Angelo Fort in Kannur, Kerala

By Arun.punnathatta - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

St. Angelo Fort Kannur: Historic Coastal Citadel

History Jun 7, 2024

A Journey Through Time: The Storied History of St. Angelo Fort

Perched on the edge of the Arabian Sea, just a stone's throw from the bustling city of Kannur in Kerala, stands St. Angelo Fort, a sentinel of history with tales whispered through its weathered stones. Its imposing presence, a testament to centuries of power struggles and cultural exchanges, beckons visitors to delve into its intriguing past.

Originally known as Kannur Fort or Kannur Kotta, the fort was first established in 1505 by Dom Francisco de Almeida, the pioneering Portuguese viceroy of India. Almeida's vision was to secure a strategic foothold on the Malabar Coast, a crucial trade route in the Indian Ocean. The fort, initially a humble outpost, quickly drew the attention of the local Indian rulers, the Zamorin and the Kolathiri. They saw the Portuguese presence as a threat to their influence and launched an attack in 1507, determined to reclaim control.

The fort, however, proved resilient. The Portuguese, known for their maritime prowess and sophisticated military tactics, successfully defended their stronghold. This early conflict set the stage for a series of power struggles that would shape the fort's destiny.

In 1509, Afonso de Albuquerque, a rising star in the Portuguese administration, clashed with Almeida over the governorship of India. The conflict reached a head when Albuquerque was arrested by Almeida and imprisoned within the very fort he had sought to lead. Albuquerque's confinement lasted six months, but his ambition and cunning ultimately prevailed. He was released and appointed as the new governor in October 1509.

The Portuguese dominance of St. Angelo Fort was not destined to last. In 1663, the Dutch, driven by their own imperial ambitions, seized control of the fort from the Portuguese. They modernized the structure, adding distinctive features that still stand today – the bastions of Hollandia, Zeelandia, and Frieslandia. These imposing fortifications, with their strategic placement and defensive capabilities, reflected the Dutch mastery of military architecture.

The Dutch reign, however, was short-lived. In 1772, King Ali Raja of Arrakal, a powerful local ruler, purchased the fort from the Dutch. He saw the fort not as a symbol of foreign domination but as a potential asset for his own kingdom. However, the tide of history shifted once again in 1790 when the British, ever-expanding their colonial empire, captured the fort and established it as their principal military base in Malabar. For nearly a century and a half, St. Angelo Fort served as a strategic outpost for the British, solidifying their grip on the region.

After India's independence in 1947, St. Angelo Fort was declared a protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India, signifying its historical and cultural significance. Today, the fort stands as a testament to its multifaceted past, a place where visitors can trace the footsteps of Portuguese, Dutch, and British conquerors.

From its ramparts, breathtaking views of the Moppila Bay and Dharmadom Island unfold. Dharmadom Island, a verdant patch of land just a hundred meters off the mainland, is a natural sanctuary teeming with life. Moppila Bay, a serene natural harbor, has long been a haven for fishing boats, a reminder of the fort's enduring connection to the sea.

St. Angelo Fort is more than just a historical site; it's a window into a bygone era, a place where the echoes of battles and empires still resonate. It is a reminder of the power struggles and cultural exchanges that have shaped the destiny of India. For anyone seeking a glimpse into the rich tapestry of history, a visit to St. Angelo Fort is an unforgettable experience.


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