Portuguese Malacca

Portuguese Malacca

Infobox Former Country
native_name =Fortaleza de Malaca
Kota Melaka
conventional_long_name = Portuguese Fort of Malacca
common_name = Malacca
continent = Asia
region = Southeast Asia
country = Malaysia
era = Imperialism
year_start = 1511
year_end = 1641
date_start = 15 August
date_end = 14 January
event_start = Fall of Malacca Sultanate
event_end = Fall of Portuguese Malacca
p1 = Sultanate of Malacca
flag_p1 =
s1 = Dutch Malacca
flag_s1 = Flag of the Dutch East India Company.svg


image_map_caption = Portuguese Malacca
national_motto =
national_anthem =
capital = Malacca Town
common_languages = Portuguese, Malay
government_type =
title_leader = King
leader1 = Manuel I
year_leader1 = 1511-1521
leader2 = John IV
year_leader2 = 1640-1641
title_representative = Captains-major
representative1 = Rui de Brito Patalim (first)
year_representative1 = 1512-1514
representative2 = Manuel de Sousa Coutinho (last)
year_representative2 = 1638-1641
title_deputy = Captains-general
deputy1 = António Pinto da Fonseca (first)
year_deputy1 = 1616-1635
deputy2 = Luís Martins de Sousa Chichorro (last)
year_deputy2 = 1637-1641
stat_year1 =
stat_pop1 =
currency = Portuguese Dinheiro (DMP)

Portuguese Malacca was the territory of Malacca that, for more than a century, was a Portuguese colony.


From the writing of the Portuguese historian Emanuel Godinho de Erédia in the middle of the 16th century, the site of the old city of Malacca was named after the Myrobalans, fruit-bearing trees along the banks of a river called "Airlele" (Ayer Leleh). The Airlele river was said to originate from "Buquet China" (Present day Bukit Cina). Eredia cited that the city was founded by "Permicuri" (i.e "Parameswara") the first King of Malacca in 1411.

Following the defeat of the Malacca in 15 August 1511, Afonso de Albuquerque sought to erect a permanent form of fortification in anticipation of the counterattacks by Sultan Mahmud. A fortress was designed and constructed encompassing a hill, lining the edge of the sea shore, on the south east of the river mouth, on the former site of the Sultan's palace (destroyed during the battle for the city)

Fortaleza de Malaca

The early core of the fortress system was a quadrilateral tower called Fortaleza de Malaca. Measurement was given as 10 fathoms per side with a height of 40 fathoms. It was constructed at the foot of the fortress hill, next to the sea. To its east was constructed a circular wall of mortar and stone with a well in the middle of the enclosure.

Over the years, constructions began to fully fortify the fortress hill. The pentagonal system began at the farthest point of the cape near south east of the river mouth, towards the west of the Fortaleza. At this point two ramparts were built at right angles to each other lining the shores. The one running northward toward the river mouth was 130 fathoms in length to the bastion of São Pedro while the other one ran for 75 fathoms to the east, curving inshore, ending at the gate and bastion of Santiago.

From the bastion of São Pedro the rampart turned north east 150 fathoms past the Custom House Terrace gateway ending at the northern most point of the fortress, the bastion of São Domingos. From the gateway of São Domingos, an earth rampart ran south-easterly for 100 fathoms ending at the bastion of the Madre de Deus. From here, beginning at the gate of Santo António, past the bastion of the Virgins, the rampart ended at the gateway of Santiago.

Overall the city enclosure was 655 fathoms and 10 palms (short) of a fathom.


Four gateways were built for the city;

#Porta de Santiago
#The gateway of the Custom House Terrace
#Porta de São Domingos
#Porta de Santo António

Of these four gateways only two were in common use and open to traffic, the Gate of Santo António linking to the suburb of Yler and the western gate at the Custom House Terrace, giving access to Tranqueira and its bazaar.


After almost 300 years of existence, in 1806, the British, unwilling to maintain the fortress and wary of letting other European powers taking control of it, ordered its slow destruction. The fort was almost totally demolished but for the timely intervention of Sir Stamford Raffles visiting Malacca in 1810. The only remnants of the earliest Portuguese fortress in Southeast Asia is the Porta de Santiago, now known as the A Famosa.

The town of Malacca during the Portuguese Era

Outside of the fortified town center lies the three suburbs of Malacca. The suburb of Upe (i.e Upih), generally known as "Tranqueira" (modern day "Tengkera") from the rampart of the fortress. The other two suburb were "Yler" (i.e "Hilir") or "Tanjonpacer" (i.e "Tanjung Pasir")and the suburb of "Sabba".


Tranqueira was the most important suburb of Malacca. The suburb was rectangular in shape, with a northern walled boundary, the straits of Malacca to the south and the river of Malacca ("Rio de Malaca") and the "fortaleza's" wall to the east. It was the main residential quarters of the city. However, in war, the residence of the quarters would be evacuated to the fortress. Tranqueira was divided into a further two parishes, São Tomé and São Estêvão. The parish of S.Tomé was called "Campon Chelim" ("Kampung Keling" in Malay). It was described that this area was populated by the Chelis of Choromandel. The other suburb of São Estêvão was also called "Campon China" ("Kampung Cina").

Erédia described the houses as made of timber but roofed by tiles. A stone bridge with sentry crosses the river Malacca to provide access to the Malacca Fortress via the eastern Custome House Terrace. The center of trade of the city was also located in Tranqueira near the beach on the mouth of the river called the "Bazaar of the Jaos" (Jowo/Jawa i.e Javanese).

In the present day, this part of the city was still called Tengkera.


Yler (i.e "Hilir") roughly covered Buquet China ("Bukit Cina") and the south-eastern coastal area. The Well of Buquet China was one of the important water source for the community. The Church of the Madre De Deus and the Convent of the Capuchins of São Francisco. Another notable landmark included Buquetpiatto ("Bukit Piatu"). The extreme boundaries of this unwalled suburb were said to be as far as Buquetpipi and Tanjonpacer.

Tanjonpacer or Tanjung Pasir (in Malay) was later renamed Ujong Pasir. A settlement of Portuguese descent community is located there in present day Malacca. This suburb of Yler is now known as Banda Hilir. Land reclamations in modern time (for the commercial district of Melaka Raya) however have denied Banda Hilir access to the sea.


The houses on this suburb was built on the water edges of the river. Some of the original Muslim Malay inhabitants of Malacca lived in the swamps of "Nypeiras" tree, where they made "Nypa" (i.e "Nipah") wine by distillation for trade. This suburb was considered the most rural, being a transition to the Malacca hinterland, where timber and charcoal traffic passed through into the city. Several parishes also lies outside the city along the river; São Lázaro, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Hope, and Muslim Malays farmlands deeper into the hinterland.

In later periods of Dutch, British and modern day Malacca, the name of Sabba was made obsolete. However, its area encompassed parts of what is now Banda Kaba, Bunga Raya and Kampung Jawa; the modern city center of Malacca

Portuguese administration of Malacca

Malacca was administered by a Governor (Captains-Major) appointed for three-years, a Bishop and church dignitaries representing the Episcopal See, municipal officers, Royal Officials for finance and justice and a local native "Bendahara" to administer the native muslims and foreigners under the Portuguese jurisdiction.

See also

*Portuguese Settlement, Malacca, a contemporary Kristang community in Malacca

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