Fort Jesus Museum Kenya

Fort Jesus Museum Kenya : Fort Jesus is located on the Mombasa Island, designed by the Italian Giovanni Battista Cairati, it was built between 1593 to 1596 by the order of King Phillip 11 of the Castille, who also resigned as a King Phillip 1 of Portugal and the Algarves, to guard the Old Port of Mombasa. Fort Jesus was the only fort maintained by the Portuguese on the Swahili coast, and is recognized as a testament to the first successful attempt by a Western power to establish influence over the Indian Ocean trade. Fort Jesus was built to protect the town from outside invaders. Today it has grown to become one of the best   visited Kenya safari areas in Mombasa.

Fort Jesus is located 490 kilometers (304.5) from Nairobi on Mombasa Island and is positioned to guard and protect the Old Port of Mombasa from invasion. After completion the fort quickly became a vital asset when desiring to control Mombasa Island and the surrounding trade routes and was won and lost 9 times during various battles for the control of Kenya between 1631 and 1875 before finally resting with the British. It is said that no other fort in Africa experienced as much turbulence as Fort Jesus due to its vitally strategic positioning.

It is called fort Jesus because Vasco da Gama was the first European to reach India by the sea through the southern cape of Africa. After the Turkish raids of the 1585 and 1588 that the Portuguese decided to build a fort at Mombasa harbor. The fort was dedicated and named ‘’Fortaleza de Jesus Mombasa’’ by Mateus de Mendes de Vasconcelos.

Fort Jesus Museum Kenya
Fort Jesus Museum Kenya

The fort stood over a spur of the coral, and it tells the story of how the Portuguese at one time ruled the trade routes of the Indian Ocean. Its location ensures that they could see any ship as it approached. It also tells the story of how many slaves perished from the torture, hunger, and disease as they waited to be transported. During the East African Slave Trade era, slaves would travel to Arabia and the Persian Gulf through the port of Mombasa, many becoming laborers, guards, soldiers, or the concubines.

During the 16th century, there were nascent cultural, commercial and the political forces. The Portuguese built the fort by the designs of Joao Batista Cairato, who drew his inspiration from the Pietro Cataneo, an Italian architect. However despite the design being of the Renaissance period, with its five bastions, the building material and the llaboue came from the Swahili people, who were the indigenous inhabitants of Mombasa. The fort takes the shape of aman when viewed from the above.

After the Portuguese inhabited it, the fort was the subject of the battle. Between 1631 and 1895, it was captured and recaptured, changing hands nine times, with the Omani Arabs winning control over it in the 1698. In 1895, the British transformed it into a prison, and held slaves in the torture rooms and the cells in the inner part of the fort. There were also cannons to protect the interior from the invasions and dissatisfied locals. After recapturing it, the Portuguese refurbished it and has since been refurbished a number of times, its structures revealing Portuguese, Arab, and the British influences.

The outstanding value of the Fort Jesus.

Criterion 11.

The Fort Jesus was built in a period and in a region, which were at the center of the emerging political, commercial, and cultural globalization, Fort Jesus, with its imposing structure, and the various traces of the subsequent modifications, bears significant witness to the interchange of the cultural values among of African, Arab, Turkish, Persain, and the European origin. Built and occupied first by the Portuguese, Fort Jesus, Mombasa, changed hands many times throughout its history, coming under Arab, Swahili and English control. Its important role in the control of trade also saw it host many of the peoples of the Indian Ocean basin.

Criterion IV.

Fort Jesus, Mombasa, eminently exemplifies a new type of fortification that resulted from the innovations in military and weapons technology that occurred between the 15th and 16th centuries. In its layout and form, the Fort Jesus reflects the Renaissance ideal whose architectural proportions and geometric harmony are to be found in the proportions of the human body, while at the same time meeting the functional needs of a modern and well-defended fortification. The original layout of the Fort, despite several changes, has survived almost unchanged over centuries of the continued occupations and reoccupations.

Fort Jesus Museum Kenya
Fort Jesus Museum Kenya


Fort Jesus boundaries have been delineated to include the underwater archaeological remains in the expanse of sea in front of Fort Jesus as well as the most area adjacent to Mombasa of Town. Minor changes inside the Fort bear witness to its history and do not threaten its integrity. The property is in good conditions and there is no urban or development encroachment in its immediate vicinity. Mombasa Old Town, which is integral to Fort Jesus’ historic context, acts as the buffer zone of the fort Jesus.


In regard to authenticity, Fort Jesus, has retains its form, design and materials, with the coral stone and lime mortar still being used in the traditional way, where necessary, for repair and conservation work. It has also retained its authenticity of setting, located on an otherwise unbuilt property along the coast of Mombasa island adjacent to the Mombasa Old Town with which it shares a common history.

Protection and management requirements.

The legal protection system for the property is adjacent: Fort Jesus, Mombasa was originally designated a national park in 1958, the protected area included the Fort itself and a 100 meter strip around it; today if falls under the National Museums and Heritage Act, 2006, visitors during their safari to Fort Jesus  explore the island and view some of the historical structures that are still in existence including the Oman House where the sultan who gave the East African coast stayed, an open water cistern which was used by the Portuguese to harvest water can be seen, artefacts, pottery, ceramics, the buffer zone has been formally declared as a  conservation Area, however a discrepancy between the size of the designated Conservation Area and the size of the Buffer Zone has not been amended yet. Satisfactory management plan has been put in place for the property with the National Museums of Kenya stakeholders in its conservation and safe guarding.

Long-term conservation and management issues include the protection of the Fort from Urban encroachment and inappropriate design in the areas adjacent to the Fort and in the surrounding Mombasa Old Town, which requires the reinforcement of the dedicated management structures and staff, control of erosion of the rocks along the sea coast, and the ongoing maintenance conservation of the fort itself.

Fort Jesus Museum Kenya
Fort Jesus Museum Kenya

Entrance fee for Fort Jesus Museum.

Fort Jesus Entry Fee is 1200 Ksh for non- resident Adults, then 600 Ksh for a non-resident child, Ksh 400 for East African Adults, 200 Ksh for the East African Child, 200 ksh for Kenya Citizen adults and 100Ksh for Kenya Citizen Child.

Fort Jesus is famous because it was the only fort maintained by the Portuguese on the Swahili coast, and it recognized as a testament to the first successful attempt by a Western power to establish influence over the Indian Ocean trade. Fort Jesus Museum is a symbolic of the history of the town of Mombasa and one of the most visited tourist attraction site, on a safari in Kenya, it is one of the best-preserves evidence of the outstanding military fortification during the 16th century.

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