Castle of the Moors

Sintra, Portugal

The Castle of the Moors is a hilltop medieval castle built by the Moors in the 8th and 9th centuries. It was an important strategic point during the Reconquista, and was taken by Christian forces after the fall of Lisbon in 1147. It is classified as a National Monument, part of the Sintra Cultural Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

During the second half of the 12th century, the chapel constructed within the walls of the castle became the parish seat. This was followed by the remodelling and construction under the initiative of King Sancho I of Portugal. In 1375 King Ferdinand I of Portugal, under the counsel of João Annes de Almada, ordered the rebuilding of the castle. While the structure was well fortified by 1383, its military importance was progressively diminishing as, more and more, the inhabitants were abandoning the castle for the old village of Sintra.

By 1493 this chapel was abandoned and later only used by the small Jewish community of the parish. The Jews occupying and using the structures in the castle were expelled by Manuel I of Portugal, and the castle was completely abandoned.

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake caused considerable damage to the chapel and affected the stability of the castle. By 1838 the towers were already in ruins, when in 1840 Ferdinand II of Portugal took up the task of conserving and improving the condition of the castle.

References:

Comments

Your name



Details

Founded: 8th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Portugal

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

J. B. (3 years ago)
There are plenty of well preserved medieval castles in Portugal and Spain but this one commands magnificent views on Sintra, the Pena Palace and the Atlantic Ocean. The huge boulders all over the place are really impressive. Well worth a visit.
Paulina_J (3 years ago)
Great place where you can touch the history. Fantastic panorama but if you afraid of high, some places to avoid. My family loved it.
tom hooper (3 years ago)
Amazing place. I preferred this place to the main palace. There is better views then the palace but there is more walking and climbing to do around the castle.
Mark McConachie (3 years ago)
Wonderful ancient castle set high atop a hill above the town. Be aware that although it's on 1km out of town, it is a steep and fairly brutal path to get there. There's no castle interior as such, just the walls and ramparts to explore. The views across the countryside are fabulous, and you get a view of Pena Palace on the next hill. Recommended.
Antoni Szymczak (3 years ago)
Amazing views, ancient castle ruins - a must see when you're in Lisbon - no other place can give you this magnificent panorama. Highly recommended, but be careful, watch your steps - very steep, no barriers at times. Older people might find it too challenging.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Broch of Gurness

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.