Military Architecture

Military Architecture

Diu, Guzerate, India

Military Architecture

Besides the small number of elements – minor forts in Brancavará (1774), Monacavará, Naroá (1744) and Gogalá – Diu’s impressive fortification system basically comprises three elements: the pre-existing Gujarati enclosure, separating the city’s urban area from the rest of the island; the Sea Bastion or Panikotha, a fort set amid the navigable channel separating the island from the mainland; and the fortress at the far eastern tip of the island. Impressive not just in manifestation and size, but also for having a number of unusual characteristics and for having preserved enough to ensure a good understanding of how they were conceived, built and used. The pre-existing urban wall enclosed the city on the land and channel side; on the sea side only a cove required the construction of two bastions (one being that of the Excommunicated) and curtain walls, for the rest of the coast was steep and unsuitable for landings. Of all this only the long section stretching from the channel to the sea remains. It was subject to various Portuguese interventions, most especially the repairs undertaken from 1570 to 1574, marked by an inscription, leading many to consider that the whole was Portuguese. But these were not structural repairs that changed its appearance – particularly notable was the opening of two gates beyond the single previous one. A third was opened later. In the original gate on the land side, adornment was introduced which made it Christian. Despite its notable current presence, it is nevertheless necessary to make an effort to imagine its original totality, whereby the “Tavoa de Dio” inserted in João de Castro’s Roteiro de Goa a Diu dating to the first months of 1539 will be the best departure point, but to which it is necessary to join, due to the planning lines’ clearness, the city’s known surveys from 1783 and 1833 (> previous entry). The overall expression was clearly medieval, with 18 square or semicircular towers and, according to the Livro das Cidades e Fortalezas... (1582) and the aforementioned maps, a floodable moat dug into the rock. The walls are high, with bulging planes until the midpoint; the Land Gate has a decorative system of clear Gujarati inspiration. The Sea Bastion was already there when the Portuguese military established itself in Diu. It was indeed the first post the sultan ceded to the Portuguese and then served to house the leadership. However, except for its elongated perimeter, its current appearance is due to various later interventions still to be ascertained, studied and verified. Most likely the part that is closest to the original version is the longer and rounder body on the east side, since the more regular and longer structure extending it to the west – a protective shield – has been subject to more alterations, the most important in 1587. Where the two join there is now a turret topped by a lighthouse, which may well recall the square-based tower clearly shown in the above-mentioned drawing by João de Castro and also described by him in detail in the respective text. Basically it takes on the silhouette of a warship anchored in the middle of the channel entrance, in front of the fortress’s access quay and its former command centre, the Captain’s House, whereby it not only protected the channel entrance and the city, but also the most sensitive point of the fortress. It also had another defensive connection to the fortress, well described by Fernão Lopes de Castanheda (1552-1561): Diu “from the land side had a bastion built on the water, which was crossed by a very thick iron chain to the city’s walls, which they winched up or down and thereby closed the port so that the ships within remained quite safe and no other foreign ones could enter it without them lowering the chain”. A wooden stockade on a pre-existing artificial mole was built between the Sea Bastion and the Gogolá Peninsula, resolving the problems of northern access to same; this device was strengthened by the round bastion which the Portuguese raised there early on (in 1538), after razing a pre-existing wall. Construction of the city wall and Panikotha are most probably due to the initiative of Meliqueaz (Malik Aiyaz), the governor of Diu at the time of the Portuguese attacks and occupation, for as João de Barros tells in the Década Segunda of his Asia, “he was an expert man and prudent, and with his industry he made it so famous, by merchandise dealings, so that beyond what each one annually paid to the king in tribute, it made him a very wealthy man, with which he fortified and ennobled the city with walls, towers and bastions, mainly after we came to India”. However, what makes the difference between what is truly exceptional about the city of Diu’s defence system were not those Gujarati works, but the fortress the Portuguese began to raise in 1535 at the far eastern end of the island and city. A defensive arrangement existed there under the command of Meliqueaz. Gaspar Correia mentions a “tower overlooking the bar, in front of the sea bastion”. In our opinion, what is shown in João de Barros’s drawing and whose construction is not mentioned by any of the chroniclers must have been there when the Portuguese began to form – for it was not an integral construction – the fortress. The latter specifically comprises an arrangement of terraces and quay (a two-bastioned type which in his somewhat confusing 1539 description João de Castro catalogues as protective shields and slabs) linked by a high tower on the channel side in front of the Sea Bastion. Acccording to Lopo de Sousa Coutinho, the first Portuguese factory functioned there from 1514 to 1521, in a system which controlled the bar entrance. As we shall see, the whole system was repaired by the Portuguese in the mid-1540s, endowing it with the configuration that remains today. The historic process which led to the Portuguese installation in Diu has been minimally explained above: the sources, maps, images and printed work about this fortress are many and extensive. The epigraphy is especially relevant for dating and assigning responsibility for the actions, whereby this built complex is able to tell its own story. All this facilitates knowledge, but makes it hard to choose what must imperatively