Elmina Castle – The oldest European building in existence below the Sahara

Elmina Castle situated in the central region of Ghana was built by Portuguese merchants in 1482. It was originally called São Jorge da Mina (St. George of the Mine) Castle, also known simply as Mina or Feitoria da Mina) in present-day Elmina, Ghana.

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It was the first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea, so is the oldest European building in existence below the Sahara. First established as a trade settlement, the castle later became one of the most important stops on the route of the Atlantic slave trade. It is believed that there was secret gold mining going on beside the trade business though not much is said about gold mining here in history. As the Portuguese name suggests ‘São Jorge da Mina’ where ‘da Mina’ means ‘the mines’!  Another clue comes across clearly if you asked yourself why Ghana was called the ‘Gold Coast’ at the time. How on earth will anyone name a place after a mineral that is deficient in that area? So…your guess I’m sure is better than mine…

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Well, the Dutch seized the fort from the Portuguese in 1637, and took over all the Portuguese Gold Coast in 1642. The slave trade continued under the Dutch until 1814; in 1872 the Dutch Gold Coast, including the fort, became a possession of the British Empire.

To behold the tunnels and dungeons in this cold historical forte, it is best to be there in person as you learn of the entire slave story as you explore.

Britain granted the Gold Coast its independence in 1957, and control of the castle was transferred to the nation formed out of the colony, present-day Ghana.

Today Elmina Castle is a popular historical site, and was a major filming location for Werner Herzog’s 1987 drama film Cobra Verde. The castle is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

So if you are dying to learn some history about the coasts of Ghana, there one right here called the Elmina Castle.

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