Fort Amsterdam in the Punda district guards the harbor entrance to Curaçao's capital, Willemstad, and today contains the Caribbean island's parliament, ministry, church and museum.
Fort Amsterdam is the largest and most important fortress on the Caribbean island of Curaçao and the most powerful fortress in the ABC islands. Fort Amsterdam is not the only one on Curaçao, nor is it the best preserved, yet it is the most visited fortification on the island. Accordingly, it is among our top 10 sights of Willemstad.
The fort is located in the Punda district directly on the Sint Annabaai and, together with the Riffort opposite, guards the harbor entrance to Curaçao's capital Willemstad. Together with the Schottegat harbor and the historic center of Willemstad, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.
Built in 1635, it was named after a division of the Netherlands West Indies Company, the Chamber of Amsterdam, which was responsible for the administration of Curaçao. The mighty bulwark consisted of 5 bastions, had its own water supply and houses a church within its walls.
In the middle of the walls of Fort Amsterdam lies the "Fortress Church". It was built in 1635 as a wooden garrison church and replaced by a brick building in 1707. The Fort Church, which today is painted in bright yellow, dates from 1742. The "United Protestant Church" of the Netherlands Antilles, was renovated in 1992 and has only been open to the public since then.
At first sight, when looking at the Fortkerk, one does not think of a church, but another administrative building of the fort. Only the cross at its highest point reveals its function. Two generous staircases lead to the discreetly furnished church interior, whose most striking decoration is the baroque organ on the left.
Since the church functions as a museum, it can only be entered for a small fee (closed in the afternoons) and provides information about the history of the Fortkerk and the Protestant community on Curaçao. In addition to the religious exhibits, the Fortkerk also presents historical maps and the original church clock from 1766.
Visit Fort Amsterdam
The fortress can be entered through two entrances. One is located directly on the Sint Annabaai and is guarded by the "Horn of Plenty" monument. This metal lady, which symbolically pours the horn of plenty over the city, was donated by the Netherlands in gratitude for their support during the Second World War and inaugurated by Prince Bernhard in 1953.
The second entrance is to the west and is also flanked by a statue, this time of Venezuelan freedom fighter Manuel Corel Piar, whose name is also borne by the square in front of the fortress, bordered by the not-to-be-missed Val Plaza Hotel and the Waterfort grounds.
Above the first entrance to the fort were once the chambers of the director of the West Indies Company; today the Dutch governor lives there. His presence is signaled by a hoisted flag on the fort. In addition, Fort Amsterdam houses some government offices and the ministry. For this reason, large parts of Fort Amsterdam are not accessible to visitors.
On the other side of the courtyard, opposite the governor's offices, sits the fortkerk, the rest of the building is occupied by administrative offices.
Legacy of Captain Bligh
In the wall above the left staircase of the Fortkerk can still be admired a cannonball. It dates from the 26 days of shelling in 1804, when the legendary Captain Bligh, known to many for the Mutiny on the Bounty, tried in vain to take Willemstad.