Fortaleza de São Miguel

"D Stadt Loandas Pauli" (Cidade de São Paulo de Loanda), Angola. Desenhoa aguarelado, Johannes Vingboons (1616-1670), 1665. Acervo: Nationaal Archief, Netherland, in:
"D Stadt Loandas Pauli" (Cidade de São Paulo de Loanda), Angola. Desenhoa aguarelado, Johannes Vingboons (1616-1670), 1665. Acervo: Nationaal Archief, Netherland, in:

The “Fortaleza de São Miguel” is located on the Fortaleza hill (formerly São Paulo hill), close to the bridge on the island of Luanda, in the commune and municipality of Ingombota, city and province of Luanda, in Angola.
In addition to being an "ex libris" in the Angolan capital, it stands out for being the only African fortification where artillery pieces were cast.


The first reference to a fortification in the Luanda region is a Royal Provision dated April 12, 1574, rewarding those who built "hum castello" there. The first governor and captain-general of Angola, Paulo Dias de Novais (1575-1589) left Lisbon (23 October) in command of a fleet of two galleons, two caravels, two patachos and a sandeel, carrying around 700 people including 350 men-at-arms. They disembarked on the island of Luanda (February 11, 1575), initiating a defensive structure in cleaning and apiloada land. (SANTOS, 1967: 105-107) The island was described as follows in the 16th century:
"After the Coanza River lies the port of Loanda, which is 10 degrees wide, formed, as has been said, by an island called Loanda, which means, in that language, flat land, without hills and low, that it is little it rises over the Ocean, and is made of sand and seeps from the sea and the Coanza River, its courses being found, and the matter falling down there: it will be 20 miles long and, at most, a mile long, and , in some places, only a bow shot, and a wonderful thing is that in that sand, digging two or three feet in the background, you find fresh water, the best of those regions; and it has a strange effect; Low ocean, that water becomes a little salty, however, as soon as it rises at all, it is very sweet: something that on the island of Cádiz, in Spain, according to Strabo's testimony, this was the case. " (LOPEZ, Duarte; PIGAFETTA, Filippo. "Relationship between the Kingdom of Congo and the surrounding lands". Rome, 1591)
Aware of the activity of French corsairs on that coast, and of having information about a plan like that at the time for the conquest of Luanda - a current document refers to “damage and theft at the port of Pinda” (at the time more important than that of Luanda), recognizing that the island was not the most appropriate place for the settlement, Novais advanced to the mainland, founding the village of São Paulo da Assumpção de Loanda (January 25, 1576), taking advantage of the excellent defense conditions of the São Paulo hill. , at the top of the hill, he started “a castle with 15 square fathoms, 30 spans in height and five in thickness.” This defense was described by Father Garcia Simões, chronicler of the expedition: “(...) we are already in a place that in the beginning offered many to be more comfortable for our village. The Governor has made a rammed earth fort and settled artillery and it is in a hill that enters with a great point by the sea, in which we are to be a good place ” .
In the context of the Philippine Dynasty (1580-1640), a memorial stated that Luanda did not have a fortress or fortification (July 9, 1616). The risk continued to come from the seas, now in the form of Dutch privateers. To resist them, the Governor and Captain-General of the Captaincy-General of the Kingdom of Angola, Bishop Simão de Mascarenhas (1623-1624) determined the reinforcement of the old walls.
After the Dutch assault on Luanda at the end of 1624, Philip IV of Spain (1621-1640) on August 22, 1625 had a commission set up to study the fortification of the city (SANTOS, 1967: 15). This commission produced a report that proposed the construction of a series of fortifications, in order of importance (December 28, 1626). The city was elevated to the category of administrative capital of the region of Angola in 1627. The Report of the trade unionist António Bezerra Fajardo, dated February 29, 1629, requested that a fort be built on the São Paulo hill. The new fortification, still in cleaning and apiloada land ("tabique e adobe") was started in 1634, with a plan in square shape, with bastions at the vertices, under the invocation of São Paulo. The works were developed under the management of Governor and Captain-General Francisco de Vasconcelos da Cunha (1635-1639) and underwent renovation works in 1636 or 1638. In 1639 a military engineer was sent to study the fortification of Luanda.
The fort and the city fell without resistance at the hands of the Dutch Company of the West Indies (WIC) from August 24, 1641 to August 15, 1648, when it was called "Fort Aardenburgh". The Governor and his forces withdrew to Massangano Fort, inland.

