Fort Belgica, The Heritage and The Historical Evidence in Banda Naira Islands

admin| 5 October 2020

There are several defensive sites that we can find today as the remaining trace of the European hegemony in the nutmeg islands. In addition, some of the old buildings still exist as tangible cultural heritage, and Fort Belgica is one of the heritage and the historical evidence in the Banda Islands.

Pieter Both, a general governor of VOC, built the fortress on September 4th, 1611. They used the fortress to defend themselves from the Bandanese, who fought against the VOC’s monopoly of the nutmeg trade. Thus, in line with its epithet “Mahkota Berpucuk Lima di Atas Kepala Keluarga Nassau dan Pelindung Banda” [“The Five-Pointed Crown on the Head of the Nassau Family and the Protector of Banda”], from the beginning, Fort Belgica was indeed built as the VOC military base, which gained respect in Banda and the surrounding areas. 

Located in Banda Neira, Central Maluku, Fort Belgica was built 30 meters above the sea surface. One can monitor all areas of Neira and its surrounding through the fort. VOC took advantage of the strategic location of Fort Belgica, which was located on the top of Tabeleku Hill, to watch the movements of the ships who smuggled the spices and to spy on the British troop. In the colonial era, Fort Belgica also played a role as the central government of VOC before it was moved to Batavia. 

Fort Belgica stands firmly from an architectural point of view, composed of stone bricks that are neatly arranged, glued, and plastered, using a lime layer. The building has only four corners as far as the eyes can see. However, we can see the full view of the pentagon-shaped fort with its two layers and great tower on each side from above.  

This fort consists of two parts; Building I and Building II. Building I has a thick and strong wall, with 40 meters on the average length on each side and 5,40 meters tall. There are 16×15 meters of 5 bastions on each corner, and a wooden stair connects the entrance to the inner space. There are no chambers in Building I. However, a guard post was built beside the lower bastion.  

Meanwhile, Building II is a pentagonal inner space. There is a 13,8 meters watchtower with stairs on every corner. Soldiers used several chambers to rest or stash ammunition in this building. These chambers have curved ceilings and four rectangular floors. The chambers are connected with doors, heading to an atrium. There are 18 chambers of various sizes in total. The biggest chamber is 8.5 m x 3,5 m, and the smallest one is 6.5 m x 3 m. Fort Belgica used to be able to accommodate up to 400 soldiers, equipped with cannons.

Despite its outdated look, Fort Belgica stands strong, sending out its eternal greatness and magnificent aura. Hundred of years afterward, particularly in 2015, Fort Belgica was officially registered as a tangible cultural heritage that became a part of the world spice trade traces in the past. Today, Fort Belgica is one of the popular tourist destinations in Banda Neira that attracts both local and international tourists. 



Text & Editor: Tiya Septiyawati

Translator: Izaz Ahlanda Putra

Reviewer: Dhiani Probhosiwi

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