Galle

Proceed to Galle – Enclosed by the sea and a white stretch of pristine beaches, Galle is a perfect example of the exquisitely varying beauty and heritage of the island. The fortified city built by Europeans in South-East Asia, showing the interaction between European architectural styles and South Asian traditions. The Galle Fort is a world heritage site and the largest remaining fortress in Asia. Walk clockwise within the fort to observe the ‘old gate’ carrying the British coat of arms.

The beautiful capital of the Southern Province, Galle Boasts of a history stretching back centuries, even before the Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial times. In the old days when Galle was a busy port, foreign traders-Greeks, Arabs, Romans and Chinese stopped by. Galle is marked in Ptolemy’s world map of 125-150 AD and the Arab traveler IBN Batuta made it a port of call in the mid 14th century.

Galle is the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South and Southeast Asia, showing the interaction between European architectural styles and South Asian traditions. The Galle Fort is a world heritage site and the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European invaders. Other prominent landmarks in Galle include the St. Mary’s Cathedral founded by Jesuit.

UNESCO world heritage center – the Galle Fort is the largest existing Dutch colonial fortress in Asia, and is home to varied religious places of worship, government and commercial Buildings. You can spend hours exploring the famous Dutch fort, Colonial type ruins and Museum. Over the last years Galle became very “boutique” with beautiful, perfectly restored colonial houses and estates. Galle is a perfect mix of Sri Lanka’s historical past combined with a busy market town and its colorful markets. Nearby beach resorts like Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna are making Galle an ideal gateway to the activities and attractions of Sri Lanka’s South.

Galle is a perfect mix of Sri Lanka’s historical past combined with a busy market town and its colorful markets. Nearby beach resorts like Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna are making Galle an ideal gateway to the activities and attractions of Sri Lanka’s South.

The Galle Fort is a world heritage site and the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers.

Other prominent land marks in Galle include the natural harbor, the National Maritime Museum, near the old gate – St. Mary’s Cathedral, one of the main Shiva Temples on the island, and Amangalla the historic luxury hotel.

Galle offers a unique opportunity to create a visible demonstration of the conservation of its inheritance. Galle is also an exciting internationally famous visitor destination. Ru Massala in Unawatuna is a large mound like hill which forms the eastern protective barrier to the Galle Harbour.

Galle Fort

It is no exaggeration to call the Galle Fort, one of the best day get-aways from Colombo. Galle Fort, in the Bay of Galle on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, was built first in 1588 by the Portuguese, then extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century from 1649 onwards. It is a historical, archaeological and architectural heritage monument, which even after more than 423 years maintains a polished appearance, due to extensive reconstruction work done by Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka.

The fort has a colourful history, and today has a multi-ethnic and multi-religious population. Interestingly, construction of the Fort was started by the Portuguese who first arrived in Galle in 1505 with Lorenzo de Almeida making contact with King Dharmaparakramabahu and getting his blessings to build a camp. It was an earthen structure with palisades covering the northern land side with rampart and three bastions. They believed that the sea ward side was impregnable and hence did not construct any fortifications on the sea side. The sea wall was an addition made in 1729 to make the city planning for defense purposes complete in all respects. Built ostensibly to ensure the safety of the island, ultimately it became a prison for the local Sinhalese who rebelled against the Portuguese oppression.

The fort has two gates. The two towering gates to the fort are termed “Portcullised gates” and the first gate of entry from the port is inscribed “ANNO MDCL XIX” which has depiction of Dutch Coat of Arms with the ubiquitous emblem of cock and an inset “VOC” inscribed in the centre. (the Dutch East India Company) warehouses.

After a bloody siege in 1640, the Dutch seized Galle Fort they considered the old fortifications built by the Portuguese unsafe as they were made of earth and palisades. Hence, the Dutch decided to fully encircle the entire peninsula by building impregnable fortifications as defense against other colonial agencies in the region. They built some 14 bastions with coral and granite stones over an area of (52 hectares (130 acres). Many of the fortification walls were built in 1663. The city built within the fort was well planned with a grid layout with the peripheral roads aligned parallel to fort’s ramparts.

After the fort came under the control of the British in 1796, it remained their southern headquarters. They made many modifications to the fort such as closing of the moat, building of houses, a lighthouse on the Utrecht Bastion, a gate between the Moon Bastion and the Sun Bastion. A tower was particularly erected in 1883 to commemorate the jubilee of Queen Victoria.