The reconquest
The fort and the city were recovered for the Portuguese Crown by an armed expedition in the Captaincy of Rio de Janeiro, in the State of Brazil, by Salvador Correia de Sá and Benevides, which had 15 ships and about 1400 to 1500 men, among Portuguese , Brazilian and Angolan refugees. The squadron approached Luanda on August 12, 1648, having found the city defended by a garrison of only 250 Dutchmen, distributed between Forte do Morro and Forte da Guia, since the bulk of the troops, under the commanded by Symon Pieterszoon, he was in Massangano, fighting with the help of the Jagas, the local Portuguese forces.
In the rehearsals in Luanda, although 150 men on the Portuguese side perished, against only 3 dead and 8 wounded on the Dutch side, the first succeeded in destroying the Dutch artillery, essential for sustaining the defense. In view of this, the Dutch administrator Cornelis Hendrikszoon Ouman called for peace. Under the terms of the surrender, it was agreed that Dutch forces would abandon Luanda and its outposts on the Cuanza River and Benguela, but would transport the slaves that were owned by WIC with them. Upon returning from Massangano, Pieterszoon accepted the terms of the surrender, but not before distributing a profusion of weapons among the Jagas, so that they could continue to offer resistance to the Portuguese.
Following the victory, Correia de Sá e Benevides took over the government of Angola, renaming Forte do Morro as Forte de São Miguel, the saint of his particular devotion. ("The Portuguese World", vol. VIII, 1941, p. 283.). The city of São Paulo de Loanda was renamed São Paulo de Nossa Senhora da Assunção, allegedly for "Loanda" reminiscent of "Holanda" (being therefore frowned upon), and because the city was conquered on the day of the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady (August 15). Soon after, the ships raised irons towards Brazil with 7,000 slaves crowded in their holds.
In 1650 Governor Correia de Sá e Benevides presented the new fortification plans of Luanda to the Overseas Council, under the responsibility of the French engineer Pedro Pelique, who had brought him from Rio de Janeiro (SANTOS, 1967: 22). A second bastion was then erected in the Fort of São Miguel, still in cleaning and mud.

The current strong
Under the management of the Governor and Captain-General of Angola Francisco de Távora (1669-1676), the fort was rebuilt in masonry (1672), with a bastion and two curtains completed (1675). A second bastion was completed in 1685. The works were said to have been completed in 1689 under Governor D. João de Lencastre (1688—1691). ("Essays on the statistics of Portuguese possessions in West and East Africa; in West Asia; in China, and in Oceania". Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional, 1844. p. 141. In: Link)
Under the government of César Meneses (1697-1701) in 1700, the Casa da Pólvora was built inside the fort (SANTOS, 1967: 27).
The Office of 10 January 1726 to the sovereign found that the fortress was ruined and useless. A new Office, on February 27, 1728, reported that the fortresses in Luanda were already repaired.
The work on the fortress continued with the construction of a second bastion (1733-1737), "(...) a section of curtains and exterior works" (1738-1748), and "a low square" (1753-1758) ).
Under the reign of José I of Portugal (1750-1777), a codex was drawn up with the plans of all the fortresses in Luanda, designed by Sergeant Major Magalhães and Bragança (1755). (SANTOS, 1967: 105-107) Between 1760 and 1770 the warehouses of "Casa da Pólvora" were transferred and the building was adapted to prison. The works were concluded only under the government of D. Francisco de Sousa Coutinho (1764-1772), with the construction of a cistern known as "Cova da Onça" (1766 - 1772) with a capacity for 1325 water pipes, of the so-called " Knight's Battery "(1768), and bomb-proof warehouses. A plan of the fortress was sent to the sovereign on November 25, 1768.
Around 1770, the so-called "bataria-Baixa" was adapted for the casting of artillery pieces, the first of which was already in 1771.
Under the reign of Maria I of Portugal (1777-1816), the esplanade was earthworks (c. 1795). In December 1799 a fortification plan was sent to Lisbon.
From the 19th century to the present day
An Office of February 2, 1817 to João VI of Portugal (1816-1826) then in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, stated that the fortification cistern had dried up, a fact that until then there was no memory. In the context of the implantation of the Portuguese constitution of 1822, during that year, during a military mutiny, the soldiers of the Line Regiment went to the fortification to free their commander. The following year (1823) there was the rebellion of the Expeditionary Battalion, which, having received the news that João VI of Portugal (1816-1826) had returned to the Kingdom. The Governor and Captain-General Cristóvão Avelino Dias (1823-1824), negotiated with the mutineers the suspension of the siege to the Fort of São Miguel, where the local authorities had taken refuge, having the troops effectively returned, but there is news that they were punished by the uprising in Luanda.In 1834, the constitutional movement of "Atochada" was registered in Luanda. Shortly thereafter, a group of soldiers invaded the fortress and murdered their commander (30 August 1836). The lightning strike on the Bulwark of the Knight damaged his vault (March 1843)
The Ordinance of 15 September 1876 established the Depot of Degredados de Angola, on the premises of the fortress. However, the institution only started operating in 1881, after carrying out some adaptation works for this purpose, such as the construction of a two-story building.
With the implantation of the Estado Novo Português (1933-1974), in the 1930s the Degredados Deposit and the unguarded fortress were extinguished.
The Angola Museum, created by Decree No. 6 of 1938, was installed there, and the necessary adaptation works were carried out, such as the placement of tile panels in Portuguese style from the 17th century inside the pillbox with scenes from the history of Angola and examples of native fauna and flora. In the same year, Ordinance No. 2,837 of September 8, by the then Minister of the Colonies Francisco José Vieira Machado, classified the fortress as a National Monument, which was ratified by the Provincial Decree published in Official Bulletin No. 48 of 2 of December.
The period was also marked by the visit of the President of the Republic, general Óscar Carmona (1933-1951) according to the tombstone (July 30, 1939), to which is added another, alluding to the celebrations of the Restoration of Angola (August 25, 1939). 1948).
With the outbreak of the Portuguese Colonial War (1961-1974), in 1961 the museum's collection was completely removed and the fortress returned to assume military functions, hosting the Command of the Portuguese Military Forces and installing the Advanced Combat Detachment of the Battalion of Tancos Parachutist Hunters. Until 1964, there remained the 1st Company of Parachute Hunters in Battalion of Parachute Hunters No. 21. The municipality's homage to the Armed Forces was marked by the unveiling of a tombstone (May 2, 1964). It was here in the fortress that the last ceremony of the lowering of the Portuguese flag took place in Angola, before the three branches of the Portuguese Armed Forces (November 10, 1975).
After Independence, between 1975 and 1978 the fortress functioned as General Staff of the Popular Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA). From July 31, 1978, it started to host the Central Museum of the Armed Forces.
Considered as one of the main built heritage sites in the capital and the country, it has undergone conservation interventions abroad (1995). In 1996 it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

