The fantastic Galle Fort

October 17, 2018   |   Dinesh Perera

Largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers.

Galle is a major city in Sri Lanka, situated on the southwestern tip, 119 km from Colombo. Galle is the administrative capital of Southern Province, Sri Lanka and is the district capital of Galle District.

 

Galle was known as ‘Gimhathiththa’ before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, when it was the main port on the island. Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, during the Dutch colonial period. Galle is the best example of a fortified city built by the Portuguese in South and Southeast Asia, showing the interaction between Portuguese architectural styles and native traditions. The city was extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century from 1649 onwards. The Galle fort is a world heritage site and is the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers.

 

Other prominent landmarks in Galle include the city's natural harbor, the National Maritime Museum, St. Mary's Cathedral founded by Jesuit priests, one of the main Shiva temples on the island, and Amangalla, the historic luxury hotel. Galle is home to the Galle International Stadium, which is considered to be one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world.

 

According to James Emerson Tennent, Galle was the ancient seaport of Tarshish, from which King Solomon drew ivory, peacocks and other valuables. Cinnamon was exported from Sri Lanka as early as 1400 BC, and as the root of the word itself is Hebrew, Galle may have been a main entrepot for the spice.

 

Galle had been a prominent seaport long before western rule in the country. Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays, Indians, and Chinese were doing business through Galle port. In 1411, the Galle Trilingual Inscription, a stone tablet inscription in three languages, Chinese, Tamil and Persian, was erected in Galle to commemorate the second visit to Sri Lanka by the Chinese admiral Zheng He. 

 

The modern history of Galle starts in 1502, when a small fleet of Portuguese ships, under the command of Lourenço de Almeida, on their way to the Maldives, were blown off course by a storm. Realising that the king resided in Kotte close to Colombo, Lourenço proceeded there after a brief stop in Galle.

 

In 1640, the Portuguese were forced to surrender to the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch built the present fort in 1663. They built a fortified solid granite wall and three bastions, known as "Sun", "Moon" and "Star". After the British took over the country from the Dutch in 1796, the British preserved the fort unchanged and used it as the administrative centre of the district.

 

Galle features a tropical rainforest climate. The city has no true dry season, though it is noticeably drier in the months of January and February. As is commonplace with many cities with this type of climate, temperatures show little variation throughout the course of the year, with average temperatures hovering at around 26 degrees Celsius throughout

 

Popular Attractions in Galle

  • Galle fort
  • Flag rock
  • Dutch reformed church
  • Old gate
  • Marine archeological museum
  • Meeran mosque
  • Sudharmalaya temple
  • Dutch hospital
  • Amangalla
  • Main gate
  • Galle international cricket stadium
  • Sun bastion
  • National maritime museum
  • National museum
  • Point Utrecht bastion
  • Zwart bastion
  • All Saints Anglican church
  • Lighthouse
  • Dutch market
  • Clock tower
  • Lighthouse beach
  • Dutch Governor’s house
  • Muslim Saint’s tomb
  • Court square
  • Japanese Peace Pagoda
  • Jungle beach
  • Unawatuna beach

 

Recent Posts