Malacca, a state rich in important historical landmarks, was once the centre of a vast empire in the 15th century. Among the well-known landmarks is the A'Famosa Fort, better known as Porta de Santiago, which is located at the foot of St. Paul's Hill. The gate is all that remains of the fort.
According to the notes of Admiral Cheng Ho of China who visited Malacca in 1409, during the reign of the Malaccan Sultanate, there was a fort built. The fort was constructed from sturdy wood as walls and had four exit doors. . It was closely guarded at night. The Sultan built the fort for storing goods and treasures of the Sultanate as well as defence against enemy attacks. The fort was continuously maintained by succeeding rulers.
During the great war with the Portuguese in 1511, the enemies were unable to destroy the fort although the Portuguese did manage to capture Malacca in the end. Realising the importance for a stronger defence in Melaka, the Portuguese general, Alfonso de'Albuquerque, ordered for a fort to be built. Initially, Albuquerque had wanted to use wood and stone, but then decided to build it entirely of stone as the material was easily available at the time. Towards this end, he conscripted his soldiers and 300-400 slaves of the raja to work on its construction. The fort was given the name A'Famosa, which means "The Famous".
The fort was almost square in shape surrounded by stone walls standing 3.6 metres high and 2.4 metres thick. There were four entrances to the fort with the main door leading to a drawbridge crossing the river. According to the notes by Abdullah Munshi in 1805, the A Famosa Fort was truly impressive.
It had eight towers standing 18-24 metres high with 4.5-metre thick walls. The lower level was where the accommodation for the soldiers and war horses were located for warfare. There were also paths between the control points for ease of movement in times of war.
At the same time, around the fort walls were stationed 60 well-armed soldiers. No one was allowed to enter the fort after 6 p.m. At 8 p.m, the drawbridge that stretches across the river would be pulled up. Anyone found wandering in the areas surrounding the fort without a light or torch would be detained by the soldiers on duty. Those who failed to answer the challenge of the guards would be shot.