Ternate and Tidore, Moluccas (1760), Indonesia. Author Bellin. No Copyright
Ternate and Tidore, Moluccas (1760), Indonesia. Author Bellin

Tidore 1 – The Spanish forts on the island of Tidore 1521-1663: introduction

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Written by Marco Ramerini. English text revision by Dietrich Köster.


This research aims to want to shed light on an aspect of the history of the Moluccas islands that is still largely unexplored. Its purpose is to trace through the study of manuscripts and other documents a preliminary framework of the fortifications, the Spanish had built on the island of Tidore, one of the Moluccas, the fabled Spice Islands, during the years 1521-1663.i

As is well known, already from the Magellan expedition (1521) the Spaniards tried several times to gain control of the Spice Islands at the expense of the Portuguese, with whom they had often bitter differences. The Spaniards established alliances with the kings of Tidore and Jailolo and Spanish troops were on the islands during the years 1527-1534 and 1544-1545. The failure to discover a way back across the Pacific, however, prevented them to compete with the Portuguese naval power. In 1529 Spain and Portugal signed an agreement concerning the Moluccas the Treaty of Zaragoza, with whom the King of Spain abandoned all claims on the islands, at least nominally, in exchange for 350,000 ducats.

The first period of interest of the Spaniards in the Moluccas was characterized by the struggle against the Portuguese for the control of the islands. It began with the arrival of the Magellan expedition in 1521 and ended in 1545 with the surrender to the Portuguese Army of Villalobos. Between these two expeditions the Spaniards sent other fleets, including those of Loaisa (1527) and Saavedra (1528) as well as the unfortunate adventure of the Grijalva expedition (1538). The expedition of Villalobos was prepared after the Treaty of Zaragoza. For this reason the expedition was directed to unspecified Spice Islands not yet occupied by Portugal. The center of all these activities of the Spaniards remained throughout this period the island of Tidore.


1 – The Spanish fortresses on the island of Tidore 1521-1663: introduction

2 – The first contacts of the Spanish with the island of Tidore: The expeditions of Magellan and Villalobos: The first contacts of the Spanish with the island of Tidore and the first Spanish fort

3 – The Spanish expeditions to the Moluccas after the union with Portugal

4 – The Spanish forts of the island of Tidore 1606-1663

5 – The defenses of the city of the King of Tidore: Lugar Grande De El Rey (Soa Siu)

6 – Fuerte de los portugueses (Fortaleza dos Reis Magos)

7 – Tohula Fort, Santiago de los Caballeros

8 – Sokanora Fort

9 – Marieco Fort

10 – Tomanira Fort

11 – Chobo Fort

12 – Fort of Rume

13 – Puli Caballo Island

14 – Captains of Tidore (Fortress of Santiago de los Caballeros)


i In addition to this study on the island of Tidore I am also preparing a study on the Spanish forts on Ternate and the other Moluccas islands. These specific researches are part of a larger study on the Spanish presence in the Moluccas (1606-1663), study to which I am already devoting several years, but due to its complexity it is still in the making. For the research purposes, I am doing, it would also be interesting to see the places mentioned in the documents on the spot and to carry out a systematic work of recognition of the remains of the fortifications. I would finally be able to study some basic documents, which I consider of great interest and importance, existing in the Archivo Franciscano Ibero-Oriental (AFIO) in Madrid and in other archives. Presently, however, I have not yet the chance and financial means to proceed with my research work on the spot.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: For the support granted I would like to thank: Jennifer van der Greft for her valuable assistance in translating Dutch-language documents, Arnold van Wickeren, Nuno Varela Rubim, Walter Hellebrand and Dietrich Köster (who helped me in correcting the translation of chapter 4). I would also like to express my praise for the online service of the Spanish archives (PARES), through which I could see directly on my computer many of the manuscripts of the General Archive of the Indies in Seville. This is their very useful website: PARES Portal de Archivos Españoles.

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About Marco Ramerini

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