Castle of São Jorge

The Castle of São Jorge (Portuguese: Castelo de São Jorge; Portuguese pronunciation: ]) is a Portuguese castle that occupies a commanding position overlooking the city of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, and the broad Tagus River (Portuguese: Rio Tejo) beyond. The strongly-fortified citadel, which, in its present configuration, dates from medieval times, is located atop the highest hill in the historic center of the city. The castle is one of the main historical and touristic sites of Lisbon.

History

Origins

Although the first fortifications on this Lisbon hilltop are known to be no older than the second century BC, archaeological research has shown that humans have occupied the site since the sixth century BC, and possibly earlier. The hill was employed in early times by indigenous Celtic and Iberian tribes, and others, probably Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians, have also left their cultural footprints there. Afterwards, Roman, Suebic, Visigothic, and Moorish settlers lived where the castle now stands.

Middle Ages

In the context of the Christian Reconquista, the castle and the city of Lisbon were won from the Moors by King Afonso Henriques with the help of northern-European crusaders associated with the Second Crusade. (The Siege of Lisbon, which took place in 1147, was the only notable success of that failed crusade.) According to an oft-repeated legend, the knight, Martim Moniz, noticed that one of the doors to the castle was open, and he prevented the Moors from closing the door again by throwing his own body into the breach. He sacrificed his life but, in doing so, allowed Christian soldiers to enter.

Ownership of the castle helped Lisbon to protect itself against the Moors during the last years of the twelfth century. When Lisbon became the capital of the kingdom, in 1255, the castle became the royal palace, the Alcáçova. It was extensively renovated around 1300 by King Dinis I.

Between 1373 and 1375, a new city wall was built around Lisbon (locally, called the Cerca Nova or the Fernandina) by King Ferdinand I, of which some remnants survive. This wall, which partially replaced the old Moorish walls, was designed to encircle previously-unprotected parts of the city. It had 77 towers and a perimeter of 5400 metres, and it was completed in only two years. The castle and the city resisted the Castilian army several times during the 14th century, notably in 1373 and in 1383–4.

At about this time, in the late 14th century, the castle was dedicated to Saint George by João I, who had married the English princess, Philippa of Lancaster. George, the warrior-saint, usually represented fighting a dragon, was popular in both countries.

From the 14th to the early 16th century, one of the towers (the Torre de Ulisses or Torre Albarrã) of the castle housed the archives of the kingdom. For that reason, the National Archive of Portugal is still called the Torre do Tombo, that is, the Tower of the Archive. Eminent chroniclers like Fernão Lopes and Damião de Góis worked there.

As the royal palace, the castle was the setting for the reception of the navigator and hero, Vasco da Gama, when he returned after discovering a maritime route to India. King Manuel I received him there, in 1498, with all appropriate honors and celebrations. Also in the castle, the pioneering playwright, Gil Vicente, staged, in 1502, his Monólogo do Vaqueiro, to honour the birth of Manuel I's son and heir, the future João III.

Modern times

During the early 16th century, as Manuel I built a new royal palace on the edge of the Tagus river (the so-called Ribeira Palace), the old castle began to lose importance. An earthquake in 1531 damaged the castle, and this only contributed to further decay and neglect. In 1569, King Sebastian ordered the rebuilding of the royal apartments in the castle of São Jorge, because he intended to use it as his residence. However, this project was never completed. Starting in 1580, when a Portuguese dynastic crisis opened the door to sixty years of Spanish rule, the castle was used as a barracks and a prison.

The great 1755 Lisbon earthquake severely damaged the castle and contributed to its degradation. Inspired by the horrendous trauma of the earthquake, in 1788, the first geodesic observatory in Portugal was assembled at the top of one of the towers of the castle; it is called the Torre do Observatório.

From 1780 to 1807, the charitable institution Casa Pia, dedicated to the education of poor children, was established in the citadel.

The castle's period of neglect ended in the 1940s, when an extensive renovation was undertaken. Most of the incongruous structures added to the castle compound in earlier centuries were demolished. The castle then became a big tourist attraction, known especially for the wonderful views of Lisbon that it offers.

(low wall in the foreground) in front of the main wall, and a tower.]]

Architecture

The castle's footprint is roughly square in shape, and it was originally encircled by a wall, to form a citadel. The castle complex consists of the castle proper (the castelejo), some ancillary buildings (including the ruins of the royal palace), gardens, and a large terraced square from which impressive panoramas of Lisbon are afforded. The main entrance to the citadel is a 19th-century gate surmounted by the coat-of-arms of Portugal, the name of Queen Maria II, and the date, 1846. This gate permits access to the main square (Praça d'Armas), which is decorated with old cannons and a bronze statue of Afonso Henriques, the Portuguese monarch who wrested the castle from the Moors. This statue is a copy of the 19th-century original by the romantic sculptor, António Soares dos Reis, which is located near Guimarães Castle in central Portugal.

