Fortress São José da Ponta Grossa
Destination Florianópolis, capital of the state of Santa Catarina.
Fortaleza São José da Ponta Grossa, in the northern part of Ilha da Mágica.
For centuries, the city of Florianópolis – initially it was called (Nossa Senhora do) Desterro) – was protected by a defense system, which consisted of fortresses at both sides of the narrow strait that separates Santa Catarina Island – on which Florianópolis is located – from the Brazilian mainland. The north of the island was protected by a number of fortresses that are located within a virtual triangle. One of these fortresses is São José da Ponta Grossa.
The bus travel from the center of Florianópolis to Jurerê took forty minutes. From the bus stop, we had to climb a road for about ten minutes, to the main gate of the fortress. It was already past four in the afternoon, but we still had little less than one hour to visit the fortress. Unfortunately, the exhibition room was closed that day, but there was still enough to see. There was a narrow road, leading to the coast. It went along a narrow watch tower, and was followed by a cobblestone path, on which we had to climb to the fortress. It is not hard to imagine that his cobblestone path was used for heavy cargo, and possibly for rapid counterattacks.
Also the other paths had some inclination, until the highest point inside the fortress: the commander’s house. Obviously, the commander’s house was larger than the soldiers’ barracks. Since the number of soldiers should have been relatively large, it is easy to imagine that they had to suffer miserable circumstances. They had not much space, and the enemy was not challenging them on a regular basis. It must have been very boring for them. There was a chapel between the barracks and the commander’s house. This chapel was dedicated to Saint Joseph; the fortress is named after the father of Jesus.
Vítor and i took our time to see everything. We entered another exhibition space that hosted an interesting collection of archeological objects, with a lot of ceramics that was found there. I also noticed some Delft blue pottery and ceramics. There was a plastic mannequin with a uniform of a Portuguese marine of the eighteenth century. A woman was sitting there, working with lace. She had her selling point here, as some kind of bonus for her and the tourists.
The fortress was constructed in 1740, as a part of the defense system against imminent Spanish attacks. The fortress was the realization of the plan of Brigadeiro Silva Paes. It took four years to complete the fortress. Adjacent to the fortress, a smaller fortification was built: Bateria São Caetano. The Portuguese were convinced to withstand Spanish attacks with these fortifications. However, in February 1777, a large fleet of one hundred Spanish war vessels with twelve thousand soldiers on board, managed to conquer Santa Catarina Island. Commanded by Dom Pedro Cevallo, they landed on Canavieiras – east of the fortresses – , from where they marched to the fortresses. The apparently demoralized Portuguese defenders were completely surprised and surrendered immediately, without any resistance. One year later, thanks to the Treaty of Santo Idelfonso, Santa Catarina Island became Portuguese again.
According to one theory, the island is practically impossible to defend, because of the irregular topography. The Portuguese had tried, in vain, to defend the island with an elaborate defense system. Another theory does not favor the Portuguese defense system: the distances between the three fortresses, which form a triangle, were too far for the ranges of the outdated cannons. Vessels from hostile countries would easily continue their journey through the narrow strait. Following the fiasco in 1777, the fortresses were abandoned and neglected for centuries. Only from 1938, the fortresses were declared national monuments and underwent complete restoration in the 90’s of the past century. At present, more than 35 thousand tourists visit the fortresses annually.
By Dr. Adriano Antoine Robbesom
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