Fortress

Fortress

Sena [São Marçal de], Sofala, Mozambique

Military Architecture

The town probably had its first fortress, made of rammed-hearth and wood, where the hermitage in honour of Saint Marçal and the house of the trading post stood. The stone fort, built at an unclear date, between 1572 and 1590, was described for the first time by friar João dos Santos: “This town includes a stone and lime fort, outfitted with some heavy and small pieces of artillery, sufficient for its defence, where the captain, appointed by the captain of Mozambique, lives. The fort encompasses a Church and trading post”. It was in ruins as early as 1618, but was only rebuilt in 1704, with maintenance in charge of the colonists, each one forced to look after a bastion or a section of the wall. It was square-shape plan, with four bastions, made of adobe of clay and covered with thatch, provided with 14 artillery pieces with calibres of eight, six, four and three, and a garrison com- posed of 50 men. In 1884 it was again in a poor state of preservation. In the report of the first lieutenant of the army, José Maria, then interim governor of the Quelimane district, addressed to the general governor of Mozambique, he stated that the fort was collapsing, the curtain wall that overlooked the river had been demolished and replaced by wattles. In the barracks the rain poured in, and the warehouses were falling apart. On July 1896, the governor of the district of Zambezia, ordered “the immediate repair of the side of the square that was made of aringa”, that is, of palisade. Nonetheless, these works would never materialize. On the occasion of the handing over of the Fortress of Saint Marçal to the Company of Mozambique, on the 7th September 1899 (Boletim da Companhia de Moçambique, no. 148, of 17.10), it was in ruin. The Company was forced to preserve it and to return it back to the State, if necessary, in the same condition it was in when the company received it. But in 1902, the majestic company requested exemption from this obligation, due to its state of ruin and uselessness, as a consequence of the pacification to which the whole region had been subject to. That same year, the superintendent of the Sena government had been forced to dismantle the headstone commemorative of its construction in 1704, keeping it in his superintendency. It was relocated to its orig- inal place by order of the Secretaria de Estado dos Negócios da Marinha e Ultramar (Secretary of State of the Navy and the Overseas Affairs). On the 6th December 1905, the Company, in a letter to the governor general, proposed to restore the doorway of the fortress, (easy to maintain), but rejected the preservation of the ruins of the walls. This proposal was accepted by the governor-general. At present, of the Saint Marçal Fort only the doorway still stands, sup- ported by the 1905 works (with a commemorative marker dated 1906) and with the cement footing which had been used in 1914 to prevent the imminent collapse of the arch, which had a huge crack. Part of the stone of the fortress was used in other constructions. The demolition of the fortress was questioned over the course of time. Architect Areal e Silva carried out studies there in 1945. The historical monument would still be subject to other risks. In 1952, the gateway was planned to be transferred to the Historical Military Museum, organized for Lourenço Marques/ Maputo Fortress, along with the stones of the former Fortress of Sofala. Nonetheless, it remained there as a result of information given by the Direção Provincial de Obras Públicas (Public Works Provincial Department). In 1969, the Portuguese military forces attempted to occupy the monument, which was prevented by the initiative of the Comissão dos Monumentos e Relíquias Históricas de Moçambique (Commission for Monuments and Historical Remains of Mozambique). The fortification had a roughly square-plan plan, with square bastions at the corners. The gateway of the main entrance was a high-quality piece of a characteristic late 17th century design, with a semi-circular arch and curved pediment, distinguished by two wings and flanked by pinnacles, featuring an inscription at the centre which was surmounted by the Portuguese stone shield. Its arrangement is documented in photographs published in the Monumenta magazine no. 5 of 1969 (from p. 45). The Mozambican government showed a desire to safeguard and preserve its ruins in 2008. The entrance gate of the fortress was depicted in a postcard published c. 1920, ed. A. Brook.

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