Belgica, fort (Banda)

Upon completion of fort Nassau at Banda Neira, it turned out that the new fort was vulnerable to attack from the neighbouring hill. In 1611, therefore, Pieter Both ordered construction of a small fort – to be named Belgica – on these heights. A few years later an additional redoubt, named Neira, was constructed further on up the hill. In 1657, Georg Everhard Rumphius, better known for his botanical interests, was sent to Banda to design a new fort on top of the hill. His design was not realized, likely because of the high costs. Around 1660 these two fortifications were replaced by a new redoubt with the name Belgica II at the initiative of governor Van Dam. This redoubt was constructed with the use of recycled material from the two earlier fortifications and quickly dilapidated.

At the initiative of Cornelis Speelman, Redoubt Belgica II was replaced from 1667 onwards by a new, much larger fort, the third construction to be named Belgica. Levelling the hill-top took until 1669, after which the fort was completed in 1672-1673.

Engineer Adriaan de Leeuw, who had earlier designed new fortifications for Galle and Colombo, was responsible for the design of the new fort. He designed a two-tier concentric pentagonal fort. The outer ring consisted of a low wall with five angle-bastions, while the inner ring consists of higher walls and five round corner-towers. The walls of the inner ring house vaulted bomb-free storage and quarters for the garrison, and the new fort would be connected to fort Nassau through a tunnel.

Although the fort had been expensive, costing a little over three hundred thousand guilders to build, and though there were persistent issues with leakage in three of the five corner towers, the fort proved satisfactory. It was soundly constructed and did not suffer damage from earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, unlike other forts in the region. Belgica surrendered to the British without firing a shot in 1796 and again in 1810, having been handed back to the Dutch in 1803. In 1904 the towers were reduced in height as the assistant-resident was afraid that the high towers would attract enemy attention in case of an invasion. A local civic society was able to restore the tower sin 1935 after locals had won a lottery. The fort was comprehensively restored in 1991 and is now a tourist destination.


Sources and literature

anoniem/anonymous, Landmonsterrollen (1691-1790)

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

Wall, V.I. van de, Het kasteel Belgica te Banda-Neira

Knaap, Gerrit, De Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie : tussen oorlog en diplomatie (2002)

Pusat Dokumentasi Arsitektur, Forts in Indonesia (2010)

Valentijn, François, Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indiën (1724-1726)