Castles in Orkney

Earl's Palace

The ruins of the Earl"s Palace lie near St Magnus"s Cathedral. Built by Patrick, Earl of Orkney, construction began in 1607 and was largely undertaken via forced labour. Earl Patrick is widely acknowledged to have been one of the most tyrannical noblemen in Scotland"s history. The palace was built after the Earl decided that the accommodation provided by the Bishop"s Palace was inadequate for his need ...
Founded: 1607 | Location: Kirkwall, United Kingdom

Bishop's Palace

The Bishop"s Palace, Kirkwall was built at the same time as the adjacent St Magnus Cathedral. It was built for the cathedral"s first bishop, William the Old of the Norwegian Catholic church who took his authority from the Archbishop of Nidaros (Trondheim). The ruined structure now looks like a small castle. Originally it is thought to have been like a typical Royal Norwegian Palace, with a large rectangular hal ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Kirkwall, United Kingdom

Balfour Castle

Though built around an older structure that dates at least from the 18th century, the present Balfour Castle was built in 1847, commissioned by Colonel David Balfour, and designed by Edinburgh architect David Bryce. Today Balfour castle is a hotel.
Founded: 1847 | Location: Orkney, United Kingdom

Earl's Palace

The Earl"s Palace is a ruined 16th-century castle. It was built by Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney (1533–1593), illegitimate son of King James V and his mistress Euphemia Elphinstone. The castle was constructed in two phases. The first phase of work, begun in the 1570s, consisted of the great hall located in the south range, above the main door. Beside this was Lord Orkney"s private chamber in the south-east cor ...
Founded: 1570s | Location: Birsay, United Kingdom

Noltland Castle Ruins

Noltland Castle dates mainly to the later 16th century, although it was never fully completed. In 1560 Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney, granted the lands of Noltland to his brother-in-law Gilbert Balfour, who built the castle. Balfour was Master of the Royal Household to Mary, Queen of Scots, and was involved in the plot to kill her husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. After Mary"s deposition and exile, he continued ...
Founded: 1560 | Location: Orkney, United Kingdom

Cubbie Roo's Castle Ruins

Cubbie Roo"s Castle, built about 1150, is one of the oldest castles in Scotland and was mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga. It takes its name from Kolbein Hruga who was said to have lived there. In King Haakon"s saga, it is mentioned that after the last Norse Earl of Orkney, Earl John, was murdered in Thurso, his killers fled to Wyre. They took refuge in the castle, which was so strong that the besiegers had to th ...
Founded: c. 1150 | Location: Orkney, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls) is a 17th-century church and monastery in the city of Lisbon. It is one of the most important monasteries and mannerist buildings in the country. The monastery also contains the royal pantheon of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal.

The original Monastery of São Vicente de Fora was founded around 1147 by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, for the Augustinian Order. The Monastery, built in Romanesque style outside the city walls, was one of the most important monastic foundations in mediaeval Portugal. It is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, patron saint of Lisbon, whose relics were brought from the Algarve to Lisbon in the 12th century.

The present buildings are the result of a reconstruction ordered by King Philip II of Spain, who had become King of Portugal (as Philip I) after a succession crisis in 1580. The church of the monastery was built between 1582 and 1629, while other monastery buildings were finished only in the 18th century. The author of the design of the church is thought to be the Italian Jesuit Filippo Terzi and/or the Spaniard Juan de Herrera. The plans were followed and modified by Leonardo Turriano, Baltazar Álvares, Pedro Nunes Tinoco and João Nunes Tinoco.

The church of the Monastery has a majestic, austere façade that follows the later Renaissance style known as Mannerism. The façade, attributed to Baltazar Álvares, has several niches with statues of saints and is flanked by two towers (a model that would become widespread in Portugal). The lower part of the façade has three arches that lead to the galilee (entrance hall). The floorplan of the church reveals a Latin cross building with a one-aisled nave with lateral chapels. The church is covered by barrel vaulting and has a huge dome over the crossing. The general design of the church interior follows that of the prototypic church of Il Gesù, in Rome.

The beautiful main altarpiece is a Baroque work of the 18th century by one of the best Portuguese sculptors, Joaquim Machado de Castro. The altarpiece has the shape of a baldachin and is decorated with a large number of statues. The church also boasts several fine altarpieces in the lateral chapels.

The Monastery buildings are reached through a magnificent baroque portal, located beside the church façade. Inside, the entrance is decorated with blue-white 18th century tiles that tell the history of the Monastery, including scenes of the Siege of Lisbon in 1147. The ceiling of the room has an illusionistic painting executed in 1710 by the Italian Vincenzo Baccarelli. The sacristy of the Monastery is exuberantly decorated with polychromed marble and painting. The cloisters are also notable for the 18th century tiles that recount fables of La Fontaine, among other themes.

In 1834, after the religious orders were dissolved in Portugal, the monastery was transformed into a palace for the archbishops of Lisbon. Some decades later, King Ferdinand II transformed the monks' old refectory into a pantheon for the kings of the House of Braganza. Their tombs were transferred from the main chapel to this room.