A Lasting legacy of the country’s colonial past, and today a maritime heritage, the famous Dutch Fort in Jaffna, was the innovation of the Portuguese who built it in 1618. It was re-built by Dutch colonisers who took over the Fort in 1680. The 400 year old edifice, designed in the shape of a pentagon, is a symbol of Dutch architecture. Its five bastions were named, after provinces of the Netherlands – Zeeland, Holland, Gelderland, Utrecht and Friesland.
The interior of the Fort has, with time, seen buildings such as the Dutch Lieutenant Governor’s residence, military barracks, powder magazines, warehouses, a Dutch Reformed Church, guardrooms, police quarters, a jail and court house become mere stone remnants. Yet, the limestone and black coral outer structure still remains solid. The large rampart overlooking the ocean and the tunnel system are a testament to the skill and readiness to defeat any firepower from outside. The Dutch insignia is still visible at the entrance to the Fort. Inside, there is a great deal to explore amidst the destroyed structures, the belfry of probably the Dutch Reformed Church standing alone amidst the remnants of the past. The many fortifications, such as ravelins, the dry ditch and the moat are typical fortress defences.
The moat in the outer rampart is a series of five tunnels, which have been preserved. A walk along the rampart and in the grounds is a truly exhilarating experience and of course allows more time to explore and understand the design as well as purpose of the Fort. It is also quite romantic to watch the sunset from the rampart.