Plateform of the Mozambique Fortress, A.D. 1648

The island and its natural harbour were used by Arab merchants as a maritime trading centre from the 10th to the late 15th century.

The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, who landed on the island in 1498, claimed it for Portugal. Four years later he returned with Portuguese settlers, who built the first fortress, St. Gabriel (1507-08; no longer standing).

The town assumed prominence in Portugal's campaign to take over trade with India and the East Indies. The later fort of St. Sebastian was begun in the mid-16th century and is distinguished by its Italian Renaissance architecture; it withstood attack by the Dutch in 1607, and its massive walls still stand.

Saint Paul's Palace in 1809.

The relative importance of the island decreased after the decline in the slave trade in the mid-19th century and the opening of the Suez Canal (1869). By 1907 the colonial government was transferred to Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), and in the mid-20th century, Moçambique's maritime trade was largely diverted to the new port of Nacala, on the mainland coast farther north. A bridge has linked the island to the mainland since 1967.


10th century: First mention of the island of Mozambique in Arab written sources.
10th-15th centuries: Arab trading posts.
1498: Vasco da Gama lands on the island.
1502: Vasco da Gama's second voyage. Portugal's first trading station on Mozambique is founded.
1507-1508: The fort of St. Gabriel is constructed.
1522: The chapel of Our Lady of the Ramparts is built.
1558-1620: The fort of St. Sebastian is built to guard against possible Turkish attack.
1567-1569: Luiz de Camões visites twice Ilha de Mozambique
1607: The island is unsuccessfully attacked by the Dutch.
1750-1840: The slave trade period.
1762: The island ceases to be administered by the Viceroy of Goa and comes directly under the Portuguese crown.
1869: The opening of the Suez Canal makes it possible to reach India from Europe without passing the Cape of Good Hope and Mozambique.
1898: The capital of Mozambique is transferred to Lourenco Marques (today Maputo). The island becomes a simple provincial capital.
1947: The construction of the port of Nacala, a little further north, deals a death blow to the island's economy.
1975: The independence of Mozambique is proclaimed on 25 June.
1991: The island of Mozembique is placed on UNESCO's World Heritage List.

More About Mozambique's History

World Heritage Center, UNESCO - English
Historic Center - English



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