Batavia Castle
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Batavia Castle
Castle Batavia, the administrative center of the Dutch East India Company's Asian trade empire, which stretched from the Cape of Good Hope to Japan.

Batavia Castle (Dutch: Kasteel Batavia) was a fort located at the mouth of Ciliwung River in Jakarta. Batavia Castle was the administrative center of Dutch East India Company in Asia.[1] Batavia Castle was also the residence of the Governor-General, the highest VOC official in the East Indies who chaired the Council of the Indies, the executive committee that took the decisions in the East Indies.[1]


Pieter Both, the first elected Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, appointed Captain Jacques l'Hermite to acquire a 2,500 square vadem (10,000 square yards)[2] of land in Jayakarta in order to establish a VOC loge (trading post).[3] The request was granted by Prince Jayawikarta, the ruler of Jayakarta, under a large sum of money (1200 real).[4] This land is located on the eastern bank of Ciliwung near the Chinese quarter.[5] In 1612, the Dutch built a loge, a huis, and a factorij on this land; altogether known as Nassau Huis.[3][2] This agreement was maintained during the governance of Governor-General Gerard Reynst and later Laurens Reael.[3]

This map shows Fort Jacatra (a) and the new plan for Batavia Castle (b).

When Jan Pieterszoon Coen became the Governor-General of Dutch East Indies, he built another loge to the east of Nassau Huis in 1617, named Mauritius.[2] In 1618, Coen built a slipway, a hospital, and masonry cannon ex-placements that supplemented the cannons to these loges on the island of Onrust. Later, Coen fortified the two houses into a square fort surrounded with solid stone wall of 9 feet (2.7 m) tall and 6 feet (1.8 m) to 7 feet (2.1 m) feet thick, as well as equipping it with cannons.[6] This new fort building was known as Fort Jacatra. When Coen sailed to Ambon, Pieter de Carpentier took over the position of Governor-General temporarily and was responsible in managing Fort Jacatra. This new situation created a tension between VOC and Prince Jayawikarta.[3]

When the Sultanate of Banten decided to remove Prince Jayawikarta from his position because he was accused of having a friendship agreement with British without prior approval; the VOC celebrated the decision and planned a new Castle on 12 March 1619 named Batavia Castle. Coen was angry to know that his request to name the Castle and the city Nieuw Hoorn (after his birthplace) was not granted.[7] Batavia Castle was nine times larger than Fort Jacatra and engulfed the eastern part of Fort Jacatra.[4] On 30 May 1619, Coen destroyed Jayakarta and expelled its population, the area becoming part of Batavia.[8] On 4 March 1621, Batavia was officially the name of the city as well as the center of VOC trade empire which extend from the Cape of Good Hope to Japan.[3]

In 1620, construction of Batavia Castle began, just to the east of Fort Jacatra. Lack of proper building materials became a problem; the Governor General and the Council of Indies had to request for building materials to the Netherlands. The requests were recorded in the so-called "lists of demands" (the Eijs). The lack of building materials had resulted in the relatively long period for the completion of the Castle.[9] As the new Castle materialized, slowly the older Fort Jacatra was engulfed until it was demolished between 1627 and 1632.

At the end of the governorship of Antonio van Diemen around 1645, Batavia Castle had its form and arrangements similar until its demolition in the beginning of the 19th-century.The coastline of Batavia, however, changed constantly. Since Batavia Castle was situated on a low-lying coastal plain with swamps on either side, its canals hardly flowed and sediments from the mud-filled connecting river sank to the bottom. Rapid silting up also occurred on the beach. At the end of the 18th-century Batavia Castle, initially built on the seashore, lay more than two kilometers inland. The silted-up coast played an important role in the unhealthiness of Batavia: at high tide, this area was washed by the sea and covered with the refuse of the town and poisonous jellyfish. At low tide, sea water stayed behind in many puddles and basins. Batavians believed that illness was spread by "evil vapors" rising from the soil, containing miasmata - small airborne particles carrying diseases. Other features which contribute to the decline of Batavia, in general, were the polluted canals, the church-yards, the quality of the drinking water, and the digging of waterways.[10][11]

In 1751, the south-side curtain wall, including its Landpoort, were demolished; opening the interior of the castle to the Kasteelplein.[11] In 1756, the north-side Waterpoort was rebuilt.[11] Around this period, Batavia had become so diseased that people started to abandon the city in favor of the much cleaner region south of the city. The complete dismantling of the Castle started in 1809 when governor Daendels decided to move the administrative center to southern area Weltevreden. Batavia Castle was slowly demolished and its stones were reused to build the new Palace of Daendels (now the Indonesian Ministry of Finance).[1] In the area where the castle once stood, factories and warehouses were built, a condition that has stayed the same at present time.[11]


Batavia Castle in 1762 when the land-side wall had been opened toward the Kasteelplein.

