Dutch Trading Post
Heritage Network
Dutch Trading Post Heritage Network


Country: Indonesia
Member: Ternate Heritage Society

VOC in Ternate
Ternate was ruled by a strong Sultanate who expelled the Portuguese from Ternate in the 16th century after various disputes. The Spanish however occupied a former Portuguese fort in 1606. As a reward from successfully driving away the Spanish from Ternate, Cornelis Matelief de Jonge was given the permission from the sultan to build a fort at the location of the already destroyed Malay Fort owned by the Sultan. The first Dutch ruler in the Moluccas, Paulus Carden named it Fort Oranje.
Fort Oranje was one of the first permanent bases of the VOC in Asia and became the seat of the VOC’s Council of the Indies and the Governor General in 1610. It was the de-facto center for the VOC in Asia until Jan Pieterszoon Coen moved the administration to Batavia in 1619.
The VOC was later allowed to use and reinforce various other forts on Ternate island and signed several treaties with the Sultanate of Ternate until the bankruptcy of the VOC in 1799.
In 1756 Fort Oranje was once used as a prison and in the 19th century it became the office of the Government of the Moluccas and was subsequently used as the Ternate Resident’s Office.

Spice trade
The clove tree is a native species to the islands of Ternate and Tidore, which were the worlds only major source of cloves. Through Arabic traders, and later the Portuguese, cloves were traded around the world bringing great riches to the islands.
Cloves were sold in Europe at many times the price in the Moluccas. Because of the profitable trade, the VOC helped the Sultanate of Ternate to expel the Spanish and Portuguese from Ternate in order to gain permission to trade cloves from the Sultanate. They received the monopoly on the clove trade from Ternate, but their ultimate goal was to gain a monopoly over the world’s entire clove trade, which was also traded out of neighboring islands. Although the VOC never succeeded to completely monopolize the trade, it was one of the main spices on which the VOC built their fortunes.
Cloves were shipped from Ternate to Batavia (Jakarta) where it was redistributed onto other ships that carried it to Asian regions and onto Europe. As prices of cloves had significantly dropped by the 19th century, the clove trade slowly declined.

Remaining heritage in Ternate
There are various forts that were used by the VOC that still remain on Ternate. The largest and historically most important is Fort Oranje, located in the crowded center of Ternate city. The fort has arrow-head bastions in each of its four corners named Zeebolwerk (the largest bastion on the southeast side near the sea), Klein Zeebolwerk (northeast) and Gilolo and Rael (facing the mountain). It is made of stone layers with an encircling ditch and the entrance gate is decorated with a crown on its top.
In 2008 and 2014 Fort Oranje underwent a revitalization program in which the moat and the buildings inside the fort were renovated. Fort Oranje is now used as a community space and there are plans for a spice museum to be set up inside the fort.
Other forts, some of which were originally built by the Portuguese and later used and expanded by the VOC, still remain on Ternate Island. Fort Kalamata and Fort Tolukko, are well preserved and can be visited. Other forts such as Fort Kastela and Fort Kota Janji only partially remain but still give a fascinating glimpse into the history of the contested spice trade.

Main entrance of Fort Oranje, 2015

Fort Oranje has been revitalized in 2015, and to be developed for museum and public space. Ditch after revitalization, April 2015