Being the best preserved fortified city built by European colonial powers in Asia, the Galle Fort has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for illustrating the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Originally built by the Portuguese in 1584, the Fort fell into the hands of the Dutch in 1640, who decided to fortify it to an even greater extent. This archaeological, historical, and architectural heritage monument maintains a polished appearance even after 423 years.
The Portuguese, who first landed in Sri Lanka in 1505, built the fort with palisades covering the northern land side which included rampart and three bastions. They did not build any fortifications on the sea-ward side since they did not expect any attacks from the sea.
However they were driven out in 1640 when the Dutch joined forces with the Sinhala Kings and captured the fort. The Dutch, who found the old fortifications built by the Portuguese to be too weak for their liking, decided to fully encircle the entire peninsula extensively. 14 bastions, covering an area of 130 acres, were built with granite stones and coral, as defense against other colonial powers in the region. A grid layout was used to plan the city built within the fort, with roads constructed in parallel to the fort’s ramparts. Of the two gates leading into the fort, the northern fortified gate was built around 1669 and is protected by a drawbridge and ditch.
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The Fort area is home to about 400 houses, churches, mosques, temples, and many commercial and government buildings. In fact, it resembles a small walled town with a rectangular grid pattern of streets and houses in Dutch colonial style. Other important heritage monuments in the fort are the Dutch Reformed Church, the old Dutch government house, the National Maritime Museum near the Old Gate, residence of the Commander, the Great Warehouse built around 1669 to store spices and ship equipment, the Meera Mosque built in 1904, the Buddhist temple built at the site of Portuguese Roman Catholic church, the All Saints Anglican Church built in 1871, and the Clock Tower dated 1707 and cast in 1709 which rang every hour.