From 2001 to around 2005, the fortification returned to partial military use, being integrated in the defense system of the sensitive points area of ​​the Angolan capital.
In the transit of the fortress a set of tombstones recalls its museological journey since its inauguration in 1978:
And, finally, the reopening of the museum:
On that same date, the "Flag-Monument" of Angola was inaugurated, dedicated "to the heroes of the Fatherland and to all those who contributed to national independence, peace and progress in Angola".
State-owned, it is assigned to the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Culture.


Exemplary of military architecture, 17th century and 18th century, combining the bastioned and tenacious traces, of isolated urban setting, in a privileged position on the old mount of São Paulo.
It presents an irregular polygonal plan, composed in the main front by two half bastions arranged to the south, with a high battery to the rider, and in the rest by five tenques, uneven and arranged irregularly, in some areas joined by rectilinear or reentrant curtains, with the escarpment in embankment, plastered and painted in ocher, topped off by cord and parapet of merlons and gunboats, inside covered by adarve, accessed by ramps. Cylindrical guardhouses are placed on the flanked angles, on a corbel developed under the cord, and with a domed cover based on a cornice, in a torus, and torn by small quadrangular shooting cracks.
The main front turns to the south, tearing at the center of the curtain, between the bulwarks, the fortified door, in a perfect round arch, with a raised key, on pilasters, framed by stonework, topped by cornice and overlaid by backrest rectangular stonework, up to the cord, where the arms of Portugal and gravestone appear. The door was covered on the outside by a small, little forward sign. Retreated, the rider battery appears, roughly with the same layout as the bastioned front, with sloped vestments and topped on a parapet of merlons and gunboats, to the south, where there is a coat of arms with the arms of Portugal, and smooth on the other fronts. The three tenacious fronts are surrounded by a low battery, defined by the crown of the hill, for the title of the barbet. On the north curtain there is a coat of arms with the arms of Portugal on the outside, flanked by military panoply and under a canopy opening at the scene.
Inside, the fortified door has traffic covered by a false barrel vault, laterally with straight lintel doors, ending, facing the square, in a perfect arc over pilasters, topped by a national coat of arms. This north-facing face is torn, on each side of the traffic, by low-arch, framed spans, the barred windows, developing on the faces of the tops, ramps to access the bastions and the battery. Inside the workmanship, the rooms are mated, with ceramic floors, covered in false vaults of cradles and walls with panels of blue and white tiles, forming ashlar. The interior escarpment is surrounded by adarve, protected with flower beds, with access by ramps; under the east front adarve, there are pillboxes accessed by straight spans. Almost to the center of the square, stands a quadrangular building, with a central courtyard, and a roof with a hollow roof and flat over the courtyard. It has one-storey facades, with split stonework corners, crowned by pinnacles, and torn by framed archway spans. At the northern end, two parallel rectangular bodies, with articulated volumes and roofs on gabled roofs, rise. The fortress also has other buildings, namely the old chapel, under the invocation of São Miguel, and the magazine under the northwestern repair, accessed by stairs and domed.



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