Bastioned Perimeter

Bastioned Perimeter

Daman [Damão/Damaun], Guzerate, India

Military Architecture

As explained in the previous entry, the relationship between Daman’s urbanism and the fortified perimeter is quite narrow though conceptual, and cannot formally be considered perfect. The city’s layout is otherwise regular, while that of the fortified perimeter is not, and no pre-existing condition, not even the topography, justifies this. Regarding the structure itself and in a context such as this work, there is little to say that is not obvious in the reading of a map or photographs. For example, it is relevant to note how, contrary to what happens in all other counterpart fortresses in the Estado da Índia, the gates are straight and not bottlenecked, a modern innovation implying the construction of a defence works over their course. Also interesting is the fact that the bastions are of very diverse types and ages/conceptions; the ones on the land sides are also clearly stronger. The ten bastions are spread over nearly 2 km of perimeter, which immediately brings to mind that in the famous report by António Bocarro and Pedro Barreto Resende, from about 1635, eleven were represented, which led some copies to maintain that difference. In one of them (by António Mariz Carneiro – 1639) the mistake is undone: one of the east side bastions bears written indication that it does not exist – indeed, the only one without a designation. But it may not have been a mistake by Pedro Barreto Resende. The wall’s construction was a very lengthy process, and some of the other drawings, especially by Manuel Godinho de Erédia (1610), show ten bastions, but have superimposed alternative designs, which seems to indicate that the planning process also took time, i.e., it was not decided on once and then followed. This is absolutely natural and justifiable, not only due to the major technical evolution of the art of fortification, but also due to changes in the project’s technical management. It must nevertheless be noted that another bastion would never have fitted in the space in question. During its founding process the city was certainly surrounded by wooden stockades on earthworks, a sort of entrenchment, with construction of the walled perimeter starting later. It has been supposed, though nothing attests to this, that the decision to build the wall was immediate. Much to the contrary, in his Década 8.a da Ásia, Diogo do Couto makes it quite clear that in 1565 only the palisade existed, which he so describes: “then the walls were no more than some thick earthworks with thick teak poles driven into them and held together by celandine-weeds, making for a good barricade that could withstand artillery and not be cut through by hatchets, because any drop of their sap that hit the eyes was blinding”. Vasai in 1554 and Chaul the following decade saw work on similar structures begin upon the first attacks and sieges, such as the one affecting Chaul in late 1570. The Mughal empire had annexed the sultanate of Gujarat in 1576, only Ahmadnagar to the west (conquered in 1636) and the Portuguese possessions remained. In Vasai, for example, Gaspar Correia’s mid-1500s drawing also shows the city with just a dense palisade/ entrenchment with the original fort in the centre. We do know that during the Mughal army’s siege of Daman in 1581 the city was still open on many sides; the bravery of those besieged in withstanding the attack was much celebrated, though not so much any passive defences, which were not much more than what was offered by the natural conditions. According to an inscription on the site, the bastion of Saint Sebastian and the Land Gate were built at this time, along with the wooden bastions of Saint Dominic and Saint Martin and four curtain walls. This is the first known report concerning construction of the current fortified perimeter, and they may well have been the first parts to be built. Various steps were taken to speed the work’s progress, though there were also frequent complaints about how long it was taking. When Bocarro and Resende made their report the work was still unfinished; no reference was made to the ditch, certainly dug some time later. The above-mentioned effort to systematically fortify the main Portuguese urban centres in India undertaken in the 1570s , though anticipated in Vasai (1554), certainly implied the presence of skilled technical personnel. This is the most direct justification for creation of the position of chief engineer of the Estado da Índia, awarded to João Baptista Cairato, an Italian military engineer in the service of Filipe II. He held the post from 1583 to 1596, meaning it is practically impossible that he did not have a hand in the Daman process, though the work must have been ongoing when he entered the scene. This was a common situation, which otherwise led to changes in the project’s plan and course, not due to personal idiosyncrasies, but because there were various schools and constant technical evolution. Cairato would thus have corrected what he found finished; he surely spent a great deal of time reworking the overall plan. But as Pedro Dias has indicated with some documentary support, it was António Pinto da Fonseca, first provisioner of the Estado da Índia’s fortresses (1611), who accompanied the project during the most active period, i.e., the early decades of the 17th century, which certainly and in turn led him to introduce major changes, especially when we take into account, for example, the evidence of wavering over the number and form of the bastions, as mentioned above. But we cannot forget that that this Flanders-trained officer often worked with another well-known architect and military engineer, Júlio Simão, although there is no other sign of the latter’s participation in the Daman process. Over almost the entire perimeter the curtain wall and bastions were bathed by water, a situation which changed due to natural silting, landfill construction and the drying of the moat in the wake of major health problems. The two gates were made monumental, with the Sea Gate being the most impressive and the Land Gate more defensively sturdy. Both maintain almost unblemished the original iconographic system; also evident is the crossfire system defending them from the flanking bastions.

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