Saint Angelo Fort stands on a cliff by the side of Mapilah Bay. It is a natural bay at Ayikkara in Kannur and has a history going back more than 500 years. The waves of Arabian Sea break against one side of Saint Angelo Fort. It is also known as Kannur Fort.
History of Saint Angelo Fort
Francisco de Almeida, the first Portuguese Viceroy of India, constructed Kannur Fort in 1505. Almeida won acclaim by establishing Portuguese hegemony in the Indian Ocean with his victory at the naval Battle of Diu in 1509. This was at a time when European maritime powers were locked in battles to control the spice trade with India. Indian spices like pepper, clove, cardamom, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon were sought after in Europe. Maritime trade routes led to tremendous growth in commercial activities to Europe.
The Portuguese were able to block ships to Kozhikode and establish their supremacy in Malabar coast. Later the Kolathiris of Kannur realised their weakness and joined hand with Zamorins to fight the Portuguese. Under the leadership of Kunjali Marakkar of Kozhikode, they jointly fought a battle against the Portuguese. This resulted in the seizure of Saint Angelo Fort from the Portuguese in 1564. In February 1663, the Dutch in turn captured the fort.
Later the Dutch sold the fort to King Ali Raja of Arakkal in 1772. The English conquered the fort in 1790 and used it as their military stronghold till 1947.
The fort is triangular is shape. On the west is Arabian Sea while a dry moat runs along another face of the fort. The main gate is from the land side. Construction of the fort has made extensive use of laterite stones which are widely available in Malabar region. Cannons jut out to sea in the ramparts.
The Portuguese constructed most of the buildings in the Fort like chapel, offices and prison. They created Mapilah Bay to isolate the fort from the mainland.
Inside the Fort
Archaeological Survey of India maintains the fort. They have laid out beautiful lawns and gardens. I noticed a few old casuarina trees in the campus. There are some spots where you can climb up the fort walls and take in the breathtaking view. Mornings and evenings are the best time to visit. Entry is from 8 am to 6 pm. Parking is available.
Location of Saint Angelo Fort
It is 3.60 km from Kannur railway station. Kannur International Airport is a drive of 27 km (1 hr). Arakkal Museum and Government Hospital are near by. Cannanore Cantonment Board extracts an entry fee if you enter the cantonment area. I could not find snack bars in the near vicinity. Indian Coffee House on Fort Road is 1.9 km from the fort.
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