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Fort Coenraadsburg (Elmina)

Sat, Dec 26, 2009

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Situated at the end of a steep and narrow road , at the top of S‹o Jago Hill overlooking the historic Sao Jorge Castle, lies the smaller, but equally significant Fort Coenraadsburg. The original structure that lay atop the hill was a chapel built by the Portuguese in honor of St. James. In 1637, however, when the Dutch launched their final attack on the Portuguese at Sao Jorge, the S‹o Jago Hill was seized for strategic purposes. Soon after the Portuguese surrendered, the Dutch began the construction of a redoubt at the top of the hill. Ironically, the redoubt was constructed in order to ensure their own security against any possible attacks similar to the one they’d just conducted against the Portuguese.

In 1652, the Dutch began transforming the redoubt into a fort. Construction was completed in the 1660s, and Fort Coenraadsburg, as the Dutch called it, was established as a fully fortified garrison post. The structure of the building was unique. The fort, for example, contained no commercial warehouses, only military quarters. Furthermore, a drawbridge was located at the entrance of the fort, which connected the main building to the entrance breast work called the ‘ravelin’. The entrance gate to the fort stood 15 feet above ground. As a result, once the drawbridge was pulled up, there was absolutely no way to get either into or out of the fort.

As its architecture suggested, Coenraadsburg was built strictly for military purposes. It was, in fact, the only major coastal fort built under such circumstances. During the period of Dutch control of S‹o Jorge, Coenraadsburg was the most important of the castle’s many defenses. It was to remain of such importance for over 200 years of Dutch control until it was ceded to the British in 1872.

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