The Portuguese fortification of Mazagan, now part of the city of El Jadida, 90-km southwest of Casablanca, was built as a fortified colony on the Atlantic coast in the early 16th century. It was taken over by the Moroccans in 1769. The fortification with its bastions and ramparts is an early example of Renaissance military design. The surviving Portuguese buildings include the cistern and the Church of the Assumption, built in the Manueline style of late Gothic architecture. The Portuguese City of Mazagan - one of the early settlements of the Portuguese explorers in West Africa on the route to India - is an outstanding example of the interchange of influences between European and Moroccan cultures, well reflected in architecture, technology, and town planning.
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Outstanding Universal Value
The Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida), one of the first settlements created in Africa by Portuguese explorers on the route to India, bears outstanding witness to the exchange of influences between European and Moroccan cultures from the 16th to the 18th centuries, which are evident in the architecture, technology and town planning. Mazagan was built as a fortified colony on the Atlantic coast at the beginning of the 16th century. Located 90 km south of Casablanca, it dominates a natural bay of great beauty. The brothers Francisco and Diogo de Arruda built the first citadel in 1514. In 1541- 1548, in accordance with the plans of the Italian architect Benedetto da Ravenna, Joao Ribeiro and Juan Castillo enlarged the citadel transforming it into a star-shaped fortification.
The Mazagan fortress with its ditch and inclined ramparts is one of the first testimonies in the Lusitanian period of the application by Portuguese technology of new architectural concepts of Renaissance adapted to the advent of the firearm. Complete and unique witness in Morocco to the advent of this new style, Mazagan is better preserved than other Portuguese fortifications in Morocco; most of the other Portuguese trading posts in the world having suffered many changes.
Following the departure of the Portuguese in 1769 and the resulting abandon of the city, the fortress was rehabilitated in the middle of the 19th century and named El Jadida (The New), and became a commercial centre and a multicultural society, embracing Muslims, Jews and Christians.
The shape and the layout of the fortress have been well preserved and represent an outstanding example of this category of construction. The historic fabric inside the fortress reflects the different changes and influences over the centuries. The existent monuments of the Portuguese period are: the ramparts and their bastions, the cistern, an outstanding example of this type of structure, and the Catholic Church of the Assumption, of late Gothic style, the Manoeline style at the beginning of the 16th century.
Criterion (ii): The Portuguese City of Mazagan is an outstanding example of the exchange of influences between the European and Moroccan cultures from the 16th to 18th centuries, and one of the very first settlements of Portuguese explorers in West Africa on the route to India. These influences are clearly reflected in the architecture, technology and urban planning of the city.
Criterion (iv): The fortified Portuguese city of Mazagan is an outstanding example and one of the first, representing the new design concepts of the Renaissance period integrated with Portuguese construction techniques. Among the most remarkable constructions of the Portuguese period are the cistern and the Church of the Assumption, built in the Manoeline style at the beginning of the 16th century.
The boundaries of the buffer zone and the protection zone of the Portuguese City of Mazagan as described in the documents submitted to the World Heritage Committee provide all the necessary elements for its integrity. The Portuguese fortifications of Mazagan, built in two phases (1510-1514 and 1541-1548), are impressive by their monumentality and their styles. They have conserved their original structure and architectural harmony to this day. The emblematic monuments (ramparts, bastions, cistern, and churches) are well preserved.
The outline of the city dominating the views above the port area is an essential characteristic that needs to be conserved. The urban zone surrounding the old city of Mazagan must be closely monitored in order to check any change or new construction.
Always inhabited, the city presents all the conditions of authenticity that have justified its inscription on the World Heritage List. Many monuments have been rehabilitated giving them a new compatible function in the spirit of the integrated safeguarding programme carried out by the Ministry of Culture, the Province and the Urban Agency. The population of the city is fully involved and concerned with the conservation and presentation of this important Morocco-Portuguese historical place, aware that this heritage belongs to all humanity.
Protection and management requirements (2009)
The protection measures essentially concern the different laws for the listing of historic monuments and sites, in particular Law 22-80 (1981) for the conservation of Moroccan heritage. The area of the ancient ditch of the fortifications, today filled in, has been declared a 50m-wide non aedificandi zone. Since its inscription in 2004, the Specifications for architectural regulations were adopted to strengthen legislation already in force. The city has enjoyed a regular programme of restoration work. Development work began in October 2008 for the presentation of the port and to improve the visibility of the fortress, free the east side of the fortifications and uncover the ditches. The Morocco-Lusitanian Heritage Centre for Study and Research (CERPML), the principal institution responsible for the management of the property, has already begun the development of a management plan and the establishment of a management committee in coordination with its partners.
Maintenance of the visual integrity as regards the urban zone of El Jadida and the harmonious relation between the Portuguese city and the modern town that surrounds it are a constant concern that requires control of the height of constructions both inside and outside the buffer zone.
The Portuguese city of Mazagan, one of the early settlements of the Portuguese explorers in West Africa, on the route to India, illustrates the interchange of influences (well reflected in architecture, technology and town planning) between European and Moroccan cultures. It illustrates the realization of the Renaissance ideals integrated with Portuguese construction technology.
