Fort Jesus – The first European-style fort constructed outside of Europe in Mombasa

The fort, built by the Portuguese in 1593-1596 to the designs of Giovanni Battista Cairati to protect the port of Mombasa. It was the only fort maintained by the Portuguese on the Swahili coast, and is recognized as a testament to the first successful attempt by a Western power to establish influence over the Indian Ocean trade.

The original Portuguese fort had a height of 15 meters, but the Oman Arabs added 3 meters upon capturing the fort. It is roughly square, with four bulwarks at its corners. It was Cairato’s last overseas work / Image source

The property covers an area of 2.36 hectares and includes the fort’s moat and immediate surroundings. The design of Fort Jesus is an example of Renaissance architecture, the masonry techniques, building materials and labor are believed to have been provided by the local Swahili people. The building, bears physical witness, in its structures and subsequent transformations, also to the interchange of cultural values and influences between and among peoples of African, Arab, Turkish, Persian and European origin that fought to gain and maintain their control over this strategic port.

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