Governor’s Palace

Governor’s Palace

Kollan [Coulão/Quilon], Kerala, India


Standing amongst luxuriant vegetation, outstanding being some elegant palm trees, the former Governor’s Palace of Kollam is reduced today to a series of high walls that testify to the enormity of the initial project. Strategically situated overlooking a bay that spreads out in front of it, the palace controlled the maritime traffic that left and entered the port, thus affirming itself as the symbolic element of the Portuguese presence in the region. The building was described by Gaspar Correia in Lendas da Índia in the first half of the 16th century. It had two high towers with hip roofs on either side of the main body. Although it was smaller, the typology and the shape of the palace had clear affinities with the viceroy’s Fortress Palace in Goa. Through the drawings made by Pedro Barreto Resende and Manuel Godinho de Erédia, we can see that the palace maintained its castle-like appearance almost a century later. It seems to have acquired another floor and the towers have battlements, giving the building more palatial appearance. Although the Dutch significantly reduced the urban perimeter when they conquered the city, the maintained the palace and used it as their general staff headquarters. As the palace had lost its strategic importance by the time the British took the city they abandoned it and left it to decay. The present-day ruins are the remains of a tower that was adjoined to the walls and a stretch of the walls with a frieze and cone-topped battlements is still visible. The fact that these walls, which suffer much erosion during the monsoons, have survived is undoubtedly due to the highly resistant mortar made by the Portuguese with a base of oyster shell. It was resistant to water and, as Gaspar Correia mentions, when it hardened not even a pickaxe could break it.

Helder Carita