Castle of Amiera do Tejo
Founded during the reign of King Afonso IV, on the initiative of D. Álvaro Gonçalves Pereira, Hospital of the Order of Prior and father of the future Constable of the Kingdom, Nuno Alvares Pereira, the Tagus Amieira Castle is a unique case in the panorama of military architectural Portuguese, in the exemplary nature and regularity of its layout, heir of the most advanced concepts of Mediterranean fortifications.
The responsibility for building a castle on the territory of Amieira – of great strategic value because of the proximity of the Tagus and the fact that it is of a major crossing point – it is like the Order of the Prior of the Hospitallers, after the transfer, in 1356, Order of Leca do Bailio headquarters for Flower Monastery of Rosa. In 1359, the monument was almost completed: the quadrangular, equipped with four towers at the corners, thus assuming most functions to keep and simultaneously be a residence with rectangular courtyard and central cistern and entirely surrounded by a extensive Barbican, is one of the most emblematic examples considered of the “gothic castle” at geometrism tracing and the autonomy from geographical constraints, as opposed to the Romanesque castle; more organic and dependent on the natural defense conditions.
Adopted by the founder as a refuge during his later years, the castle of Amieira was only truly affected by the siege of 1440, when the feud between Queen Leonor – ally of Castile – and the regent D. Pedro, who saw bound to reinforce the armies in the most fragile parts of the border region. Manueline period, there are testimonies of endorsed buildings inside the fortified structure, such as the residential area built between the main tower and the tower of St. John the Baptist, that left some vault starts, and this negative coverage in the vestment wall and the window “conversadeiras” torn at the level of a first level, which does not exist.
The Chapel of St. John the Baptist, built in the eastern Barbican face at a date that has been interpreted as 1566, reflects the well-known devotion to this Holy Order and the decline of the defensive functions of the castle. The sgraffito decoration of the temple dome, divided into caissons decorated with grotesque anthropomorphic figures, putti and vegetal ornaments of Mannerist taste is an unusual case in using this technique, despite the ingenuity of execution.
From the XVI Amieira Castle century records gradually a situation of abandonment and degradation as a result of war inactivity and lack of maintenance, a situation that documentation 1759 expressed when he says that the four towers have already houses or roofs and the main room between the first two towers are ruined. It turned out to be the transfer – which took place after the 1846 law – the church burials into the castle grounds, in the churchyard bounded by four towers, which ensured some care in maintaining that space. By then the castle would be decommissioned the houses that occupied for many years, and that would meet semi-destroyed since the eighteenth century, the only access to the fortified enclosure made by St. John the Baptist chapel.
In the early twentieth century, the castle of Amieira, devoid of the noblest buildings that adorned once and occupied by “dwelling huts, stables and pigsties” found itself, like many of its counterparts all over the country, doomed to abandonment, it is used as a barn and shelter for shepherds, and the central courtyard was transformed into a cemetery. This state of neglect does not prevent, on November 10, 1922, are classified as a national monument, and as such it receives, in 1950, extensive restoration work of the General Directorate responsible for National Buildings and Monuments. In the 90 century the castle keep is the target of a remodeling campaign and in 2005-2006, under the PORA, are restored Chapel of the sgraffiti and murals of Sangueirinho Tower (rare example of pictorial decoration on a monument military), and carried out archaeological surveys.
It is one of the first defensive castles erected by the Knights Hospitaller in Portuguese territory, representing a turning point in this Order markedly care vocation they bear, by donating the vast Homestead Guidimtesta by King d. Sancho I, in 1194, the defense and settlement of the territory along the Tagus.
The strategic location of this monument, wisely deployed on a hill overlooking the Tagus river, with steep slopes of the North side, West and South, allowed a single access – that facilitated the entry of the friars and the connection to the village of Belver – and a united front attack in the east, where concentrated defensive castle structures, such as the set of thirteen loopholes open to storey height, constituting an innovative element for the time.
Its architectural identity thus translates the topographical features of the site, being, simultaneously, one of the most paradigmatic examples of the Portuguese Romanesque castle, which summarizes the main features of this fortification model: a sub-circular, organic plant, adapting to the terrain morphology, achieved by a wall that runs along the entire perimeter, defended by four square and two circular turrets – the latter representing different construction times – accessible through by a battlement; two doors – the Front Door, facing east, of considerable dimensions, flanked by two rectangular towers, and the Gate of Betrayal – located on the west side, confronting the narrow valley of Belver river, difficult to access and well camouflaged, according to the dictates of this type of fortification; and a great keep tower, isolated in the center of the parade ground, solidly built, with a ground floor and as floors, accessible by stairs to the first floor level and an ingenious door.
The castellated enclosure also includes the S. Brás Chapel, erected in the late sixteenth century (certainly succeeding to an earlier temple manufactory) that highlights the remarkable altarpiece-reliquary hoist.
Belver Castle maintained its defensive function during the early days of its existence, but soon lost relevance with the territory south consolidation. The state of decay is emphasized in the earthquake of 1755 and a century later, after the ban on burials in 1846 churches, hosts inside the cemetery of the village of Belver.
In the 40s of the twentieth century, virtually doomed to abandonment, the castle undergoes profound remodeling by the hand of the former DGEMN. Since 2000, already assigned to the extinct IPPAR are performed consolidation interventions of the Keep and the east of the wall face, and restoration of s altarpiece.
Castle of Elvas
Deployed in a border area, it was always dedicated to the defense and protection of the kingdom. The Castle of Elvas dates from the reign of Sancho II, although suffering material expanded in the next reign. It was based on a Muslim structure, which still remain two belts of walls; making the city the Moors successively in 1166 and 1220, and only finally in 1226, the castle was immediately rebuilt and completed in 1228.
The reign of King Dinis introduced some innovations in terms of coverage and other support elements such as towers and boulders. In the following centuries, John II and Manuel I adapted the castle into a new bastion system, Renaissance taste, while the entire set was taking a more residential character, in charge of the city’s mayors. Surpassing the entrance doors faced with the stone weapons of King John II, dating this constructive campaign.
It was this double function castle/residence that best characterized the group to major military reform of the mid-seventeenth century, when the Elvas Castle would become one of the most remarkable sets of Europe due to the defense of urgency in full cycle border wars (1641-1668). Fortification of work fell to Father Cosmander engineer and the other teachers for this purpose called the Portuguese court by King John IV and Alfonso VI. Up highlights of this campaign, the complex system of walls, ravelins, moats, and two secondary forts, the Santa Luzia and Grace.
Despite major transformations undergone throughout history, the Elvas Castle retains its medieval military structure and is recognized as one of the most important cases of overlapping functions and evolution of strategic military conceptions along the Portuguese history.