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Historical St John's Fort

Part of Malacca's rich, diverse heritage
from a different era

Story and pictures by A. Hafiz Yatim


Long climb - a view of steps leading to the St John's fortSt John's fort, which is located two kilometres from St Paul's hill in Bandar Hilir, is yet another important remnant of Malacca's rich history and diverse colonial heritage. Although the small fort may not be well known as the A'Famosa which was built by the: Portuguese, its abandoned ruins provide another interesting part in history, brought by one of the colonising powers of Malacca, which also built the red buildings known as the Stadthuys.

St John's fort is located atop St John's hill or now known as Bukit Senjuang. To get there, one has to take the road leading to Lorong Senjuang to go up the hill. Before it was known as Bukit Senjuang or St John's hill, it was called Bukit Pipi.

Facing the mainland -- the three Dutch cannons seen here are pointing inland instead of towards the seaThe fort was built by the Dutch in 1760 after they took control of Malacca from the Portuguese. However, on a quick tour of the fort, visitors will immediately notice that most of the seven cannons placed there are facing the mainland that is to the south rather than the sea. The Dutch built the fort to protect itself from attacks from the local population who could not forgive them for colonising Malacca. However, before it became a fort, a small Portuguese chapel was built at its present site.

This soon changed in 1628 when opposing Acehnese forces from Sumatera occupied the hill and used it as a base to attack the Portuguese who were fortified at the A'Famosa. Later, the Dutch applied a similar strategy like the Acehnese to use the hill to attack the Portuguese. When the Portuguese were defeated, the Dutch built the fort after more than 100 years.

Besides its rich greenery where a small forested area is still left untouched, one can savour the beautiful and scenic view after they ascend the hill by driving up in a car or jogging up to the fort. From the fort one can have an unobstructed view of the changing skyline of Malacca and appreciate the progress the State has gone through.

At the top and looking out to the west, visitors will immediately notice the artificial island reclamation project — the RM2 billion Pulau Melaka project — which was previously the small island of Pulau Jawa.

Today, the National Museums Department is taking care of this important historical remnant; and in the early morning or late in the afternoon, one will find many joggers running up and down the hill as it is one of the more popular jogging spots. Thus, besides it being used as a historical attraction for tourists, locals also used the hill to keep themselves in trim and view the new skyline of Malacca.

Reprinted from the New Straits Times,
Saturday August 19, 2000

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