View from Pre refuge dry stone walled fort which ruled over Massapa
View from Pre refuge dry stone walled fort which ruled over Massapa

Massapa: Portuguese Settlement, Market (Feira) and Fort in Zimbabwe

Written by Chris Dunbar. All pictures are copyright by Chris Dunbar.

Massapa was described in 1573 as being close to the wooded mountain Fura (Mt Darwin) had a Dominican Church dedicated to the Lady of the Rosary and was deserted in 1693 when the Rozvi went on the rampage that ended the Portuguese control on the whole Northern Zimbabwe plateau and is now simply the ploughed lands know as Baranda farm and Chesa farm 4.

The modern owners of these small communial farms were very helpful and assisted us with searching for the remains of the settlements. The owner of Baranda Farm confirmed that the well that his family still uses was there when his father arrived in the area and we know that prior to that it was an uninhabited land so the well could very well date back to the more fruitful times of Massapa.

Here a number of pictures, nothing really to see as the plough has leveled the forts over the many years but the hot, harsh environment is evident. Under these fields lay the remains of many great adventurers awaiting the time when their stories can be told in full.

Here are some pictures of the “native” dry stone walled fort. This National Monument has been severly destroyed by illegal gold panners and a great lose to history.

This dry stone walled fort is our best guess as to where the Captain of the Gates resided. He would have been a Portuguese soldier and a man of great influence and would have been appointed to this position by the Viceroy in India. He would have had control over all Portuguese traders who traveled through this area. It has direct line of sight to Mount Fura (Mt Darwin) where the historical Monomotapa Gatsi Rusere is buried. This grave is now a shrine to many people in this area. I was allowed access but ran out of time to undertake the climb to this grave site.

Nyambo Kapararidze the new Paramount Chief killed Pereira’s ambassador Jeronimo de Barros on the 17th November 1628. The Captain of the Gates, who was at Zimbabwe at the time, having presumably escorted the ambassador there, defended himself until nightfall. He escaped in a heavy rainstorm in the darkness, and reached Massapa (the distance from this stone walled fort to Massapa, now Barranda Farm, was about thre km’s straight line). This incident either took place in the fort pictured or from the dry stone walled on Mt Fura itself.

About Marco Ramerini

I am passionate about history, especially the history of geographical explorations and colonialism.