Castles in Portugal were crucial components of the military across history. The Portuguese learned the art of fortification construction from the Romans and the Moors. The Romans, who ruled and colonized the territory of current-day Portugal for more than 4 centuries, built forts with high walls and strong towers to defend their populations. The Moors, who invaded the Iberian Peninsula in the year 711, brought new stonework and heavily fortified gates to the peninsula.
There are two main types of castles: those which were built and preserved by the Muslim Moors from the 8th to the 13th century, and those which were built and preserved by the Christian Kingdom of Portugal founded in the 12th century.
The Moors, Islamic
peoples who had arrived to the Iberian Peninsula
from Northern Africa
in 711 conquering the Christian lands ruled by the Germanic Kingdoms of the peninsula, built strong castles and fortifications in many cities but, although many Portuguese medieval castles originated in the Islamic period, most of them have been extensively remodelled after the Christian reconquest. One of the best-preserved is Silves Castle
, located in Silves
, the ancient capital of the Al-Garb
, today's Algarve
. Built between the 8th and 13th centuries, Silves Castle has preserved its walls and square-shaped towers from the Moorish period, as well as 11th-century cisterns
- water reservoirs used in case of a siege
. The old Moorish centre of the city - the Almedina
- was defended by a wall and several fortified towers and gates, parts of which are still preserved.
Another notable Islamic castle in the Algarve is Paderne Castle, whose ruined walls evidence the taipa building technique used in its construction. The Sintra Moorish Castle, near Lisbon, has also preserved rests of walls and a cistern from Moorish times. Part of the Moorish city walls have been preserved in Lisbon (the so-called Cerca Velha) and Évora. Moorish city gates with a characteristic horseshoe-arched profile can be found in Faro and Elvas.
Kingdom of Portugal's castles
The troubled times of the Portuguese Reconquista
(12th and 13th centuries) meant that many castles had to be built to protect Kingdom of Portugal
's villages and towns from Muslim Moors
and even from rival Christians like the Castilians
. King Afonso Henriques
sponsored the building of many fortifications (often remodelling Moorish castles as Lisbon Castle
) and granted land to Military Orders - specially the Templar Knights
and the Knights Hospitallers
- who became responsible for the defence of borders and villages. The Templar Knights built several fortresses along the line of the Tagus
river, like the castles of Pombal
. They are credited as having introduced the keep
to Portuguese military architecture.