The Portuguese founded Castle “Sao Jorge and Mina” in 1482 to protect the gold-rich lands discovered in 1471. The castle was completed according to its original plan in 1486 and the town was raised to the status of a “city”.
Portuguese navigators carefully selected the castle’s site, because it was strategically located at the end of a narrow promontory bounded on two sides by the Atlantic Ocean and the Benya River or lagoon. Here, in the lee of a low headland, a natural harbour provided sheltered anchorage.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Portuguese enjoyed a trade boom in spite of numerous attempts by Castilians and later the French and the English to break the Portuguese trade monopoly.
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 Atlantic Slave Trade. The castle acted as a depot where slaves were bought in bartering fashion from local African chiefs and kings. The slaves, often captured in the African interior by the slave-catchers of coastal tribes, were sold to Portuguese traders in exchange for goods such as textiles and horses. The slaves were held captive in the castle before exiting through the castle’s infamous “Door of No Return” to be transported and resold in newly colonised Brazil and other Portuguese colonies.
The castle was extensively restored by the Ghanaian government in the 1990s. Renovation of the castle continues as part of the Elmina Strategy 2015 project.