Mozambique Island (World Heritage)

Mozambique Island (World Heritage)

The island city off the coast was once an Arab and Portuguese trading post on the route between Arabia and India. The cityscape is characterized by colonial architecture with European elements. Examples are the São Paulo Palace, a former Jesuit college from 1610, the São Sebastião fortress and numerous churches.

Mozambique Island: Facts

Official title: Mozambique Island
Cultural monument: former trading post with colonial architecture such as the São Paulo Palace, founded as a Jesuit college in 1610, the Igreja Nossa Senhora de la Muralhas, the São Sebastião fortress, the Igreja da Senhora da Saúde (19th century), foundation of a slave trader, the »baroque- playful «Old Arsenal (16th century), the baroque Igreja de Misericórdia and the Rua dos Arcos
Continent: Africa
Country: Mozambique
Location: Mozambique island, between Madagascar and mainland Africa
Appointment: 1991
Meaning: a former Arab and Portuguese trading post on the route to Arabia and India

Mozambique Island: History

since 500 BC Chr. Trade with Persians, Arabs, Indians and Chinese
1498 Landing of Vasco da Gama (around 1469-1524)
1502 Vasco da Gama landed again and a Portuguese trading post was founded
1507/08 Construction of the São Gabriel Fortress
1522 Construction of the Igreja Nossa Senhora de la Muralhas
1558-1620 Construction of the São Sebastião fortress
1607 unsuccessful attack by the Dutch fleet
1752 direct subordination to the Portuguese crown
1763-1935 Seat of the island governor in the Palace of São Paulo
1869 the island gradually lost its importance due to the opening of the Suez Canal
1907 Relocation of the capital from Mozambique to the mainland
1936 Completion of the interior design of the Igreja de Misericórdia
1947 economic ruin of the island due to the construction of the port of Mapala
1967 Inauguration of the bridge as a permanent link to the mainland

Mighty trading post in the vastness of the Indian Ocean

After days of exhausting travel, the wind-shaken dhow returns to its safe home port. Even from a distance, colorful fishing nets laid out to dry shine out over the sea. The traditional manoeuvrable one-master still ensures part of the supply for the island of Mozambique. More than a millennium ago, similarly constructed sailing ships operated along the East African coast as far as the Arabian Peninsula. Full to the brim with slaves, gold, ivory and precious woods from the African mainland, with spices and fragrances from the islands or with fabrics and metal goods from Arabia, they crossed the Indian Ocean and thus established the prosperity of the islanders.

Five centuries ago the navigator Vasco da Gama moored here while exploring the sea route to India. To secure their transport routes against competing trading partners, the Portuguese now claimed the island and built fortifications in the decades that followed. The São Sebastião fortress with its meter-thick walls continues to testify to the power of the rulers of the world’s oceans at that time.

Thanks to an ingenious, symmetrical basic shape with four fortresses, which exactly close off the northern tip of the island, all enemy ships could be shot at with cannons over a wide area. The chapel Nossa Senhora de Baluarte has also kept the spiritual protective function alive with its unadorned architectural clarity. Only the only reliable drinking water fountain in the courtyard for centuries has lost its importance today.

According to itypeusa, cobblestone paths lead from the fortress to the palace of São Paulo to the south: the two-story colonial building with its attached chapel served as the administrative center of the island and still exudes a majestic calm. A century ago, it was from here that the fate of the entire mainland colony was directed. You can relax under the shady trees of the inner courtyard before entering the museum, which presents an amazing collection of art objects and furniture belonging to the governors. Tables and jewelry from Arabia stand next to secretaries from Goa, porcelain from China and paintings from Europe, evidence of the far-reaching trade contacts of the “colonial island”. From another wing of the palace there is a view of the chapel’s altar through a window.

Behind the palace is the Gnadenkirche with a museum for sacred art. Particularly noteworthy is the portrait of the patron saint of the Indians, St. Francisco Xavier, in front of whom the departing sailors assured themselves of assistance for the dangerous week-long voyage to the Asian colonies.

In the city located in the center of the island, which has lost none of its old flair despite decay and depopulation, Mediterranean patios open up next to town houses in an idiosyncratic »colonial baroque«. In the winding streets, the modern minaret of the Green Mosque offers a fixed point of orientation and contrast to the façades, which are faded in their colors.

From the old town, the western coastal road leads past the coral island of San Lourenço, which is completely occupied by its fort and can be reached on foot via coral banks and sharp rock edges at low tide.

On the way to the modern bridge to the mainland, the straw houses line up, which are still inhabited by the majority of the islanders. The adjoining cemetery with its Christian, Muslim and Hindu graves covers the southernmost point of the island and reflects the cultural diversity even in death.

Mozambique Island (World Heritage)

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