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The view from Leme Fort |© Halley Pacheco de Oliveira/WikiCommons
The view from Leme Fort |© Halley Pacheco de Oliveira/WikiCommons
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A Brief Introduction to Copacabana and Leme Forts

Picture of Sarah Brown
Updated: 9 March 2017
At either end of Copacabana’s long sweeping beach are two forts that play a crucial role in Brazil’s military history; to the south is Copacabana Fort, and to the north is Leme Fort, officially known as Forte Duque de Caxias. Although Copacabana Fort is still a military base for the current Brazilian army, Brazil’s neutral stance in world affairs makes the forts two must-see tourist attractions.

Copacabana Fort

Copacabana Fort (in Portuguese: Forte de Copacabana) acts as a coastal defense and military base for some of the Brazilian navy, as well as housing the Army Historical Musuem and Confeitaria Colombo, an all-day restaurant with art nouveau décor and a regal menu. Its purpose as an army base seems worlds apart from the breathtaking views over Copacabana bay, and its vantage point for spotting turtles in the sea below. Yet the young soliders wandering around or running up and down Copacabana’s promenade serve as a reminder that there is an active army dwelling behind the fort’s walls.

The Copacabana Fort protrudes out into the sea
The Copacabana Fort protrudes out into the sea | © Gabriel Heusi/

The fort came to being in 1908 when the army removed the existing chapel with its replica of the Virgen de Copacabana, the patron saint of Bolivia, and built over its foundations a modern coastal defense to protect the beach and intrusive entry into Rio. It was protected and shielded by powerful guns and weaponry, that unexpectedly caused a potentially catastrophic problem in 1922. In this year, there was a revolt in the fort and the officers inside turned the guns onto Rio de Janeiro. Yet the government were quick to react and sent in the battleships São Paulo and Minas Gereas to defuse the problem. The São Paulo ship bombarded the fort making at least two significant hits, enough for the fort to surrender half an hour later.

The gardens and view at Copacabana Fort