The Portuguese founded Castle “Sao Jorge da Mina” in 1482 to protect the gold-rich lands discovered in 1471. The castle was completed according to its original plan in 1486 and the town was raised to the status of a city. The castle site was carefully selected by Portuguese navigators, because it was strategically located at the end of a narrow promontory bounded on two sides by the Atlantic Ocean and the Benya river or lagoon.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Portuguese enjoyed a trade boom in spite of numerous attempts by Castilians and later the French and the English to break the Portuguese trade monopoly. The import trade of the Portuguese raised the issue of porter age as the natives needed assistance in conveyance of large quantities of European goods into the hinterland and coastlands. To meet this need, the Portuguese initiated, in the early 16yh century, the importation of slaves from Benin to Elmina in exchange for gold, ivory etc. The price of gold slumped in Europe in the 16th century due to massive importation of gold from Mexico. At the same time, the Portuguese Crown spent vast sums of resources on defensive works, artillery, galleys, warships and convoys to Mina.
This weakened the Portuguese, through Dutch attacks the Portuguese left Elmina in 1637. Until 1872 it became the headquarters of the Dutch possessions in the Gold Coast. It was during the Dutch that Elmina reached the high-water mark of its evolution. The native “city “which sprang up directly to the west of the castle expanded and the population is estimated to have risen from 4.000 in the early 17th century to 10.000 in the late 17th century and 15.000 in the 18th century, partly due to the impact of the gold and especially the slave trade.
From the standpoint of architectural history, the Elmina Castle was renowned as the first major European building constructed in tropical Africa. Around 1774, when the Dutch completed the castle reconstruction and consolidation, the total habitable accommodation within its wall was 3,950 m2, including new buildings in the large riverside yard (500 metre square) which were specially put up for rearing of civet cats whose odorous secretions were twice weekly extracted for the perfume industry so vital “in those times of little washing”. In 1872, Elmina Castle was ceded by the Dutch to Britain. In 1972, it was taken over by the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board and was included by UNESCO on the world heritage list.
You can also visit the Posuban shrines built by the Asafo Company, on the shrines life-sized figures are carved on the ground floor, on one shrine there is ship with three naval officers and one with the story of Adam and Eve or visit the Old Dutch Cemetery in Elmina at the St. Joseph’s Hill.
ELMINA – FORT ST. JAGO
In 1503 the paramount chief permitted the Portuguese to build a church on the hill located opposite the castle St Jorge. The site was dedicated to the Portuguese saint, Jago. In 1637, the Dutch employed the hill as a gun-position to bombard and take Elmina Castle from the Portuguese. The following year, the Dutch, seeking to protect the castle from the landward side, built on St. Jago hill, 33 metres above sea level, a redoubt or fortified quadrilateral earthwork with a tower and gate and a single storied building within a courtyard.
In the 1660’s, the Dutch used local sandstone rock to build a permanent fort to replace the earthen fortification which was destroyed. The stone fort, named Coenraadsburg, is unique and impressive as “the oldest purely military architecture of the Gold Coast”. The fort accommodated a garrison of 69 soldiers who came on rotation duty from the castle. In 1880, eight years after the Dutch transfer of the fort to the British, several modifications and extensions were carried out by the British which facilitated the use of the fort for civilian pursuits. The fort was used in the 19th and 20th centuries as a prison, hospital and rest house.
ELMINA – JAVA MUSEUM
The Elmina-Java Museum is established as a philanthropic project in culturally sustainable tourism. Income derived from the Java Museum will support philanthropic projects in the fields of general education, public health and arts.
The Elmina-Java Museum highlights little known aspects of the African Diaspora. The key exhibits of the museum focus on the history of about 3.080 African soldiers whose controversial recruitment for service in the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army began in 1831. Their recruitment, army careers and family lives are exhibited in displays of photographs, archival records, paintings, uniforms and artefacts from the Netherlands and Indonesia.