Fort Fredrick at Trincomalee – ත්‍රිකුණාමලය බලකොටුව

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Entrance to the Fort Fredrick at Trincomalee
Entrance to the Fort Fredrick at Trincomalee
Photo by Juan Martin Maccione

Trincomalee which is a natural deep-water harbour that has attracted sea farers like Marco Polo , Ptolemy and Sea Traders from China and East Asia since ancient times. Trinco, as it is commonly called, has been a sea port since the days of the ancient Sri Lankan Kings. The earliest known reference to the port of Gokanna is found in the Mahavamsa stating that in 5th century BC, when King Vijaya who having failed to convince his brother to come to Sri Lanka as his successor, got down his youngest son Panduvasdeva, who landed at Gokanna and was subsequently enthroned at Upatissagama.

The fort of Trincomalee was built by the former captain-general of Ceylon Constantino de Sa in the year 1622. The fort was triangular in shape and was was built from the debris of an ancient Hindu temple that was destroyed by the Portuguese. The Portuguese named the fort “Fort of Triquillimale“.  

The objective for which this fort was built at this place and for which it was maintained is to prevent European enemies from putting up a fort on this side of the island and then contact the king of Kandy and from having communications with him through Kottiyarama (now Somapura Seruvila area).

The Santa Cruz bastion which is on the southern side where the sea touches it and its waves dash against it. It was the key for the defence of the bay and it was situated on the south side of the isthmus to directed contact with the waters of the bay, on this bastion were mounted 6 pieces of artillery.  It is bigger than the other two and can be equipped even with 13 pieces artillery. The bastion of Santo Antonio is on the northern side and has five pieces of artillery. The third bastion is on the side of the hill and is smaller than the other two to which it serves as a platform for three pieces of artillery. They were taken from a wrecked Danish ship which was wrecked at Kottiyarama (now Somapura Seruvila area).

This fort was captured by a Dutch fleet under Admiral Westerwold in 1639. Not until 1665 was a new fort built here by the Dutch defend against the advancements of the British and the French.

In 1672, the year when the Dutch Republic was attacked by France, Britain, and two German states, the French captured Trincomalee and later they occupied Batticaloa. In 1672, Baldaeus states that the Dutch had relinquished this fort and re-built this fort several times mainly due the war with Britain. However soon the French were forced to leave. Trincomalee was important for its large all-season secure harbor.

In late 18th century Trincomalee traded hands once more with the French capturing it again and later handing back to the VOC at the Peace of Paris in 1784. In 1795 it was taken over by the British, and remained a British garrison till 1948. Coastal artillery guns were added during the two World Wars. Today it remains garrisoned by a detachment of the Sri Lanka Army accessible to visitors.

Fort Fredrick is open to the public and one of the main attractions of Trincomalee, the Koneswaram Temple lies inside this fort.

A map of Trincomalee Fort drawn by the portuguese <br> source : Plantas das fortalezas, pagodes & ca. da ilha de Ceilão published in 1650
A map of Trincomalee Fort drawn by the portuguese
source : Plantas das fortalezas, pagodes & ca. da ilha de Ceilão published in 1650
Antique print of the Trincomalee Fort, Sri Lanka by Baldaeus, printed in 1672 for the Dutch first edition of Baldaeus' work 'A true and exact description of the most celebrated East-India coasts of Malabar and Coromandel and also of the Isle of Ceylon' published in Amsterdam, 1672 by Janssonius van Waasberge en van Someren
Antique print of the Trincomalee Fort, Sri Lanka by Baldaeus, printed in 1672 for the Dutch first edition of Baldaeus’ work ‘A true and exact description of the most celebrated East-India coasts of Malabar and Coromandel and also of the Isle of Ceylon’ published in Amsterdam, 1672 by Janssonius van Waasberge en van Someren
A plan of the Dutch Fort of Trincomalee, Sri Lanka drawn in 1693 - From the National Archives of Netherlands
A plan of the Dutch Fort of Trincomalee, Sri Lanka drawn in the 17th century – From the National Archives of Netherlands

References

  • Abeyasinghe, T. B. H. , 1995, Description of Ceylon in the in the Book of the Plans of all the Fortresses Cities and towns of the State of Oriental India by ATNONIO BOCARRO Dedicated to the Most Serene Royal Majesty Philip IV of the Spains and III of Portugal our Lord the King February 17, 1635. . Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka , new series. 1995. Vol. 39
  • Baldaeus, P., 1672. ‘A true and exact description of the most celebrated East-India coasts of Malabar and Coromandel and also of the Isle of Ceylon. 1st ed. Amsterdam: Janssonius van Waasberge en van Someren.
  • En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Fort Fredrick – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Fredrick> [Accessed 8 May 2021].

Also See

Map of  Fort Fredrick at Trincomalee

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Driving Directions to Trincomalee (Fort Fredrick)

Route from Colombo to Trincomalee Route from Kandy to Trincomalee
Though : Ambepussa – Kurunegala – Dambulla
distance : 266 km
Travel time : 6-7 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Though : Katugasthota – Matale – Dambulla
distance : 185 km
Travel time : 3.5-4 hours
Driving directions : see on google map

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