The Portuguese built '' Ft. St. Angelo'', Kannur Kerala - Why was the fort built here?

Ft. St. Angelo, Kannur (Cannanore),,Kerala.
Ft. Angelo, Kannur, Kerala. Inside view of the army

A carrack, Almeida's voyage to the east.

Portuguese Viceroy in India, Don Francesco de Almeida,

Above image: Dom Francisco de Almeida (c. 1450 – 1 March 1510), a Portuguese nobleman, soldier and explorer,  also served as a counsellor to King John II of Portugal and later in the wars against the Moors and in the conquest of Granada in 1492. In 1505,  his appointment as  the first governor and viceroy of the Portuguese State of India (Estado da Índia) brought him to the western part of India. Francisco de Almeida left Portugal with a fleet of 22 vessels and  1,500 men.  Credited with having  established  Portuguese hegemony in the Indian Ocean and their dominance in spice trade off the coastal Malabar, his victory at the naval Battle of Diu in 1509 was yet another feather on his crown. In 1509, Almeida became the first Portuguese to arrive by ship in Bombay. On the way back to Portugal  from India,   Almeida  lost his life in a conflict with the natives at the Cape of Good Hope in 1510. His only son Lourenço de Almeida was previously killed in the Battle of Chaul. ...........................................

St. Angelo  Fort constructed  by the first Portuguese Viceroy in India, Don Francesco de Almeida (1505),  is a historical, massive triangular shaped  structure made of  hard, compacted laterite stones. About that time  Portuguese,   after their first   landing on the Kappad beach near Kozhikode (coastal Malabar) by Vasco de Gama with his armada in 1498, they were on an expansion mode. The Portugal king wanted the Portuguese to dominate the Spice Trade, etc.,   in that part of SW India. The Arabs who had a good understanding with the local Hindu ruler, had been in the forefront of the  export of spices to the  Middle East and other places. Portuguese in order to monopolize the spice trade, chose a vantage site near Kannur, Kerala  and built the fort to safeguard their settlement. St. Angelo  fort facing the Arabian sea is flanked by gigantic bastions  for better protection against the invading enemies.   The cannons positioned  atop the fort were meant to fire at the sea if the enemy approached the fort from the sea- side. These cannons, it is said,  had a range of close to one kilometer. Occasionally, it is said, the Portuguese would fire the cannons  after tying local  criminals and others  to the mouth of the artillery - a bizarre punishment . The British gave the same punishments to the Indian soldiers in the later period in 1857- 1958  during the first  Sepoy rebellion against the atrocities of the East India company. These  incidents took place in the north Indian states.  A little is known about the fact that the Kannur (also known as Cannanore) Cantonment is one of the 62 cantonments in the country developed by the European powers..

moat, St. Angelo Fort, Kannur, Kerala

At the time when the fort was built the  sea waves during high tides used to touch  the base of the fort and subsequently, the coast line receded  far back.   From the front part of the fort, the soldiers could  notice any suspicious ships and and take precautions easily. There is a huge thick wall separating the saline sea water of the Arabian Sea from the inland water. 

old cannon, Fort Angelo, Kannur,

Fort Angelo, Kannur,

The historical events keep changing as  the way  colorful patterns appear in a kaleidoscope when given a good shake. In 1507 the local Indian ruler Zamorin and Kolathiri made a futile attack on the fort. Alfonso de Albuquerque who superseded Almeda as the Governor General, was arrested by the latter in this fort; however, his arrest did not last till October 1509.  The ownership of this important fort then  changed hands, the Dutch who had business interest in the East Indies, took over the Fort  and in 1772 the local ruler   King Ali Raja of Arakkal  bought it from the Dutch  and eventually the British, who had been competing  with other powers like the French seized the fort in 1790,  reshaped the structure   and fortified it, thus making it a  military stronghold in the  Malabar area  and they hung on to this fort till India's independence in 1947. The Mopilla Bay is a natural harbor and the fort offers a panoramic  view of it along with a sea wall projecting from the fort separating the rough sea and inland water.  The near-by Dharamadam Island, barely 5 acres in area, is 100 m from the mainland and a favorite haunt of  visitors and now, it has become a modern fishing harbor. People come to the fort in large number for relaxation and  enjoy the beautiful  view of the  vast sheet of the Arabian Sea. This historic site, a protected monument is under the l Archaeology Survey of India.

Location of Kannur (Cannanore), Kerala.

Above image: Arrival route of 7th Armada (D. Francisco de Almeida) on the Malabar Coast of India, 1505...............................................

Located about 4 km from Kannur city, St. Angelo fort  is an important tourist spot  and  new visitors to this place will never fail to visit this  fort that saw the rise and fall of many European powers, their fortunes  and their atrocities on the natives. These European powers never failed to show off their military prowess  as well as their trading  and maritime  skill.  This is the reason why this fort is historically an important one and  its architecture shows a composite  blend of  Portuguese, Dutch and  t British styles. ( colonial architecture) right from the early 16th century.  The Portuguese architectural elements are well preserved.  The fort gates are well-planned. and the  sharp rust-proof iron spikes on the main gate are meant to prevent the slamming of the gate by the war elephants. The local guide expressed the view that the elephants could break open the gate if they could take a few steps backward and hit back the gate with momentum if their  front legs are covered with wood or some other stuff to avoid getting hurt. The advantage of the walls close to the gate is it would restrict the movement of elephants near the gate.  There is a pathway behind the fort  stretching a kilometer or two into the sea. It is mentioned that  there is a secret tunnel  to be used by the troops  in case of heavy fighting and imminent danger to their lives. It is a sort of escape route and the  secret underground tunnel (21 km long) inside the fort  connects Kannur Fort to the Thalassery Fort which is 21 km from the Ft. St.Angelo Fort. Still one can see obsolete cannons,  magazine and  an old  oil lamp light house that once functioned  inside the Fort and it is the first lighthouse in Kannur.   

Old light tower, Ft. St. Angelo, Kannur, Kerala.

Ft  St Angelo, Kannur, Kerala

Fort St.  Angelo, Kannur, Kerala

Prisons and barracks, Ft  St. Angelo, Kannur, Kerala

Cannon facing the sea. Ft. St. Angelo, Kannur,

The fort has many jails for the criminals and underground jail for hard-core criminals and those who protested against the Portuguese rule. There is a man-hole through which one could see the underground cell. It is pitch dark inside. The prisoners  in the underground jail/ more or less dungeons had to manage  sea water seeping from  the walls during  high tides. It was so dark it would be tough to grope over a short distance.  ''Kuthiralaaym'' was a horse stable and in addition, it also served as ammunition store house. capable of storing 30000 bullet packs. The fort once had an hospital, the first one in this part of Kerala.