Duurstede, fort

On the south coast of the island of Saparua, which was very important to the VOC because of the trade in cloves, on the top of a cliff above Sirisori, stands the monumental Fort Duurstede. It succeeded fort Fort Hollandia dating from 1671 which was located on a less strategic point. The construction of Fort Duurstede started in 1690 and was finished in 1691 under Governor of Ambon, Nicholas Schagen (1691-1696) who considered the fort to be one of the best structures built under his supervision. The move from Fort Hollandia to Fort Duurstede took place in 1692. In the new fort 10 soldiers and one corporal took their residence. When a number of other forts were abandoned the importance of Fort Duurstede as a centre of VOC administration increased, eventually more troops were stationed here.
The most significant historical event however took place here after the time of the VOC. In May 1817 the fort was attacked by the Saparua people under the command of Thomas Matulesia (Pattimura Muda), a Christian Ambonese who had served as sergeant-mayor in the British Army. All the inhabitants of the fort were killed except the young son of the resident, Jan Rudolf van den Berg. The rebellion was eventually broken and Fort Duurstede returned to the Dutch while Thomas Matulesia was taken prisoner. Together with a number of his fellow rebels he was hanged at Fort Victoria mid-December that same year. After Indonesian independence Thomas Matulesia was acknowledged a national hero and he was given the name Pattimura. Fort Duurstede thus has a special place in Indonesian history.

Fort Duurstede stands on a hill along the coast of Saparua village. Because of its relatively high location, it can be observed from the whole bay and surrounding hamlets. It has an elongated diamond-shaped structure. This very uncommon ground plan results from the form of the cliff. In the north and south corners semi-circular bastions are built, provided with embrasures. Old cannons are still found at some of the embrasures. Entrance into the fort is through a small gate in the north east, with 24 steps made of stone. Above the gate stand the VOC monogram an is chiselled the name of the person who ordered the building of the fort and the year of construction. The fort was made of coral stone with a wall of about 3.4 meters high. The south wall directly borders the sea.

Previously there were several buildings inside the fort, such as the commander’s house, houses for the physician and staff, storage for cloves and ammunition, offices, water reservoirs and bathing facilities with sufficiently clean and potable water. At present, however, all those buildings have become ruins and only the foundations can still be seen. There are some ruinous structures inside the fort, these are remnants of buildings that were erected during the initial period of Indonesia’s independence. In 1977-1978 the fort was restored and a reception hall was added on the north east wall. In 1995 the fort was restored and it has since been a popular attraction for tourists.


Sources and literature

anoniem/anonymous, Landmonsterrollen (1691-1790)

Pusat Dokumentasi Arsitektur, Inventory and identification of forts in Indonesia (2010)

Wall, V.I. van de, De Nederlandsche oudheden in de Molukken (1928)

Keppel, Jaap, De Molukken. VOC architectuur Banda Archipel, Ambon & Lease Eilanden, Ternate (2011)

Temminck-Groll, C.L., The Dutch overseas - Architectural survey: Mutual heritage of four centuries in three continents (2003)