Malacca Porta De Santiago

Malacca Porta De Santiago

The ruined gates of A Famosa are an everlasting reminder of an important chapter in Malacca's turbulent history.

View on map



The year is 1511. Portuguese fleets, led by Alfonso de Albuquerque, have successfully attacked and defeated the armies of the Malacca Sultanate. To protect his newly conquered city, Albuquerque instructs that a fort be built around a hill facing the sea. This fort, now famously known as Porta de Santiago, holds within its walls the entire Portuguese village, a church and a garrison capable of protecting their interests against any possible marauders.

What was once an imposing fortress built by a foreign power is now the main tourist attraction for Malacca. The fort's grandeur was such that it has captured the imagination of many and has come to represent Malacca to the world. This may not have come to pass if not for Sir Stamford Raffle's timely intervention in 1810 when the British ordered the destruction of the fort. Little did he know that the gate house that was spared through his efforts would become an important symbol of Malacca's vibrant history.

Located atop the hill within the fortress is a set of ruins that was once St. Paul's Church. The church, built in 1521 by a Portuguese captain Duarte Coelho, was part of the original fort and was known as 'Our Lady of the Hill'. This church was later handed over to the Jesuits by the Archbishop of Goa in India in 1548, who began with the renovation works 18 years later. When the Dutch took over the church, it was converted into a burial ground for their noble dead and was renamed St. Paul's Church.

The church also served as a temporary resting place for St. Francis Xavier, who was interred here in 1533 before he was taken to his final resting place in Goa. His tomb is now an open grave covered with a wire mesh. In honor of St. Francis' missionary work, a church was built on an old Portuguese site by Reverend Farve in 1849 and was later dedicated to him.

In addition to Porta de Santiago, the Portuguese built another fort atop St. John's Hill. It was once a private Portuguese chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The fort was located in the interior of Malacca to guard against attacks from the hinterlands. Although the fort, which was rebuilt by the Dutch in the late 18th century, is better preserved than Porta de Santiago, it pales in comparison and is considered a minor attraction. In recent years, the Malacca government has included a replica of the Malacca Sultanate Palace at the foot of St. Paul's Hill in an effort to add to the attractions at the fort.