and essentially be recorded here. This is because, regardless of our presenting various other contributions, the relationship between what existed and the implementation phases must still be fully ascertained. The changed designations of the bastions over time largely contributed to this. We opted to record sufficient information to enable understanding of how the system was generally configured (which occurred in the 16th century), leaving aside the respective details of their adjustments since then. Like the city, this point of the island is on rocky ground, which is raised on a platform above the waterline of the sea and channel. The triangular configuration mandated the fortress’s shape, just as the evolution of the art of fortification mandated its appearance, which owes much of its specific nature to the fact that it evolved more by addition than by replacement, renovation or repair. But it is also due to the fact that the outside curtain walls prolonged the cliff, which was in turn also shored up, so that they both merged functionally and constructively into the landscape. Basically, much of the system’s imposing nature is due to accentuating the steep natural slope, particularly evident in the two moats which artificially connect the channel to the sea, separating it from the land and serving as quarry for the project. Once agreement was reached with the sultan in 1535, Martim Afonso de Sousa (the Portuguese negotiator and ground commander, even though Governor Nuno da Cunha had also been there) ordered a moat dug to link the channel to the sea, thus creating an artificial island at the end of Diu Island. It was an arduous task which meant digging a ditch in rock deeper than usual, for the height of the land surface over the level flooded by any tides reached eight metres at some points. As we shall see, this process was repeated just over a decade later. The following month the fortress was delimited, with formal construction beginning on Saint Thomas’s day on 21 December, with the bastion’s first stone with that designation laid by Nuno da Cunha himself. Over time the designation would be extended to the whole and to the parish church, while the bastion came to be known as Knight (Cavaleiro), as it was the complex’s most prominent. The process was described by some authors, among them Lopo de Sousa Coutinho in the Livro primeiro [e segundo] do [1.o] cerco de Diu que os turcos poseram à fortaleza de Diu (1556), to whom we pass the word, for it is much clearer than we might achieve: “A wall section was raised from the sea coast at a height there, and over it a large and handsome round filled bastion was built, which had a diameter of 90 palms: and it was built a little higher than the other wall and given the name of Saint Thomas, for it was begun on his day. And from there the right wall was extended again to the river, and before it was three or four lances from the water it ended in another large bastion which had a 60-palm diameter and was given the name of Saint James [afterwards Dungeon Bastion]. And before these two bastions, next to this smaller one, was the gate of the fortress with its protective wall facing the city. The wall was 27 and 28 feet thick and 20 and 22 high barring the ledge and battlements. Its ditch ended by the middle of the small bastion by the river. Thus half of the said bastion had no ditch, because the site descends steeply there almost to river level. And so all that part over the river had no ditch, from the said bastion to the old factory. In that space, the said river does not reach the wall except during high tides. At all other times it is two or more lances distant. And in this space I mention, not far from the said small bastion, houses were built for the captains of said fortress. They did not occupy all of the said space [...]. The ground occupied by said fortress is triangular. In its middle is a large hole, which afterwards when António de Silveyra was captain was made into a large cistern”. What is described in the “Tavoa de Dio” corresponds to that first version of the fortress that included pre-existing structures, as we have seen. It all still maintained a markedly medieval appearance and did not occupy the far end of the triangle, a low and rockier tip that entered the water, where the main wall with its bastion would later be made. It was the structure described above by Lopo de Sousa Coutinho, with walls about nine metres thick, which resisted the siege from August to November 1538 but was left in such a bad state that it could not be accepted as the definitive solution. It nevertheless remains there, even with the original Land Gate, nowadays serving only as an access to the bridge crossing over the original moat, also located within the system. Inside, in front of the site where the Parish Church of Saint Thomas once stood (raised in 1536) and next to the ravine that occupies much of the available space and via which the path to that gate was made, is the cistern made by António da Silveira, “which held 5,000 casks of water –a very well wrought construction”. In1635António Bocarro referred to 24,000, which must be another. In any case, more recent maps indicate the existence of various cisterns. After that first siege the initial arrangement was rebuilt under the command of Diu’s new captain, Manuel de Sousa de Sepúlveda, extending it to double the respective ditch. But not only that, for the system of defence and access by land and sea (the bar entrance) was revised by building a complex installation on the channel side, which made little use of the Gujarati platforms already used for the Captain’s Palace and the factory. The bastions of Saint George (1542) and Saint Teresa (1544) were then raised, along with the entrance over the semi-circle, the wall, the gates, the quay and the bridge over the moat, etc. Nowadays it is most interesting to find that with some modifications it has all been maintained – the repairs carried out a few years later were done by introducing a new advance line to the west, with a new ditch and endowed with bastions, with both comprising a system as unconquerable as it was monumentally fantastic. The fact that it barely resisted the 1546 siege made evident and urgent the need for a different and up-to- date solution. From 1538 on the complex had been