A Famosa is one of the most valuable ruins built by the Portuguese centuries ago. This place is another sought after attraction in Melaka that you should not miss if you are visiting Melaka.
Known also as Porta de Santiago, this structure is one of the four main gates of the famous Portuguese fortress. The fortress was built by Alfonso de Albuquerque in 1512, one year after the Portuguese invaded Melaka. It was intended to fence off the attack from Sultan Mahmud of the Melaka Sultanate Era and the continuous attack from Acheh and Johor empires.
The A’ Famosa fortress with 3-meter thick walls and a 40-meter watchtower had played a major role in protecting the Portuguese from their enemies. It was also the most well-known and symbolic fortress that the Portuguese had ever built. It was the biggest one ever built and was aptly named A Famosa, which means famous in Portuguese language.
However, A’ Famosa did not manage to sustain its golden days as the biggest fortress being built by the Portuguese. In 1641, the Dutch landed in Melaka and took over the state from the hand of the Portuguese. As a result, A’ Famosa fell into the hands of the Dutch. However, the fortress continued to play its role for the Dutch after it was renovated and rebuilt.
Similar to St. Paul Church, this old fortress had also undergone different stages of change by various colonial powers that landed in Melaka centuries ago.
When British took over Melaka from the hand of the Dutch, Captain William Farquhar of the English East India Company decided to destroy the fort in 1795. This was because the British had an intention to invade Melaka after their temporary possession allowed by the Dutch government came to an end.
Fearing that the strong defense of A’ Famosa fortress will make the British invasion to Melaka more difficult, Captain William decided to demolish it.
At first, Captain Farquhar used slaves and labourers to dig the fortress manually in order to destroy it by using human strength. However, he later realized that this method was not able to destroy the fortress. Thus, in 1807, he decided to blast the fortress by using gun powder.
There were people who tried to stop this devastation – Sir Stamford Raffles and Lord Minto interfered in this matter. As a result, A’ Famosa fortress was not totally destroyed. However, three out of the four main portals were demolished by the blast. The only one remaining was the portal facing Bukit Cina, and that is the Porta de Santiago that you can still see with your eyes today.
The fort is easily accessible from the centre part of the city where the famous Christ Church and Stadthuys are located. Walk along Jalan Kota for 5 minutes and Porta de Santiago is just right in front of you.