Island of Mozambique
The Island of Mozambique, located in the Indian Ocean and off the west coast of Africa, was a main strategic trading post on the route to India back in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Its two fortresses, the hospital, different churches and religious buildings attest to the importance the island reached in the 16th century.
When the Dutch realised the strategic importance of this territory, they made a number of attempts to occupy it, namely the military sieges of 1607 and 1608, that caused great damage to the region. The Jesuits came to inhabit the island during this period and the export of slaves to Brazil started.
A period of decline followed in the 19th century as a result of changes that affected the slave trade, such as the independence of Brazil in 1822, and abolition of slavery in 1837. Consequently, the island was open to the black population and a natural divide ensued: on one side, there was a stone built town with the remaining testimonies of the Portuguese presence; on the other, the “macúti” town, built by the indigenous population with local building materials and techniques.
Bearing testimony to the Portuguese presence on the Island are the Fortress of Saint Sebastian, The Fort of Saint Lawrence, the Fort of Saint Anthony, the Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Baluarte, the Palace and the Chapel of Saint Paul, the Church of Misericórdia, the Convent of Saint Dominic, the Church of Nossa Senhora da Saúde, and the hospital, among others.
The Fortress of Saint Sebastian, completed in 1583, is an irregular square crowned with four bastions on each angle. Noteworthy among the bastions is that of Saint Gabriel for its original design. A cistern and the former church of Saint Sebastian can be found in the foretress’s square.
The Fort of Saint Lawrence, standing on a small island southwest of the island, is accessible by foot when the tide is low. Its design and structure are practically untouched, which can be explained due to its isolation.
The Fort of Saint Anthony, on the opposite coast, underwent restoration works in the 20th century that ruined the architectural complex.
The Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Baluarte was founded in 1522 and is the only remaining example of Manueline architecture in Mozambique. Built on the spur of the island, it can only be reached through the inside of the Saint Sebastian Fortress. Even though it is small, the chapel has robust walls and a vaulted ceiling, with keystones carrying the cross of Christ and armillary spheres. There are different tomb slabs inside the chapel.
The current Palace and Chapel of Saint Paul are the buildings of the former College and Church of Saint Francis Xavier of the Society of Jesus, built in the first half of the 17th century. The Palace was extended, refurbished and adapted to different uses along the years.
The Church of Misericórdia (Charitable Fund) is one of the island’s most iconic historic monuments. It is a two storey building with a church and a choir, built after the fire caused by the Dutch in 1607.
The first S. Domingos Convent was built in the second half of the 16th century. In 1607, following the Dutch military siege, the building was destroyed, the current structure dating from the 17th century.
The Church of Nossa Senhora da Saúde, founded in the 17th century, went through a number of reconstructions. However, its architectural design and interesting setting make it a relevant element on the island’s urban structure.
The Hospital, built at the end of the 19th century, is an invaluable example of civil architecture on the island.
A Ilha de Moçambique em Perigo de Desaparecimento, Lisboa, FCG, August 1983.
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Lobato, Alexandre, Ilha de Moçambique, Lisboa, Agência Geral do Ultramar, 1967.
Lobato, Alexandre, Ilha de Moçambique: Panorama Histórico, Lisboa, Agência-Geral do Ultramar, 1967.
Lobato, Alexandre, A Ilha de Moçambique, Lourenço Marques, Imprensa Nacional de Moçambique, 1945