Galle Dutch Fort ෴ ගාල්ල ඕලන්ද කොටුව

The Galle Fort, or Dutch Fort as it is also known, is a fortification first built by the Portuguese on the Southwestern coast of Sri Lanka. The initial fortifications, which were built in the late 16th century, were quite basic. However, the fort underwent extensive modifications in the 17th century by the Dutch, making it one of the most important archeological, architectural and historic monuments to illustrate the European influence in South East Asia between the 16th and 19th centuries. According to a statement by UNESCO, the site was recognized as a World Heritage Site for its unique exposition of an urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries which is criterion number four for such recognition.

History of Galle Fort in Sri Lanka

  • The earliest records of Galle trace back to its mention in Ptolemy’s World Map in the 2nd century AD.
  • It is said to have been a busy port trading with some of the biggest powers of that time; such as Greece, Arabia, and China.
  • Galle is also mentioned in records of the 6th-century traveler Cosmas Indicopleustes as a port of call of the ship Levant during his visit to Sri Lanka.
  • Another historically famed traveler, Ibn Batuta who lived in the 14th century also mentions having passed through the port on his visit to Sri Pada and Tenavaram Temple which were then some of the most famous sites of Sri Lanka.
  • Galle is the place where the Portugese made their initial landing in 1505, when made their first foray into the unknown (to them) lands of Sri Lanka.
  • They used their alliance with the king of the time and made notable changes in the area; this included the initial fort construction and also the construction of a Franciscan chapel in 1541. (The ruins of the chapel can still be seen today)
  • The small initial fort called ‘Santa Cruz’ was constructed of mud and palm trees; it was later extended with a fortalice, watchtower and three bastions.
  • The Portugese moved to Colombo with their increase of influence, but had to return to Galle in 1588 when their Colombo base was attacked by the Sitawakan king Raja Singha I (1581 – 1593).
  • They used the fort as a prison camp in later years when the opposition against them increased.
  • The fort fell into the hands of the Dutch after their combined attack along with the Sinhalese king of that time King Raja Singha II.