At its largest extent, Batavia Castle was a square-shaped structure equipped with four protruding bastions named after precious stones: Parel (Pearl) at northwest, facing the Kali Besar; Diamant (Diamond) at the southwest; Saphier (Saphhire) at northeast, facing the buffelsveld ("buffalo field"); and Robijn (Ruby) at southeast facing the Tijgersgracht. The unique names of the bastions earned the city the Malay name Kota Intan, "Diamond City". These bastions were made of solid earthen walls and coral with strong wooden palisade. Two main portals gave access to the inside of the Castle: the south (land) side Landpoort and the north (sea) side Waterpoort. The north-south axis is about 290 treden (steps) and the east-west is 274 treden.[1] Late 17th-century visitors described the Castle as large and strong.[12]

In late 17th-century, the Castle is guarded by fifteen cannons and five-to-six companies of soldiers.[13]

The administration buildings

From right to left: the residence of the Governor-General inside the Castle, octagonal Church at the background, and the residence of the General-Director/Councillor of VOC.

Inside the Castle were several administration buildings and a series of courtyards.[13] Among the structures in the castle were the Governor-General's residence, the General-Director's residence, residences for high officials (e.g. chief merchants, the Company's chief surgeon, the chief of the armory, the chief customs officer, as well as many bookkeepers, assistants, and craftsmen),[13] several workshops, a treasury, a garrison, an armory, a prison, some storehouses (for VOC merchandise, food, medical supplies, and military equipment), a chapel and the meeting hall of the council of the Indies.[1] There were around 150 people stayed in the Castle during the end of 17th-century.[13] The castle contains no settlements as the VOC had already prepared a fortified settlement to the south of the castle. This settlement was separated from the castle by a canal called Kasteelgracht.

The Governor-General's residence is the largest and the tallest structure in the Castle. It is a three-storeyed structure with a central cupola which provided a commanding view of the town and harbor.[13] The decorative front-side portico of the residence was built of stone imported from the Netherlands. This portico was inscribed "the gate of the Paleis van den Opperlandvoogd - 1637".[14] The Governor-General's residence also housed the secretariat,[15] VOC's auditor's office and the chambers in which the Council of the Indies meets. The Governor-General's residence is situated on the south-side square inside the Castle, the Alarm Plaats.[15] On the rear north-side of the building is another inner courtyard. This inner courtyard contained a small pavilion which provided a space for entertainment.[15] Several facilities are build facing this inner courtyard, among them the kitchen.[15]

On the west side of the Alarm Plaats stood a small octagonal stone chapel in which Dutch Reformed services are preached twice each Sunday.[16]

The gateways

Landpoort and Waterpoort

The sea-side portal of the Castle, the Waterpoort.

The two main gates of Castle Batavia is the landpoort ("land gate", the land-side gateway to the south) and the waterpoort ("water gate", the sea-side gateway to the north). Both gates were decorated with neoclassical-styled ornaments made of stone which was imported from the Netherlands. The waterpoort provided access to the sea-side square in the castle. The waterpoort was decorated with stone ornaments on both inner and outer side, both showed the inscription anno 1630. The landpoort provided access to the Alarm plaats. Even though the landpoort was established earlier than the waterpoort, it only received its stone ornaments several years later in 1637.

Batavia in 1629 showing an opening in the sea-side wall of the Castle; ornate portal has not been installed in the sea-side wall.

A 1623 map shows that at that time the north sea-side walls of the Castle were unfinished while the south land-side walls were already finished as if it was prepared for a land-side attack. At the end of 1627 the Governor General and Council agreed to build a permanent two-story building with a flat roof between the seaside bastions Parel and Saphier. This remained a plan because when the Castle was attacked by the Javanese in August 1628 the Governor-General and the Council realized that the Castle's fortifications were not strong enough. A resolution was taken to consolidate the Castle without delay on September 9, 1627. In February 1629, the two sea-bastions were finally made and closed, two walls were finished: the first curtain on the West-side 16 voet (feet) high and the second at the south (land)-side. Coen expressed hope that he would finish the eastern and northern walls soon.[17]

A portal salvaged from the wreck of Batavia, possibly intended to be installed for the Landpoort.

Pieter van den Broecke, who visited Batavia from June until the end of December 1629 published a bird's eye view of Batavia in late 1629. The picture showed the completed sea-side wall of Batavia Castle but the entrance has only some wooden scaffolding with no neoclassic stone decoration. The year between 1629 and the 1630s was not thoroughly recorded in documents, however in a later etching of the Castle from the mid-1630s, the Waterpoort was shown as complete with its stone decoration.[14] The shape of this decoration is similar to that found on the wrecked VOC ship the Batavia. The Batavia fleet was supposed to carry the stone ornaments for the gates of Batavia Castle. Batavia, which departed from Texel on October 29, 1628, was shipwrecked on the Houtman Abrolhos, Western Australia, on June 4, 1629. On July 7, 1692, Pelsaert arrived at Batavia to report the shipwreck, so on July 15 the Sardam departed from Batavia to rescue the Batavia fleet and salvage the goods which include material for the decorative gates. Sardam arrived at the wreck-site and did its mission between September 17 to November 15, 1629. It arrived back at Batavia on December 5, 1629.[14] Apparently, not all of the salvages were discovered, as another gateway stone ornaments were discovered in 1963 and were now kept in the Maritime Museum in Fremantle, Australia. It has been assumed that the stone gateway ornaments discovered in the 1960s were the one destined for the Waterpoort of Batavia Castle. An evidence supporting this theory is the discovery of a gold pendant, dated 25 November 1632, which was made to commemorate the Chinese contribution to the defeat of the army of Mataram. The gold pendant shows the depiction of the completed Watergate.[14]

