350th anniversary of Cape Town Castle

Founding stone of Castle of Good Hope laid 350 years ago.

Cape Town marked the 350th anniversary of the Castle of Good Hope with a ceremony on 2 January.

Reflecting the historic castle's largely negative past, organisers billed the anniversary function as a commemoration rather than a celebration.

The 17th-century fort, whose cornerstone was laid on 2 January 1666 by the Dutch East India Company, was built by slaves and is seen by many as a symbol of oppression, slavery and land dispossession at the hands of a brutal colonial regime.

Completed in 1679, the granite castle is the oldest existing colonial building in South Africa and replaced an older structure constructed from clay and timber. The original Fort de Goede Hoop was built by Dutch colonial administrator and founder of Cape Town, Jan van Riebeeck, on his arrival in 1652.

The commemoration featured 100 minstrels who lead local dignitaries to the cornerstone site where a bench made from the building's original support beams was unveiled. Organisers hope the event will be the beginning of a new chapter of “inclusion, healing, hope and nation-building.”

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Originally built along the coast of Table Bay, the fort is now located inland following land reclamation. Currently an asset of the department of defence, the castle was restored in the 1980s and is classified as a provincial heritage site.