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 Post subject: The star Fort of Matara
 Post Posted: Sun Feb 19, 2006 2:20 am 
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The star Fort of Matara

The Southern town of Matara is famous for two forts, the main Matara Fort and the Star Fort. The better preserved of the two is the smaller Star Fort located on the north bank of the Nilwala River, by the Matara Hospital.

The main fort was initiated by the Portuguese around 1550, but the Dutch who captured Matara from them in 1640, were responsible for the construction of the actual fort. It was built to protect the administrative buildings of VOC (Dutch East India Company). Only the magnificent rampart and gateway of this fort still remains.

However, the Star Fort, located about 350 metres from the main rampart gate, is remarkably well preserved. It was built by the Dutch between 1763 and 1765 under the instructions of Governor Redout Van Eck. It has been named as such due to its unusual and unique star shape.

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The vulnerability of the Matara Fort was noted by the then Governor Rumpf as early as 1717. A revolt launched against the Dutch by the Kandyan army in 1762 saw the locals capturing the fort. It was reclaimed by the Dutch only about a year later. The Star Fort was built to compensate for the weaknesses of the main fort and provided additional security to the former.

The date of construction (1765) is embossed over the decorated main gate built as an arch, along with the VOC emblem and the coat of arms of Governor Van Eck, flanked by two lions.

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The fort had thick walls protected by sand banks, and between the sand banks and the walls was a wide moat, which is now covered with soil. A drawbridge connected the two sides, and the slots that once secured the drawbridge can still be seen. Inside, there's a model replica of the site, and what remains of the original quarters.

There is a ring of low buildings holding ammunition, provisions and a small garrison, and in their midst is a well which provided drinking water. There are also two prisoners' quarters. The fort is believed to have held 12 large cannon.

The Star Fort was a fine example of military architecture; it fulfilled its purpose as an administrative building and was never attacked. It was the last major defensive construction by the VOC in Sri Lanka. Although the fort was neglected afterwards, it was later renovated and since then had been well maintained by successive governments.

The Star Fort walls were originally protected by banks of earth, 8 meters wide, and between these banks and the walls was a moat, which was spanned by a drawbridge to give access to the gate. The earth has since filled up the moat. Within the walls is a ring of low buildings that could hold ammunition, provisions and a small garrison.

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The roof, once thatched with cadjan, has now been redone with tiles. It is now a museum and showcases the history and splendour of Matara in its heyday, with a collection of paintings and frescoes on wooden panels. It is now a protected monument cared for by the Archaeology Department.


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