It is very likely that four decorative facades were sent to Batavia Castle in the fleet of Batavia of 1628. Only three arrived and were fitted: two for the Waterpoort (on the inside and outside) and one for the Landpoort. A new facade was ordered and placed for the Landpoort only in 1637.[14]

Pinangpoort and Middelpoort

The Pinang Poort ("Pinang Gate") and the Middelpoort ("middle gate") were two gates build in the straight line with the Landpoort and the Waterpoort. The two gates provided a straight south-north access from the Landpoort to the Waterpoort. Between the Pinang Poort and the Middelpoort was a walkthrough courtyard. Several guard houses for the halberdiers provided security for this courtyard.[15]


Another gateway placed in straight line with the Landpoort is the Amsterdamsepoort ("Amsterdam Gate"), after the name of the canal where it stood. The Amsterdamsepoort is not considered part of the castle, instead it marks the entry into the Kasteelplein, an open field south of the castle.

The castle's perimeter

The duck pond of the Governor-General installed to the west of Batavia Castle.

There were two other gateways in the perimeter of Castle Batavia: the vijverpoort ("pool gate") near Bastion Parel, and Delftschepoort ("Delft gate") near Bastion Robijn. The vijverpoort divided the area in front of the waterpoort with an enclosed garden to the west of Batavia Castle between Bastion Parel and Bastion Diamant. This enclosed garden contains a large duck pond, the longest dimension is the same as the Castle itself. A playhouse (speelhuisje) was built over the duck pond.[1]

The field to the east of the Castle is known as the Königs Platz or Koningsplaats where water buffaloes grazed.

Batavia Castle was surrounded by a gracht known as the Kasteelgracht that also functioned as a defensive moat.[1] A stone bridge (steenebrug) of fourteen arches spans the Kasteelgracht, connecting the Castle with a large field containing a gibbet, whipping post and wheel. A small bridge on the other side of the field leads to a guarded gate and the city's main street.[18]


Today the street Jalan Tongkol (formerly Kasteelweg and Kasteelstraat) passed through the center of an area where Batavia Castle used to stand. The area is designated part of the Jakarta Old Town historic area.

See also


Works cited

  • American Universities Field Staff (1966). Report Service: Southeast Asia series (Report). Indiana University. Retrieved 2015.
  • Grijns, Kees; Nas, Peter J.M., eds. (2000). Jakarta: socio-cultural essays (illustrated ed.). Leiden: KITLV Press. ISBN 9067181390.
  • Huystee, Marit van (1994). The Lost Gateway of Jakarta: on the Portico of the VOC Castle of Batavia in 17th century Dutch East India (PDF) (Report). Department of Maritime Archaeology. Retrieved 2015.
  • Ito, E.S. (2007). Rahasia Meede: Misteri Harta Karun VOC [Secret of Meede: The Mystery of VOC Treasures] (in Indonesian). Jakarta: PT Mizan Publika. ISBN 9789791140997.
  • "Jacatra Fort" [Jacatra Fort]. Ensiklopedi Jakarta (in Indonesian). Jakarta: Dinas Komunikasi, Informatika dan Kehumasan Pemprov DKI Jakarta. 2010. Retrieved 2015.
  • Kaart van het Kasteel en de Stad Batavia in het Jaar 1667 [Map of the Castle and the City Batavia in year 1667] (Map) (Den Haag ed.). 50 rhijnlandsche roeden (in Dutch). Cartography by J.J. Bollee. G.B. Hooyer and J.W. Yzerman. 1919.
  • "Kasteel van Batavia" [Batavia Castle]. Ensiklopedi Jakarta (in Indonesian). Jakarta: Dinas Komunikasi, Informatika dan Kehumasan Pemprov DKI Jakarta. 2010. Retrieved 2015.
  • Lach, Donald F.; Kley, Edwin J. van (2000). Asia in the Making of Europe, Volume III: A Century of Advance. Book 3: Southeast Asia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226466989.
  • Kratoska, Paul H., ed. (2001). South East Asia, Colonial History: Imperialism before 1800. Volume 1 of South East Asia, Colonial History (illustrated ed.). London & New York: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780415215404.
  • Restu Gunawan (2010). Gagalnya Sistem Kanal: Pengendalian Banjir Jakarta dari Masa ke Masa [The Failure of Canal System: Flood Control in Jakarta from Time to Time] (in Indonesian). Jakarta: PT Kompas Media Nusantara. ISBN 9789797094836.
  • van Wamelen, Carla (2010). Family life onder de VOC: Een handelscompagnie in huwelijks- en gezinszaken [Family life under the East India Company: A trading company in marital and family matters] (in Dutch). Hivlersum: Verloren. ISBN 9789087044947.

Coordinates: 6°7?39?S 106°48?41?E / 6.12750°S 106.81139°E / -6.12750; 106.81139

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