The remnants of the royal palace are located near the main square, but all that is left are some walls and a few rebuilt rooms like the Casa Ogival. It now hosts the Olissipónia, a multimedia show about the history of Lisbon.

The medieval castle is located toward the northwest corner of the citadel, at its highest point. Hypothetically, during a siege, if attackers managed to enter the citadel, the castle was the last stronghold, the last place available to take refuge. It is rectangular in shape, and it has a total of ten towers. A wall with a tower and a connecting door, divides the castle courtyard into halves. A series of stairways allow visitors to reach the walkway atop the wall and the towers, from which magnificent views of Lisbon can be enjoyed. The Tower of Ulysses (where the Torre do Tombo archive used to be) now has a periscope that allow tourists to have a 360-degree view of the city.

Apart from its main walls, the castle is protected, on its southern and eastern sides, by a barbican (barbacã), a low wall that prevented siege engines from approaching the main castle walls. The northern and western sides of the castle, on the other hand, were naturally protected by the steep hillside sloping downward from the castle's foundations. The castle is also partially encircled by a moat, now dry. The main entrance is fronted by a stone bridge across the moat. On the west side, there is a long curtain wall extending downhill, ending at a tower (the Torre de Couraça). This tower served to control the valley below, and it could also be used to escape, in case the castle was taken by enemies.

References

External links

Listed in the following categories:
Post a comment
Tips & Hints
Arrange By:
Laura P
2 May 2016
Amazing views from the moment you cross the gate. Go at 4 when it's getting quieter and before you leave have a glass of wine from the wine with a view truck, sit on the wall and appreciate the view
Giacson
12 November 2016
One of the highlights point in Lisbon with panoramic view over the city. You can visit also the castle and admire the sunset with a glass of wine. 8,50€ entrance is too much for what you actually see
Ana Rosa Mello
2 August 2016
It's a "must visit" historic site in Lisbon. The view from the city is great and there are plenty of coffee shops and restaurants nearby that you can go to after
Janice Chow
8 October 2017
The entrance is quite a rip off but definitely worth the view! Highly recommend to get a glass of wine sipping while enjoying the red rooftops view. The castle itself is boring
Fatima Al Hashimi
20 December 2016
Obligatory visit for best views of Lisbon. Make sure you visit the museum before you tread the castle, and get transported into a different era.
Liva
18 November 2017
It’s a little bit of a hike so heads up to those with walking disabilities. I went with an elderly person so we took our time. The vista over Lisbon is beautiful. Go see the archeological part.
Load more comments
foursquare.com
8.6/10
Evgeny Ter-Avakyan, Anton Volnuhin and 44,992 more people have been here

Hotels nearby

See all hotels See all
Moniz Blue By LU Holidays

starting $148

Olissippo Castelo

starting $151

3 beds, sunset view in Lisbon old city centre

starting $0

Olissippo Castelo

starting $158

Lisbon Serviced Apartments - Castelo S. Jorge

starting $158

Dalma Flats

starting $119

Recommended sights nearby

See all See all
Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Miradouro de Santa Luzia

Miradouro de Santa Luzia is a tourist attraction, one of the Scenic

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Santo António Church

The Santo António Church (Portuguese: Igreja de Santo António de L

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Lisbon Cathedral

Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa or Sé de Lisboa is the cathedral of

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Rossio Square

Rossio Square is the popular name of the Pedro IV Square (Portuguese:

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Santa Justa Lift

The Santa Justa Lift (Portuguese: Elevador de Santa Justa,

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Carmo Convent (Lisbon)

The Carmo Convent (Portuguese: Convento da Ordem do Carmo) is a

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Coliseu dos Recreios

Coliseu dos Recreios or Coliseu de Lisboa is a concert hall in Lisbon,

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Rua Augusta Arch

The Rua Augusta Arch is a stone, triumphal arch-like, historical

Similar tourist attractions

See all See all
Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle (German: Schloss Neuschwanstein, pronounced ])

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Tower of London

Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Château de Gruyères

The Castle of Gruyères (in french: château de Gruyères), located in th

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Castel Sant'Angelo

The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as the Castel Sant'Angelo, is

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Castello Scaligero (Sirmione)

Замок Скалігерів (італ. Castello Scaligero) —

See all similar places