Jaffna Fort was first built by the Portuguese in 1618. Due to ‘miracles’ attributed to the statue of Virgin Mary in the church inside the fort, the Portuguese named Jaffna Fort the Fortress of Our Lady of Miracles of Jafanapatão (Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora dos Milagres de Jafanapatão). The fort was captured by the Dutch in 1658 who expanded it. Both the inner and outer defences of the Fort were built in a Vauban star design – a geometrically perfect set of pentagons within each other. Today it is the most perfectly preserved Dutch fort in Asia. In 1795, it was taken over by the British, and remained under the control of a British garrison till 1948. During the Sri Lankan civil war, it came under siege on several occasions and was the scene of pitched battles. It was under the control of the LTTE rebels from 1986 to 1995. The Sri Lankan army recaptured the fort in 1995 after a 50-day siege. Today it remains garrisoned by a detachment of the Sri Lanka Army with limited access to visitors and is being renovated with Dutch funding. Buildings inside the fort include the Governor’s residence (King’s House), Queen’s House, Kruys Church, the Garrison Parade Ground, Police quarters and several buildings from the Portuguese era.
Visiting Jaffna Fort in the cool of the late afternoon is pleasant and enjoyable and is highly recommended. It is of open to the public daily from 8 am-6 pm.