Galle Fort in the south-eastern coast of Sri Lanka is an old Dutch fort that was first built by the Portuguese in 1588. For several years beginning in 1649, it was controlled and extensively fortified by the Dutch as they over took Sri Lanka. Today, after more than 400 years, the scenic historical fort has maintained a polished appearance as it is efficiently maintained by the Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. It is now a leading tourist attraction as well as a historical, architectural and archaeological heritage monument.
Having stood so many natural tests including the 2004 tsunami, Galle Fort was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is perhaps to be acknowledged soon as one of the modern wonders of the word. The UNESCO citation describes it as “an urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries”. It is a well-loved property and object of pride of the Sri Lankan people as well as the Dutch, who still own many of the properties inside the fort. It is referred to by many as the “Ramparts of Galle”.
Inside this historic fort is another important structure near the old Dutch Reformed Church, the posh Amangalla Hotel, which was originally built as a residence for the Dutch Governor and his staff in 1684. After the British captured Sri Lanka in 1796, it was later converted into a hotel and renamed New Oriental Hotel in 1865. European seafarers that travelled from Europe to Galle port rested in this famous hotel. The city of Galle as well as the Galle Fort lost much of its prestige when the British moved the capital to Colombo. The island remained a British colony until it gained its independence in 1948. The hotel was named Amangalla only in 2005.
The Dutch Reformed Church is also a feast to the eyes. It was constructed in 1640 and remodeled sometime between 1752 and 1755. Inside this historic stone church are a 1760 vintage organ and a pulpit made from Malaysian calamander wood.
Other attractions that make the fort popular are its Main Gate, Old Gate, and several bastions. The fort’s Main Gate on the northern side is heavily fortified with a draw bridge that is surrounded by a moat. Inscriptions on the draw bridge reveal that it was constructed in 1669. A short walk from the Main Gate leads to the Old Gate where the British Coat of Arms is inscribed at the entrance at the top. Also inscribed are the date 1668 and letters “VOC”, which stand for “Verenigde Oostindindische Compagnie” or “Dutch East India Company”. Also inscribed is an insignia of a cock with two lions.
The fort is teeming with old bastions, which include the Point Utrecht Bastion on the eastern section, which is alongside an old lighthouse, Flag Rock Bastion, which served as a signaling station, Trion Bastion with a windmill that drew water from the sea, Star, Moon and Sun Bastions, Aurora Bastion, Tremon Bastion, Kleipenberg Bastion, Emaloon Bastion, and Zwart Bastion or Black Bastion that is the oldest Portuguese-built bastion. These citadels add an element of grandeur to this historic Dutch fort in Galle.