repaired in manners similar to what the Portuguese were doing elsewhere, with special experimental scope in North Africa, seeking solutions for the emergence and fast evolution of artillery, the famous shift from tension/torsion to gunpowder ballistics. The answer would have to be according to what came to be designated as the bastion system, characterised by advance structures with sharp angled, not circular faces. As in Morocco, the round and square bastions previously erected in Diu had bad results. The works traced out by captains and masons would have to be replaced by those of the military engineers, which corresponds to a complex change of paradigm impossible to characterise here, but which was summarily dealt with in the framing text at the beginning of the volume. The science and technology were Italian-based, though the Portuguese were among the first to put them into practice and development. Mazagaon (1541) was the first experiment, followed soon after by Ceuta (1541-1544) and Diu (1547). It was Francisco Pires – one of those master masons transitioning to engineer, trained in the Moroccan undertakings, more specifically in Ceuta – who oversaw the projects commissioned in 1547 by João de Castro, the latter also playing a decisive role in that process. To him we pass the word, transcribing part of the report, with its quota of exaggeration (published by António Baião in 1923), which that viceroy sent to King João III: “The work they did on the fortress seems more than human, because the captain himself and its residents did not know how to tell me where the bastions are, where the walls run, and the place where the moat lay: such mountains of stone had been moved in all these parts, so that it seemed an impossible and unbearable labour to be able to remove this stone in earth and then raise the fortress in the place where it lay beforehand. Whereby I was forced to do it again from outside the moat; that way it could be done this summer, as it is strongest at this part due to some high knolls where the bastions are set. It would have been a great deal of work if Francisco Pires had not arrived from the kingdom, because none of the officers know anything. And for that reason I propose to keep him this summer and not send him to Mozambique, so that I can do the fortress per the plan from Ceuta. It seems to me that it will cause much surprise for the people of this land, mostly after making a moat outside the new wall, because then Diu will have two moats and two walls, repairing the old walls in such a way that they stand on level ground over the old moat”. Diu indeed followed the Ceuta model and it was thus vital to open in 1550 the new ditch where even today water enters from the sea to the channel. The new defence line was built in front of the first one, with three powerful bastions: Saint Nicholas’s in the middle, with two, Saint Philip’s and Saint Dominic’s (or Mother of God’s) at the ends. In Ceuta there are only two. All this because it was urgent and to repair the previous line it would be necessary to remove rubble resulting from the heavy siege, which was done later. For that reason we have two lines and two parallel moats which offer an explicit account of the extraordinary evolution of military engineering between the archaic and modern phases of the gunpowder era. It is such an unusual situation that it led the careful Gaspar Correia to publish in his Lendas da Índia (finished around 1550) a drawing that merges both lines into one, also showing all the bastions as being round. He had been in Diu previously, but could not have shown what he did not see either there or anywhere else. Also for that reason he does not report it. An image had to be sent to the king, who in 1546 had expressly asked after the main fortresses. What we see there today was obviously subject to a large number of changes over the following centuries, especially in the 1600s, when the bastion system, along with the evolution of artillery, was extensively developed. For this reason Viceroy Miguel de Noronha, fourth Count of Linhares, sent a team of three inspectors to Diu in 1634, charged with drawing up a report on what had to be done to make the fort unconquerable. The report [published by Pedro Dias and which served as basis for António Bocarro’s description of Diu in his work Livro das Plantas de todas... the following year] indeed proposed a number of measures, among them the radical demolition of 137 houses and removal of the knoll situated between the convent and Saint Dominic ́s Bastion, actions sufficiently described in the previous entry which were meant to form level ground before the fortress, which was thus freed of encroaching hills or mounds. It also proposed major work on the existing installations. We can specifically highlight, among others, the repairs to Saint Dominic’s Bastion finished in 1639, which resulted in its imposing current configuration. We do not precisely know the construction dates of the main wall or the Bar Bastion (the large platform at the end of the island), though António Bocarro indicates in his Década XIII that it was designed by António Pinto da Fonseca, purveyor-general of the India fortifications, who passed through in the mid- 1610s, starting the process of planning the level ground, as mentioned in the preceding entry. That 1634 report has it as already destroyed and in need of rapid repair; this was apparently done, because the construction of the two bastions defending it upstream have known dates: Saint Teresa’s overlooking the channel in 1652, and Saint Lucy’s halfway in, over the said wall, in 1650. In the 1630s and 1650s the system’s refinement was at its height, because the potential Mughal threat was also at its height, and the fortress was always the sole and effective means of dissuasion. Work to repair, maintain and improve the fortress never stopped, nor did the reports regarding its ruin, which given the still evident opulence nowadays seem rather exaggerated. Indeed, what did fall into ruins, sometimes completely disappearing, were the civil and religious constructions. The bastions, curtain walls, shield walls and moats remain in place, recalling the most resistant and impressive complex of Portuguese constructions in the Orient.

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