Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida)
The Portuguese City of Mazagan, now part of the city of El Jadida, is located in Morocco, on the west coast of Africa, south of Casablanca.
It was founded by the Portuguese in the early 16th century as a trade and military outpost on the sea route to India. The town was held by the crown until 1769, when it was taken over by the Moroccans.
After the Portuguese withdrawal, Mazagan was abandoned for fifty years, and came to be known as al-Mahdouma (the ruined one). In the 19th century, the sultan Moulay Abderrahmane rehabilitated the city and renamed it El Jadida (the new one).
Mazagan is part of the urban permiter of El Jadida, bearing different testimonies to the Portuguese presence; the castle, the fortress, the cistern and the churches of Our Lady of the Assumption, Our Lady of Mercy and of Our Lady of Light.
The city of Mazagan was inscribed on UNESCO’s Heritage List in 2004, being an outstanding example of the interchange between European and Moroccan cultures.
One of the first buildings to be raised by the Portuguese in Mazagan was its castle. It was built by order of King D. Manuel in 1514, to the plan of the brothers Diogo and Francisco de Arruda.
As the Manueline defensive system proved to be inefficient, King D. João III commissioned the Italian engineer Benedetto de Ravena with the design of a fortified city. This project was under the responsibility of João de Castilho and João Ribeiro. The fortress, founded in 1541, was the first known example of Portuguese military architecture outside Europe. It provided a pattern for other Portuguese fortifications that were subsequently built in North Africa.
The fortress of Mazagan is an irregular square with four bastions, two facing the ocean and the others facing the town, thus combining a military and defensive function.
Attesting to its strenght, a ditch surrounding the fortress enabled ships to enter through a gate system.
The urban square had different buildings like a hospital, the inspector’s house, the barns, the Governors’ palace, some storehouses, a cistern, a fountain, and a few churches.
The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Mazagon’s former patron saint, still houses some Portuguese tombstones. The current mosque also has some vestiges of the former Governors’ Palace.
The cistern, located in the inner courtyard of the original Manueline fort, was built by João de Castilho, and completed by Lourenço Franco in 1547.
Correia, Vergílio, Três Cidades de Marrocos, Porto, Tip. da Livraria Simões Lopes, s.d.
Moreira, Rafael, “Arquitectura militar do Renascimento”, in História das Fortificações Portuguesas no Mundo, Dir. Rafael Moreira, Lisboa, Pub. Alfa S.A., 1989, pp. 150-157
Carita, Rui, A arquitectura abaluartada de origem portuguesa, in Relações luso-marroquinas 230 anos, Camões – Revista de Letras e Culturas Lusófonas, nº 17-18, Lisboa, Instituto Camões, November 2004, pp. 135-138, 143-145
Silva, José Manuel Azevedo e, “Mazagão Retrato de uma cidade luso-marroquina deportada para o Brasil”, in Relações luso-marroquinas 230 anos, Camões – Revista de Letras e Culturas Lusófonas, nº 17-18, Lisboa, Instituto Camôes, November 2004, pp. 166-170
Genin, Soraya, e De Jonge, Krista, e Moreira, Rafael, “Antiga Mazagão, El Jadida (a Nova)”, in Pedra e Cal, “Património Arquitectónico em Marrocos”, Nº 36, Lisboa, GECORPA, October-November-Dezember 2007, pp. 19-21
Amaral, Augusto Ferreira do, História de Mazagão, Lisboa, Alfa – Biblioteca da Expansão Portuguesa, 1989.
Correia, Jorge, “Mazagão: A última praça Portuguesa no Norte de África”, in Revista de História da Arte, Lisboa, IHA – FCSH-UNL, nº 4 , 2007, pp. 185-209