The Santiago Fortress was built at a time when danger came from the sea and maritime boundaries had to be defended.
Built between 1642 and 1648, when Dom João IV fel the need to reinforce the defense of the Atlantic coast, facing attacks by the Spanish armada.
In this way, the military engineers of the kingdom restructured the fortresses built in the 16th century, increasing their fire capacity, and outlined projects for new defenses, which reinforced the firing line of the existing ones.
In Sesimbra, the monarch appointed the Flemish Jesuit João de Cosmander, a military engineer, to direct the construction of the new fortress that would protect the bay from piracy and Spanish attacks. It was built on the same place of the former Forte da Marinha, a Manueline fortress that was certainly unsuitable for war efforts.
This new fort has a solid structure with an austere aspect, forming a wide artillery terrace, cylindrical guardhouses and angular walls.
The interior space was divided to accommodate the various military dependencies, such as the Governor's residence and the garrison barracks, cisterns, storeroom and a chapel dedicated to the patron.
The northern part of the fortress, facing the town, has a less austere aspect, being decorated by curved windows and wrought iron.
In 1712 Dom João V decided to install in the Fort of Santiago the Military Government of the region, whose command comprised the whole area between Torre do Outão (in Setúbal) to the Albufeira lagoon, including all the fortresses that were implanted there. At this time the fortress served as a summer residence for the "Meninos de Palhavã", the king's infant bastard children.
In 1832 the garrison left the fortress and in 1879 the Fiscal Guard occupied the fort's housing units. In 1886 the space also started to function as customs.
Santiago Fortress opened to the public in July 2014, after a thorough restoration work. Visitors could now understand the unique functions of each space.
In 2016, this fort received the Maritime Museum of Sesimbra, which shows the history of the sea, fishing and the fishing community from the earliest times to the present, a visit that we really suggest.
Explore this beautiful fortress.
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