Saint John Fortress (Fortaleza de São João)

Saint John Fortress (and Rio de Janeiro) History

Guanabara Bay has first been seen by Portuguese seafarers in January 1502. As they initially mistakenly thought it was the mouth of a large river, they name it Rio de Janeiro (January River).

The fleet commanded by Estácio de Sá arrived in Guanabara Bay on February 28 , 1565 , and their ships were punished by a heavy rain that was present during the first sailing days. With a mission to build a village in the heart of Tamoio territory (indigenous inhabitants enemies of the Portuguese), the ideal location to host the facility was a major concern of Estacio captain. It was only in 1st of March of 1565 that Estácio de Sá founds the city of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro in the area located between Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açucar) and Cara de Cão mountain, in the district that today is known as Urca. The French, however, were the first Europeans to settle along the huge bay in 1555. Later in 1567, with the final Portuguese victory over the French, the city was transferred to the Castelo mountain, without the Bay defense being careless. The capital of the colony was transferred from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro in 1763.

The Portuguese realized that to defend the land, it would be necessary to create a village next to the Defense Guard of Guanabara Bay. Expanded and strengthened over the years, it was officially named the Fortress of Saint John (Fortaleza São João) in June 24, 1618. It is formed by independent Fortress: São José (1578), São Teodósio (1572), São Martinho (1565) and São Tiago (1618).

Its armaments were greatly reduced, and not manned, during Brazil’s Regency period, but Dom Pedro II ordered the fort completely renovated in 1872, and it was equipped with a complement of guns, bunkers, and batteries, including fifteen Whitworth cannons.

How to visit inside:

The visit takes place on weekends by appointment. More info you can find at: DPHCEX (Diretoria do Patrimônio Histórico e Cultural do Exército)

How to see from the sea:

Sailing Rio tour will pass in front of the São José Fortress and Praia de Fora, where the founding of the Rio de Janeiro City has taken place.


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