The Second World War saw many more fortifications built to defend the fort. In spite of all the changes made over the years, since it was first built between the 16th and the 19th century, the Galle Fort still remains a unique monument complex said to be “the best example of a fortified city with a fusion of European architecture and South Asian traditions built by Europeans in South and Southeast Asia”.

The narrow streets of Galle Fort lined with villas and old houses with pillared verandahs and arched doorways which still bear Dutch lettering on their facades, while redolent of the past, are equally the setting for a living city with residents going about their day-to-day business and walking the old ramparts at sunset.

Galle’s mixed cultural heritage is plain to see-the sound of church bells mingles with the call to prayer from the mosques and the Pali chants from Buddhist temples heard every evening. The Sri Lankan government and many Dutch people who still own some of the properties inside the fort are looking at making this one of the modern wonders of the world. The heritage value of the fort has been recognized by the UNESCO and the site has been inscribed as a cultural heritage UNESCO World Heritage Site under criteria iv, for its unique exposition of “an urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries.”

The heritage value of the fort has been recognized by the UNESCO and the site has been inscribed as a cultural heritage UNESCO World Heritage Site under criteria iv, for its unique exposition of “an urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries.”

The Galle Fort, also known as the Dutch Fort or the “Ramparts of Galle”, withstood the Boxing Day tsunami which damaged part of coastal area Galle town. It has been since restored. Fort also houses the elite Amangalla resort hotel, located near the Dutch Reformed Church. It was originally built in 1684 to house the Dutch Governor and his staff. It was then converted into a hotel and named then as the New Oriental Hotel in 1856, which catered to the European passengers traveling between Europe and Galle Port in the 19th century.

The fort area is studded with churches, mosques, many old commercial and government buildings. Some of the locals stroll along the walls of the fort in the evenings. In the fort area, many buildings are of Dutch vintage with street names also in Dutch. The sewerage system built in the fort area ensured that the city sewerage was flushed into the sea during the tidal cycle. The Dutch exploited the musk rats in the sewers by exporting them to extract musk oil.

Galle Light House

Arriving on the ramparts, stop by the lighthouse to take a good view. Galle Lighthouse is an offshore Lighthouse in Galle, Sri Lanka
and is operated and maintained by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.

This is Sri Lanka’s oldest light station dating back to 1848, but the original lighthouse was destroyed by fire in 1934. The light station is within the walls of the ancient Galle fort and well known tourist attraction making this the country’s most often visited lighthouse.

The Dutched Reformed Church

Stroll through the quaintly named streets- Pedlar Street, Church Street and you will see the Old Dutch and English churches. Pause to explore the old Dutch Reformed Church (Groote Kerk) with its gabled roofs which was built in 1640 though the present structure dates from 1752 to 1755. This has the tombs of Dutch officials within and carved memorial tablets on the walls which hint at intriguing stories of lives lost and the organ which dates back to 1760 is still in display.

In 1750, a church was built on the highest point in the City of Galle, which stands more than twelve meters above sea level. A Dutch army officer donated money to build this church as a thanksgiving for the birth of his daughter for which he had waited for many years. The church underwent various changes during the British Period.

A stained glass window was built into the west façade of the church around 1830 and a communion rail was built in the south wing. At the beginning of the 20th century, a small organ was placed in the south wing. Around 1890, a canopy was built above the stained glass window to protect it from leaking.

In 2001, a restoration plan for the Dutch Reformed Church was drawn up. The Dutch Government granted subsidy for the restoration of this church. The Sri Lankan authorities, however, needed Dutch expertise for various aspects of the restoration plan. For this, the Dutch Department for Conservation was approached and the Dutch conservation specialist Harry Boerema was sent to work together with the Sri Lankan architects on their plans. This was the beginning of many years of working closely together on the restoration of the Dutch Reformed Church, the Dutch Warehouse, and the Ramparts.

During the restoration, a training program was set up for the restoration of the stained glass window. A Dutch firm was asked to supply the necessary materials and equipment. A training program was organized and a team of three specialists took on the restoration and the training program. Eight Sri Lankan conservation specialists worked closely together with the Dutch firm to restore the window. Each one of them was asked to design a three dimensional leaded glass subject and produce it under the guidance of the Dutch conservator.


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