It was the first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea, and the oldest European building in existence south of the Sahara. Erected in 1482 as Castelo de São Jorge da Mina (St. George of the Mine Castle) by the Portuguese as a trade settlement. Under the command of Diogo de Azambuja, the Portuguese had met with Nana Kwamena Ansah VI, chief of the area and discussed with him the great advantages in building a fort, including protection from the very powerful king of Portugal. Nana Kwamena Ansah was very wary of the fact that the Portuguese might settle there permanently so first seemed reluctant to the proposition, but after offering gifts, making promises, and hinting at the consequences of noncompliance, the Portuguese finally received his reluctant agreement. Construction began the next morning and there was the need to demolish the homes of some of the villagers_ but before this was to be done, they had to be compensated. They had to also quarry a nearby rock believed to be the home of the god of the nearby River Benya. There was an incident in which the local people forged an attack that resulted in several Portuguese deaths because João Bernaldes, the Portuguese crew member who had been charged with delivering the compensatory materials did not do so until after the construction began. Finally, an understanding was reached, but continued opposition led the Portuguese to burn the local village in retaliation. Even with this tense atmosphere, the Portuguese were able to complete the first story of the tower after only 28 days mainly due to the fact that they brought along many prefabricated building materials.The remainder of the fort and an accompanying church were completed soon afterwards, despite resistance. The fort was the first prefabricated building of European origin to have been planned and executed in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 1596, the Dutch made a first unsuccessful attempt at capturing the castle, succeeded by a successful one in 1637, after which it was made the capital of the Dutch Gold Coast. During the period of Dutch control, a new, smaller fortress was built on a nearby hill to protect St. George's Castle from inland attacks; this fort was called Fort Coenraadsburg. By the seventeenth century, most trade in West-Africa concentrated on the sale of slaves_ São Jorge da Mina played a significant part in the West African Slave Trade, acting as a depot where enslaved Africans were brought in from different Kingdoms in West Africa. Here they were held, before exiting through the castle's infamous "Door of No Return" to be transported and resold in newly colonized Brazil and other Portuguese colonies. It was designated as a World Heritage Monument under UNESCO in 1979,and is seen as a place of pilgrimage for many African Americans seeking to connect with their long-lost heritage_ many of them very famous and prominent. Memphis Depay, Steve Harvey and Michael Jae White have all been here.
Today, it is known to the world as "The Elmina Castle".
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