort as their headquarters.
They therefore renovated this particular part of the fort and added the company crest as well as the inscription of the year 1670. The inscription is now very faint but if you look closely you might just make out the figures.
Visitors who make their way down St. Paul's Hill, expecting to see the whole fortress will be in for a big disappointment. Alas, the Porta de Santiago is all that remains of the once impregnable fort.
Modern-day visitors will have to thank Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore and the man who had intervened just in the nick of time to stop his countrymen from removing all traces of the Portuguese stronghold.
Continue to A Famosa 2
Continue from A Famosa 1
Having survived numerous vicious attacks for 296 years, the fort would have lasted even until today but for the British. In 1795, after they were to relocated to Penang as their main base, the British decided to destroy the fort so that it would never be used against them.
This unpleasant task fell to the British Resident William Farquhar. Although against the idea, the Resident and his gang of labourers went at the fort with pickaxes and spades and found themselves thwarted.
So Farquhar resorted to using gunpowder and blew up huge chunks of stonewall until Sir Stamford Raffles managed to stop the demolition.
Opposite the Porta de Santiago, visitors will see the large green field known as Padang Pahlawan or Warriors' Field.
There is also a small grandstand near the fortress and it is used every evening for the Sound and Light Show where the audience are presented with the tale of Malacca's historic past.
In the same year, 1511, when the spanish conquistadores stooped upon the innocent Taino Indians decimating them and establishing the ciudad Primada de Cuba, Baracoa, Albuquerque came across the straits to dislodge the local malay sultanate..
The Porta de Santiago is part of a fortress of the A Famosa, built by the Portuguese in 1511. It was damaged by the Dutch during an attack. Timely intervention by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1808 saved the fort from destruction and its gateway still stands today.
Besides the ruined church on the hill, those Portuguese masters also left behind a solid fort gate at the base of the hill in Melaka. Now, you may know this famous symbol of Melaka as A' Farmosa but that is as far removed from the truth as Melaka is from Timbuktu. The gate is called Porta de Santiago. Though nothing more that a ruin with a modern cannon, it's still worth taking a look. You'll want to see this after listening to this interesting story that connects the fort with the founder of modern Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles!
In 1808, Porta de Santiago was nearly lost forever to history as orders were given by the British Governor of Pahang to demolish it, along with the fortress at the mouth of the river. Unfortunately for the locals ( and luckily for us ), their spades, picks and crowbars were useless against a fortress which reportedly had walls fifteen feet thick! But before they could use gunpowder, Stamford Raffles stepped in and saved what tourists can see today! Thanks to him, we can see the grand construction of the fort and the Dutch logo that the sods imprinted on the Portuguese fort after seizing control. Click here to see the Dutch logo.
Now, if you've read my earlier instalment, you would have noted that A'formosa is no more than a gate and the church of St Paul's no more than a burnt out shell. Now look at this old Dutch map. Can you see a long-walled fort and the grand church on top a hill?? Yes, those are the original structures in ol' Melaka. Apparently, this must have been an artist's impression before the Dutch rained some 18,000 cannon balls on the city....
A'famosa fort is one of Melaka's most famous places next to the lovely red buildings of Christ Church, and its not hard to see why. The malaysians are very proud of their heritage, and the fact that they have such history in comparision to many other others in the world.
At night they use large lights to light up the fort and it has a real errie feel about it, think haunted hause, but something which could really be haunted.. really cool.
It was first built in 1512 by a man called Alfonso de Albuquergue, however historians believe that Stamford Raffles may have done something about it. The relic also bears the coat of arms of the east india company as it was used by the Dutch after they took over in 1670.
This is the site of the old Portuguese Fort .
Unfortunately the only remaining structure of the fort is a Gate way.
The hallmark of Melaka and perhaps the most photographed subject next to the Stadthuys. Built by the Portuguese in 1511 as a fortress it sustained severe structural damage during the Dutch Invasion. The British had set to destroy it but timely intervention by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1808 saved what remains of A' Famosa today
Sorry, I don't have a good photo of it to show you but if you go to this web link below you can see it.
Yes, the gate lay in ruin. Yes, even the pavement looked to be worn out. But did you notice the coats-of-arms above the gate itself? Well, when the Dutch took over Malacca, they also went ahead to re-construct the fort. What is now on the apex of the gate is a Dutch East India Company's emblem.
I was told that there is a chinese junk in the picture and where it was etched in was because the Chinese traded quite a bit in this area. Is the history lesson I'd picked up correct?
A crooked bridge to link Malaysia to Singapore was what a Malaysian ex-Prime Minister have been fighting for. But a crooked entrance at A'Famosa or what is known as Porta de Santiago. We'll I'll get to that story after my history lesson!
I learnt so much about Alfonso De Albuquerque in the history book and it's one name I remember the most. Why? Because its unique - Much nicer sounding than Christiano Ronaldo. After taking control of Malacca in 1511, he went on to build the fort in 1512.
People could visit the fort but in the evenings, the gates would be closed and only Portuguese could remain on the grounds. So well protected right? But still they lost out to the Dutch and during the siege, many Portuguese died of various diseases.
Oh yes, now for the crooked gate story. The gates leading to A'Famosa was built in a fashion that ensured a canon blast does not go through the doorway to damage the compound. And how is that done? The Portuguese ensured that there's a kink - a sharp bend to as seen in the entrance. So there's the story.
Inside the Melaka Sultanate Palace is the Muzium Budaya. The Palace is actually a replica of the original palace. The building is completely made of wood and not a single nail is used! The museum exhibits things that focus entirely on the traditional Melakan culure. The building also houses the Terngganu Stone which is the first evidence of Islam on Peninsular Malaysia.
Porta de Santiago (A Famosa) – These ruins were built by the Portugues in 1511 and are probably the 2nd most photographed attraction in Malacca. Originally built as a fortress it underwent major structural damage during the Dutch invasion. The Dutch set out to tear down the fort but was stopped by Sir Stamford Raffles who’s intervention in 1808 saved what remains of the fortress today.
Just like the "Red Square" reminds you of the Dutch colonial time, the Porta de Santiago is one of the main remains of the Portuguese colonial period over Malacca.
This was the main gate to the walled town. This ancient Portuguese town was built on the Hill of Saint Paul, protected by a powerful fort known as "A Famosa". The Saint James's Gate is the only remain of this fort.