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Fort Jesus, Mombasa

Fort Jesus, Mombasa

The Fort, built by the Portuguese in 1593-1596 to the designs of Giovanni Battista Cairati to protect the port of Mombasa, is one of the most outstanding and well preserved examples of 16th Portuguese military fortification and a landmark in the history of this type of construction. The Fort's layout and form reflected the Renaissance ideal that perfect proportions and geometric harmony are to be found in the human body. The property covers an area of 2.36 hectares and includes the fort's moat and immediate surroundings.

Fort Jésus, Mombasa

Le Fort, édifié par les Portugais en 1593-1596 selon les plans de Giovanni Battista Cairati pour protéger le port de Mombasa, est l'un des exemples les plus remarquables et les mieux préservés de fortification militaire portugaise du XVIe siècle et une référence dans l'histoire de ce type de construction. Le schéma et la structure du Fort reflètent l'idéal de la Renaissance selon lequel la perfection des proportions et l'harmonie géométrique doivent s'inspirer du corps humain. Le bien s'étend sur 2,36 hectares et comprend les douves du Fort et la zone immédiatement avoisinante.

حصن يسوع، مومباسا

قلعة بناها البرتغاليون بين العامين 1593و1596 وفق تصاميم وضعها جيوفاني باتيستا كايراتي لحماية ميناء مومباسا. وهي أحد أكثر النماذج البارزة التي حفظت جيدًا التحصينات العسكرية البرتغالية منذ القرن السادس عشر، ومعلم في تاريخ هذا النوع من البناء. ويعكس تخطيط الحصن وشكله عصر النهضة المثالي من حيث كمال الأبعاد والتناغم الهندسي اللذان يمكن إيجادهما في جسم الإنسان. ويقع هذا الحصن على مساحة 2.36 هكتار ويضم خندق القلعة ومحيطها المباشر.

source: UNESCO/ERI


在1593-1596年间由葡萄牙人修建而成。用于保护蒙巴萨港口城堡由乔瓦尼·巴蒂斯塔·凯拉迪(Giovanni Battista Cairati) 设计,是16世纪葡萄牙军事要塞建筑中最出色的作品之一,代表着此类建筑物历史上的一个里程碑,受到了良好的保护。城堡的设计布局与形式体现了文艺复兴的理想,即采用同样可以在人体比例中找到的那种完美和谐的比例与几何构图。这一遗产占地2.36公顷,包括护城河以及周围的附属部分。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Форт Иисус, Момбаса

Укрепление было построено португальцами по проекту Джованни Баттиста Кайрати в 1593 -1596 г.г. для защиты порта Момбаса. Оно является одним из самых интересных и хорошо сохранившихся образцов португальского военно-фортификационного искусства 16-го века, ставшего вехой в истории этого вида строительства. Его расположение и форма отражают идеал эпохи Возрождения, находящий совершенство пропорций и геометрической гармонии в строении человеческого тела. Площадь памятника составляет 2,36 га, включая защитный ров и ближайшее окружение.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Fuerte Jesús, Mombasa

El Fuerte Jesús, construido por los portugueses entre 1593 y 1596 según los planos de Giovanni Battista Cairati para proteger el puerto de Mombasa, es uno de los ejemplos más sobresalientes y mejor preservados de fortificación militar portuguesa y un hito en la historia de este tipo de construcciones. El diseño y la forma del Fuerte reflejan el ideal renacentista según el cual las proporciones perfectas y la armonía geométrica se encuentran en el cuerpo humano. El sitio cubre una superficie de 2,36 hectáreas e incluye el foso del puerto y sus inmediatos alrededores.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Fort Jesus, Mombasa

Fort Jesus in Mombasa werd van 1593 tot 1596 door de Portugezen gebouwd naar het ontwerp van Giovanni Battista Cairati om de haven van Mombasa te beschermen. Het fort is een van de meest opvallende en goed bewaarde voorbeelden van een 16e-eeuwse Portugese militaire vesting. Het vormt een mijlpaal in de geschiedenis van dit type constructie. Het ontwerp en de vorm van het fort weerspiegelen het Renaissance-ideaal dat de perfecte verhoudingen en geometrische harmonie te vinden zijn in de verhoudingen van het menselijk lichaam. Het gebied beslaat een oppervlakte van 2,36 hectare. Hieronder vallen ook de slotgracht en omgeving.

Source: unesco.nl

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Fort Jesus, Mombasa © Lucia Iglesias
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Built by the Portuguese at the end of the 16th century at the southern edge of the town of Mombasa, over a spur of coral rock, and kept under their control for one century, Fort Jesus, Mombasa, bears testimony to the first successful attempt by Western civilization to rule the Indian ocean trade routes, which, until then had remained under Eastern influence. The design of the fort, with its proportions, its imposing walls and five bastions, reflects the military architectural theory of the Renaissance. Fort Jesus, Mombasa, bears physical witness, in its structures and subsequent transformations, also to the interchange of cultural values and influences between and among peoples of African, Arab, Turkish, Persian and European origin that fought to gain and maintain their control over this strategic port.

Criterion (ii): Built in a period and in a region, which were at the centre of the emerging political, commercial, and cultural globalisation, Fort Jesus, with its imposing structure, and the various traces of subsequent modifications, bears significant witness to the interchange of cultural values among peoples of African, Arab, Turkish, Persian and European origin. Built and occupied first by the Portuguese, Fort Jesus, Mombasa, changed hands many times throughout its history, coming under Arab, Swahili and English control. Its important role in the control of trade also saw it host many of the peoples of the Indian Ocean basin.

Criterion (iv): Fort Jesus, Mombasa, eminently exemplifies a new type of fortification that resulted from the innovations in military and weapons technology that occurred between the 15th and 16th centuries. In its layout and form, the Fort reflects the Renaissance ideal whose architectural proportions and geometric harmony are to be found in the proportions of the human body, while at the same time meeting the functional needs of a modern and well-defended fortification. The original layout of the Fort, despite several changes, has survived almost unchanged over centuries of continued occupations and reoccupations.


The boundaries of the property have been delineated to include the underwater archaeological remains in the expanse of sea in front of Fort Jesus as well as the moat area adjacent to Mombasa Old Town. Minor changes inside the Fort bear witness to its history and do not threaten its integrity. The property is in good conditions and there is no urban or development encroachment in its immediate vicinity. Mombasa Old Town, which is integral to Fort Jesus’ historic context, acts as the buffer zone of the Fort.


In regard to authenticity, Fort Jesus, Mombasa, hasretained its form, design and materials, with coral stone and lime mortar still being used in the traditional way, where necessary, for repair and conservation work. It has also retained its authenticity of setting, located on an otherwise unbuilt property along the coast of Mombasa Island adjacent to the Mombasa Old Town with which it shares a common history.  

Protection and management requirements

The legal protection system for the property is adequate: Fort Jesus, Mombasa, was originally designated a National Park in 1958, the protected area included the Fort itself and a 100-meter strip around it; today it falls under the National Museums and Heritage Act, 2006. The buffer zone has been formally declared a Conservation Area, however, a discrepancy between the size of the designated Conservation Area and the size of the Buffer Zone has not been amended yet.

A satisfactory management plan has been put in place for the property with the National Museums of Kenya acting as the key stakeholder in its conservation and safeguarding. 

Long-term conservation and management issues include the protection of the Fort from urban encroachment and inappropriate design in the areas adjacent to the Fort and in the surrounding Mombasa Old Town, which require the reinforcement of dedicated management structures and staff, control of erosion of the rocks along the sea coast, and the ongoing maintenance and conservation of the Fort itself.