Saint Michael Fortress

Saint Michael Fortress

Luanda [São Paulo de Luanda], Luanda, Angola

Military Architecture

This was the first fortification to be erected in Luanda in the 16th century during the government of Paulo Dias de Novais. It was initially made out of rammed earth and adobe and replaced in 1638 by clay, rammed earth and adobe. At that period it was in the shape of a four-pointed star made according to the most up-to-date Italian methods of the time, mainly those of master Benedetto da Ravenna. Following eight years of Dutch occupation it was rebuilt in stone masonry in 1669, making part of successive governors obligatory works. Finally, under the government of Francisco de Sousa Coutinho (1764-1772), the works were completed. The construction of a towering battery, bomb-proof warehouses and a cistern, known as the Cova da Onça, built in the baroque military style based on ambiguity, plurality and eccentricity date from that period. The walls were consolidated in stone and lime at different times being finally ended in the 20th century. This concluded the Saint Michael Fortress, the greatest military engineering work in Angola. From an urban point of view, the fortress was always a structuring element of the city’s space. In the early days, it marked out the border of the settlement which extended to the southwest towards the beach. Later on, around 1648, when the Corimba bar silted up, the city started to develop northwards to the other side of the hill, the fortress thus preserving its structuring role. It was classified as a National Monument by provincial directive no. 2837 published in the Boletim Oficial no. 48, on the 2nd December 1938. It now houses the Armed Forces Museum.

Isabel Martins