The Castle of Vila Nova de Cerveira was referred in the early 13th century and it is suggested that the castle was merely a defensive tower. It was enlarged by King Denis of Portugal in the 1320s and the barbican was constructed under the reigns of King Fernando or King D. João I in 14-15th centuries.
The construction of the 16th century fortress was resulted from the fear of Spanish threats from across the border during the Restoration Wars, and was included in a line of defenses along the Minho River and Atlantic coast. On 25 September 1643, forces of Cerveira resisted attacks by troops loyal to King Philip IV of Spain. Following these events, in 1650, the chapel of Nossa Senhora da Ajuda was constructed over the barbican. With the continued need to defend the territory, the 7th Viscount of Vila Nova de Cerveira ordered that the settlement be circled with walls, bartizans and four interior bastions. In addition a half bastian and three smaller redoubts were established along the river. The courtyard had three gates: the Campanha Gate, the Church Gate, Nova Gate and Rio Gate. These public works were complete in 1667, under the direction of Field Marshall Francisco Azevedo, supported with the royal taxation on water and fife from the settlers.
In 1809, with the defense organized by the Colonel Gonçalo Coelho de Araújo, the military square resisted Napoleon's Second Invasion during the Second Invasion Peninsular Wars, under the command of Nicolau Jean de Dieu Soult. They were successful in impeding their crossing the river.
The growth in the local economy and need to support the growing population meant that the keep tower was demolished in 1844, and the following year the Afonsino tower, were partially destroyed to build other structures. Between 1845 and 1846, the wall's gates began to slowly be destroyed. With this slow deterioration, the castle slowly lost its importance, resulting in the 1875 authorization to demolish the fortress. The earliest attempt to recover importance of the castle began in 1905, with work done to repair wall cracks.
The castle is situated in an urban context, addorsed and distinct on the right bank of the Minho River, over a small portion of the wall, that extends along the border of the city. Its interiors are occupied by constructions adapted for their use as hostel, including its restaurant which is distinctly different then the surrounding classified structure.
The castle has an oval plan, formed with 8 rectangular towers and a line of walls, and integrated into the São Miguel bastion over the river and barbican oriented towards the town. Access to the rounded, barbican gate includes access to the rectangular body integrated with the chapel of Nossa Senhora da Ajuda. Below this space is the wall, creating an elbow. The frontispiece of the chapel has granite cornerstone, with rectangular pediment and a second floor doorway with interrupted frontispiece and varanda.
The barbican continues towards the east, with circling walls and angular extensions, then tower followed by visible wall. Entrance to the castle occurs a double gate: a wall between the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Ajuda and tower, surmounted by coat-of-arms and sections of a former balcony; the second is above the tower, through a double vain, surmounted by the coat-of-arms of Portugal. Between this tower and the Church of the Misericórdia is a latrine encircled by two cantilevers.
The interior courtyard is encircled by battlements accessed by stone staircases. The visible towers, some with, others without crowns are of different heights, with protruding parapets to the west. The bastion, framed with exterior stone, is accessible by a small 'traitors' gate alongside a cistern. Among many of the buildings constructed inside the walls are the old residence of the governor, municipal seat, pillory, jail, barracks and storerooms, along with the Church of the Misericórida.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.