Mazagan is situated on the Atlantic coast, about 90 km south-west of Casablanca, and faces a natural bay of great beauty. The modern part of the city of El Jadida has developed around the landward side of the Mazagan fortress. Today the city is of great economic and tourist interest, situated as it is in a region rich in production, and also rich in heritage related to the Portuguese period.
The Portuguese first settled the site of Mazagan in 1502, after it had been a Portuguese protectorate since 1486. The only construction on the site was a tower called el-Brija. They decided in 1514 to build a citadel, designed by Francisco and Diogo de Arruda, who also worked on other fortifications in Moroccan medinas. In 1541, after the loss of Agadir, the citadel was enlarged into a fortification. The design was entrusted to a team of engineer-architects - the Portuguese João Ribeiro, the Spaniard Juan Castillo and the Italian Benedetto da Ravenna. Mazagan underwent rapid urban development, including the construction of religious ensembles, responding to the requirements of this period of religious confrontation. By the end of the century, there were four churches and several chapels within the fortification.
The design of the Fortress of Mazagan is a response to the development of modern artillery in the Renaissance. At the present time the fortification has four bastions: the Angel Bastion in the east, St Sebastian in the north, St Antoine in the west, and the Holy Ghost Bastion in the south. The fifth, the Governor's Bastion at the main entrance, is in ruins, having been destroyed by the Portuguese in 1769. The fort had three gates: the Sea Gate, forming a small port with the north-east rampart; the Bull Gate in the north-west rampart; and the main entrance with a double arch in the centre of the south rampart, originally connected to land via a drawbridge. During the French Protectorate the ditch was filled with earth and a new entrance gate opened leading to the main street, the Rua da Carreira and the Sea Gate. Along this street are the best-preserved historic buildings, including the Catholic Church of the Assumption and the cistern.
Two Portuguese religious ensembles are still preserved in the citadel. Our Lady of the Assumption is a parish church built in the 16th century; it has a rectangular plan, a single nave, a choir, a sacristy and a square bell tower. The second structure is the chapel of St Sebastian sited in the bastion of the same name.
The 19th-century mosque in front of the Church of the Assumption delimits the urban square, the Praça Terreiro, which opens towards the entrance of the city. The minaret is an adaptation of the old Torre de Rebate, originally part of the cistern, showing historical continuity. The design of the cistern building, also part of the ensemble, is attributed to João Castilho. It consists of an almost square plan, with three halls on the north, east and south sides, and four round towers: Torre da Cadea (of the prison) in the west, Torre de Rebate in the north, the Tower of the Storks in the east, and the ancient Arab tower of El-Brija in the south. There is also a partly underground central hall constructed with stone pillars and brick vaults in the Manueline manner. The waters are conducted to the cistern through a system of channels from the citadel. The terrace of the ensemble held the Residence of the Captain, a small hospital, and the small Church of the Misericordia, of which only the ruins of the bell tower remain. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
The Portuguese first settled the site of Mazagan in 1502, after it had been a Portuguese protectorate since 1486. The name Mazagan, which occurs in Arabic and foreign documents from the 11th century, was pronounced Mazagao in Portuguese. The only construction on the site was a tower called el-Brija. After some years in temporary shelters, the Portuguese decided in 1514 to build a citadel, designed by the brothers Francisco and Diogo de Arruda, who also worked on other fortifications in Moroccan medinas. In 1541, after the loss of Agadir, the Portuguese decided to enlarge the citadel into a fortification. The design was entrusted to a team of engineer-architects, consisting of the Portuguese Joao Ribeiro, the Spaniard Juan Castillo, and the Italian Benedetto da Ravenna. From 1541 to 1548 the governor of the fortress was Louis de Loureiro, already in Ceuta in Brazil and Mogador in Timor. In this period, Mazagan underwent rapid urban development, including the construction of religious ensembles, responding to the requirements of this period of religious confrontation. By the end of the century, there were four churches and several chapels within the fortification.
After more than two and half centuries of occupation the Lusitanian period of Mazagan, the last Portuguese stronghold in Morocco, ended in 1769. Following the peace treaty with Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben ‘Abdallah (1757-90), the Portuguese were obliged to depart from the Seagate without taking any of their belongings. They mined the main entrance, which exploded when the Moroccans forced it, causing many victims. As a result of these explosions, the Governor's Bastion and a large part of the main rampart were destroyed. The city remained uninhabited for nearly half a century and was called al- Mahdouma (The Ruined). In the mid-19th century, Sultan Moulay ‘Abderrahman ordered the Pasha of the region to rebuild the lost parts of the fortification (in a style differing somewhat from the rest), to build a mosque, and to rehabilitate this former Portuguese city. The name Mazagan was now banned, and the city was called al- Jadida (The New, The Novel).
The mosque of El Jadida became a sign of purification, but this did not mean destruction of all the testimonies and places of cult of the previous period. Muslims, Jews, Moroccans, and other nationalities cohabited in the ramparts; the Portuguese church remained in front of the mosque, although it was no longer used for cult purposes, and synagogues were erected elsewhere in the city. The religious and racial plurality was intensified with the arrival of new European merchants, missionaries, and ambassadors in the second half of the 19th century in this town, known then by the French as Le Deauville marocain, referring to a renowned bathing resort in France
Source: Advisory Body Evaluation