Fort Jesus – It is Mombasa
’s most popular tourist attraction.
Fort Jesus, located along the coastline near the Old Town and the Old
port, is a monumental piece of architecture that was built in 1593 by
the Portuguese. The Portuguese built the fort to protect their trade
route to India and their interests in East Africa.
Designed by an Italian architect, Jao batisto Cairato, the fort was his
last assignment as chief architect for Portuguese possession in the
East, and was the 'crown jewel' of his career. the fort is today hailed
as one of the best examples of 16th century Portuguese military
The Portuguese built Fort Jesus in 1593. The site chosen was a coral
ridge at the entrance to the harbour. The Fort was designed by an
Italian Architect and Engineer, Joao, Batista Cairato.
The earliest known plan of the Fort is in a manuscript Atlas by Manuel
Godinho de Heredia - dated 1610 which shows the original layout of the
buildings inside the Fort.
Fort Jesus was built to secure the safety of Portuguese living on the
East Coast of Africa. It has had a long history of hostilities of the
interested parties that used to live in Mombasa. Perhaps no Fort in
Africa has experienced such turbulence as Fort Jesus.
Oman Arabs attacked the Fort from 1696 to 1698. The state of the Fort
can be understood from the plan of Rezende of 1636 and other plans by
Don Alvaro’ Marquis of Cienfuegas and Jose’ Lopes de Sa- made during the
brief reoccupation by the Portuguese in 1728 - 1729. In the Cienfuegas
plan, the names of the bastions are changed.
Between 1837 - 1895, the Fort was used as a barracks for the soldiers.
When the British protectorate was proclaimed on the 1st of July 1895,
the Fort was converted into a prison. The huts were removed and cells
On the 24th October 1958, Fort Jesus was declared a National Park in the
custody of the Trustees of the Kenya National Parks. Excavation was
carried out and the Fort became a Museum in 1962.
The Fort is now an important historical landmark in the East African