Galle, the capital of southwestern Sri Lanka

Galle Sri Lanka

Galle Fort Sri Lanka

Galle is a major city in Sri Lanka, situated on the southwestern tip of the island, 119 km from Colombo. Galle is the administrative capital of the southern province and is the district capital of the Galle district. James Tennent, the Irish born Colonial Secretary of Ceylon in 1845, said that Galle was the ancient seaport of Tarshish, from which ivory, peacocks and other valuables were shipped to King Solomon who ruled the kingdom of Israel. Cinnamon was exported from Sri Lanka as early as 1400 BC and as the origin of the word itself is Hebrew, Galle may have been a main point of export for the spice.

Galle had been a prominent seaport long before western rule in the country. Traders from Persia, the Middle East, Greece, Rome, Malaysia, India and China were doing business through Galle port and in 1411, a stone tablet inscribed in three languages Chinese, Tamil and Persian, called the Galle Trilingual Inscription, commemorated the second visit to Sri Lanka by the Chinese admiral Zheng He.

The modern history of Galle starts in 1505, when a Portuguese ship, under Lourenço de Almeida was driven there by a storm. However, the people of the city refused to let the Portuguese enter, so the Portuguese took it by force. In 1640, the Portuguese had to surrender to the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch built the present fort in the year 1663. They built a fortified wall, using solid granite, and built three bastions, known as Sun, Moon and Star. After the British took over the country from the Dutch in the year 1796, they preserved the fort, and used it as the administrative centre of the district.

Galle Maritime Museum Sri Lanka

Galle Maritime Museum Sri Lanka

Asian culture within a European fort

Galle provides an outstanding example of an urban setting which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and south Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The most salient feature is the use of European models adapted by local manpower to the geological, climatic, historical, and cultural conditions of Sri Lanka. In the structure of the ramparts, coral is frequently used along with granite. In the ground layout, all the measures of length, width and height conform with the regional standards. The narrow streets, planted with grass and shaded by woven rugs, are lined with houses, each with its own garden. An open veranda supported by columns was another sign of the accumulation of an architecture which is European only in its basic design. Galle is the best example of a fortified city built by the Portuguese in South and Southeast Asia. It is a world heritage site and is the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers.