A Famosa was a Portuguese fortress located in Melaka, Malaysia. It is among the oldest surviving European architectural remains in south east Asia. The Porta de Santiago, a small gate house, is the only part of the fortress which still remains today.
In 1511, a Portuguese fleet arrived under the command of Afonso de Albuquerque. His forces attacked and defeated the armies of the Malacca Sultanate. Moving quickly to consolidate his gains, Albuquerque had the fortress built around a natural hill near the sea. Albuquerque believed that Malacca would become an important port linking Portugal to the Spice Route in China.
The fort changed hands in 1641 when the Dutch drove the Portuguese out of Malacca. The Dutch renovated the gate in 1670, which explains the logo “ANNO 1670” inscribed on the gate’s arch. Above the arch is a bas-relief logo of the Dutch East India Company.
The fortress changed hands again in the late 18th century when the Dutch handed it over to the British to prevent it from falling into the hands of Napoleon’s expansionist France. The English were wary of maintaining the fortification and ordered its destruction in 1806. The fort was almost totally demolished but for the timely intervention of Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, who was sent on sick leave from Penang to Malacca in 1807. It was Captain William Farquhar, tasked with the destruction of the fort and town, who decided to save two of the gateways to the fort, including the Santiago Gate, as well as the stadthuys, church and jail.
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