The Voor Plein (Front Courtyard)
10 and 12 O'clock each day a Key ceremony takes place in the Voor Plein of the Fort.
The Ceremony also includes a changing of the Guard.
Midday replica cannon fired by guard commander Sgt Hurwitz before Castle tours start.
Welcome to the Castle of Good Hope. Built between 1666 and 1679, the Castle is the oldest surviving building in South Africa and has been the centre of civilian, political and military life at the Cape from approximately 1679.
As the settlement developed, various functions and activities were moved to premises outside the Castle. However, the Castle remained the seat of the military at the Cape throughout the years.
The Castle was, however, not the, first fort to be built at the Cape. A quadrangular (four pointed) fort was built after the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in 1652 where the Grand Parade and the main Post Off ice are situated today. The fort was completed towards the end of 1653, and its inner structures in 1656. However, constant problems were experienced: The walls of the fort, which were constructed mainly of clay, collapsed and required constant repairs.
Jan van Riebeeck left the Cape in 1662, and was succeeded by Zacharias Wagenaer. In 1664 there were renewed rumours of war between Britain and the Netherlands. Fearing a British attack on the Cape, the Lords Seventeen instructed Wagenaer to build a five‑pointed stone castle similar to other castles in Europe and the East. The Castle was planned from a central point with five bulwarks known as bastions.
The site of the new castle was chosen in 1665 by the Commissioner and later first Governor of the Cape, Isbrand Goske. The engineer, Pieter Dombaer, was responsible for the construction of the Castle.
In 1667 peace returned to Europe which caused building on the Castle to be delayed. The first bastion, Leerdam, was completed on the 5 November 1670.Buuren, Catzenellenbogen, Nassau and Oranje followed.
In 1672 a renewed threat of war in Europe caused the building of the Castle to be resumed with new vigour. In 1679 the Castle was completed. It was called a castle because, as in the case of other castles in Europe, in addition to being a defensive structure, it comprised a small community or town on its own.
Inside the walls of the Castle there were among others a church, bakery, workshops, living quarters, offices, cells and numerous other facilities.
The slate used as paving in the Castle came from quarries on Robben Island. Wood was brought from Hout Bay. The cement used to build the Castle was obtained by burning shells in lime ovens until they formed lime. This lime was mixed with shells and sand to form an extremely strong cement
The yellow paint on the walls was chosen because it reduces the glare from the sunlight, and reflects less heat.
In 1982, a comprehensive restoration process was started to restore the Castle to its former glory. The process was completed early in 1993.
In the curtain wall between the bastions Oranje and Leerdam, the ceremonial office of the General Officer Commanding Western Province Command, the regional headquarters of the South African Army in the Western Cape, is situated. This is the oldest part of the Castle.
The inner courtyard of the Castle is divided by a wall. The division was initially intended to provide protection to the inhabitants of the Castle in the event of an attack. They would have been able to hide behind the wall no matter from which side an attack was launched. The wall is approximately 116 metres in length, 12 metres high, three and a half metres wide at the bottom, and two metres wide at the top.
Later, buildings were erected on either side of the wall. The term "DE KAT" is often heard when referring to this part of the Castle. "DE KAT" is a Dutch term for a defensive structure situated within a castle.
The term has its origin in Roman times when the place of command or seat of authority on the battlefield was known as "KAT”. The centre of command was guarded which gave rise to the idea of a centre of command inside a stronghold. The part of the Castle formerly known as "DE KAT", was the office of the governor. In 1674 the Council Chamber of the Political Council and the Council of Justice used the same chamber. This council was responsible for hearing all cases at the Cape. From these chambers, all facets of life of the colonists were controlled; where they could live; what they could plant and produce; the prices of their produce and many other aspects of their lives in order to ensure order in the settlement.
The right‑hand entrance in the curtain wall was the entrance to the governor's residence. His living quarters were on the top floor. The governor's sleeping quarters were above the arch linking the front courtyard to "Het Wapenplaatz",. On the left of the arch was the residence of the Secunde, who was the second-in‑command of the settlement. The bottom floor was mainly used for wine cellars and storage space.