Conservation of the Ancient Rampart in the Galle Fort

Sri Lanka has a rich cultural heritage in Dutch architecture and their fortresses. One of the many fortresses is the city of Galle. This fortified city is of great historical importance. It is built on a peninsula. The Portuguese started building the fort in the 15th century. They used coral as their building material. The Black Fort is a remaining part of the Portuguese work and still stands today. The Dutch VOC continued the building of the fort in the 17th century and worked on it throughout that century. The Dutch used stone from a local quarry as their building material. The city was laid out in a rectangle street pattern. The strategic importance of Galle is the natural harbour and its protection by the coral reefs. The harbour was a safe place for the VOC ships, which could stay there for many months.

UNESCO has declared the Galle Fort as a World Heritage Site in year 1988. In 2006, a restoration plan was set up for the rampart walls. In various places, these walls were damaged by the tsunami in December 2004. Three ramparts needed major restoration. These were the Star Bastion, the Sailors Bastion, and the Black Fort. Dutch engineers were contracted to make the restoration plans for these ramparts. In 2007 the work began and the work was completed in 2008. The most important objective of the plan was to preserve the historic character of the Fort while enhancing its function as a living city. The Portuguese originally built the rampart walls of the Fort, but they only had one at the landside. Once the Dutch had taken over the Fort, the Dutch started building ramparts on the seaside in order to ensure that attacks from the sea was defected. Defence was the main function of the Galle Fort in the Dutch Period. The rampart wall of Galle Fort consists of fourteen bastions, varied in design and size. The full length is approximately 10400 feet using lime, sand and coral stones. Unfortunately, the rampart has been subjected to various factors of deterioration over time, such as aging and weathering, the beating of heavy waves, the absence of coral reef, the growing of weeds and plants, the lack of maintenance and settlements. Therefore, removal of vegetations and deteriorated mortar and the creation of an artificial barrier are needed for conservation of the rampart.

OBJECTIVES Many of the historical buildings and structures in Galle were in great need of repair. Approximately sixty years ago, a large section of the Star Bastion collapsed. About 15 years ago, a section of the Black Fort, and on top of it, a number of ancient prison cells collapsed and a section of the Sailors Bastion was washed out, due to high seas. The Sailors Bastion is the only one, which is not protected by coral reefs. It is therefore vulnerable for high waves. The ojetvice was to restore this.

RESULTS The Central Cultural Fund (CCF) undertook conservation works and in 2006 80% of the cleaning of weeds and demolishing of the old rubble wall damaged by the tsunami was completed. Architectural documentation and underwater investigation works have been tendered. The following has been completed by the CCF: investigation of effects of tsunami, preparation of detailed condition, conservation of damaged parts, removal of vegetations, removal of deteriorated mortar, cleaning of cavities, landscaping of visitor paths. The damaged three bastions are conserved. This project will be a major component in the tourism programme. The Central Cultural Fund is already planning walking tours for tourists depicting the material remains of the military history from the Portuguese period to World War II. The ramparts are also ear marked for other cultural activity and even sound and light shows.

Organisations

Involved organisations 
Central Cultural Fund of Sri Lanka
Centre for International Heritage Activities
Engineering firm Wassenaar
Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands
Wiertsema & Partners
Department of Archaeology, Sri Lanka
Funding organisations 
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Partner country(ies)  
Sri Lanka