Almourol Castle

Almourol Castle



Location: Vila Nova de Barquinha parish  Map

Constructed: 1171

Open: daily during daylight

Info: Largo 1 Dezemoro, Barquinha

Tel. 249 720 358


Description of Almourol Castle

Almourol Castle or Castelo de Almourol is located in the parish of Praia do Ribatejo, municipality of Vila Nova da Barquinha, district of Santarém, Centro region (Beiras Region), in Portugal, although its location is often attributed to Tancos, as it is the nearest village and where you can see it better.

Built on a granite outcrop 18 meters above water level, on a small island measuring 310 meters long and 75 meters wide, in the middle course of the Tagus River, a little below its confluence with the Zêzere River, at the time of the Reconquest. it was part of the so-called Tagus Line, current Templar Tourism Region. It is one of the most representative examples of military architecture of the time, simultaneously evoking the beginnings of the kingdom of Portugal and the Order of the Templars, an association that reinforces its aura of mystery and romanticism.

With the extinction of the Order of the Temple, the castle of Almourol becomes part of the heritage of the Order of Christ (which was the successor in Portugal of the Order of the Templars).

Almourol Castle has been classified as a National Monument since 1910.



Background and toponymy
Although the authors are not unanimous about the primitive human occupation of this site, believing that it dates back to a prehistoric fort, archaeological research has brought to light testimonies from the Roman period (1st century BC coins) and the medieval period (medals). Some authors also identify, in some sections at the base of the walls, examples of the Roman-type constructive apparatus.

From the 3rd century onwards, the site was occupied by other groups, namely the Alans, the Visigoths and the Muslims, the latter from the 8th century onwards. In the 13th century, the fortification already existed, called by them as Al-morolan (high stone).

It is not possible to specify the origin of its name, as it is difficult to clarify the meaning and the spelling of which variations are known: Almoriol, Almorol, Almourel, Almuriel. Other authors establish a connection with the term Moron, which Strabo would have referred to as a city located on the banks of the Tagus, or with the term Muriella, which appears in the description of the delimitation of the Bishopric of Egitânia and Corretânea.

the medieval castle
At the time of the Christian Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula, when this region was occupied by Portuguese forces, Almourol was conquered in 1129 by D. Afonso Henriques (1112-1185). The sovereign handed it over to the Knights of the Knights Templar, who were then in charge of populating the territory between the Mondego and Tagus rivers, and of defending the then capital of Portugal, Coimbra.

At this stage, the castle was rebuilt, having acquired, in general terms, its current features, characteristics of Templar architecture: quadrangular spaces, high walls, reinforced by addorsed towers. east has a Templar cross. Dominated by a keep. An epigraphic plaque, placed over the main gate, shows that his works were completed in 1171, two years after the completion of the Castle of Tomar, built by order of Gualdim Pais, son of Paio Ramires. The same architectural features are also present in the Castle of Idanha, Monsanto, Pombal, Tomar and Zêzere, his contemporaries.

Under the care of the Order, constituted in the seat of a Command, the castle became a nerve center in the Tagus area, controlling the trade in olive oil, wheat, pork, fruit and wood between the different regions of the territory and Lisbon. It is also believed that there was a village associated with the castle, on one or both banks of the river, since, in 1170, a charter was granted to its residents.

With the advance of the reconquest to the south and the extinction of the Order of the Templars in 1311 by Pope Clement V during the reign of D. Dinis (1279-1325), the structure passed to the Order of Christ, later losing importance, having underwent several changes.

From the 18th century to the present day
Victim of the 1755 earthquake, the structure was damaged and underwent further alterations during the 19th century romanticism. At this stage, and in line with the then current philosophy of valuing the works of the past in the light of an ideal poetic vision, the castle was subject to adulterations of a decorative nature, including the uniform crowning of the walls by battlements and merlons.

The castle was handed over to the Portuguese Army in the second half of the 19th century, under the responsibility of the commander of the Escola Prática de Engenharia de Tancos, to which it is attached to this day.

In the 20th century it was classified as a National Monument of Portugal by Decree of June 16, 1910. At the time of the Portuguese Estado Novo, the complex was adapted as the Official Residence of the Portuguese Republic, where some important official events took place. To this end, new interventions were promoted in the 1940s and 1950s, reinforcing aspects of an ideology of nationality cultivated by the regime at the time.

At the beginning of June 2006, two new piers were opened for tourist boats: one on the right bank of the Tagus River and the other on the south side of the island.

In September 2013, work began to improve the walls and work on the keep of the Castle of Almourol to create a museum space.

The works, which will last for six months and involve an investment of around 500,000 euros, will focus on different areas of disaggregation of the walls and towers, with their waterproofing, water drainage and improvement of the walls.

The intervention in the keep will focus on the replacement of the current terrace, on the placement of a metallic staircase with vertical circulation and on the installation of an exhibition system of contents referring to the Templars, aiming to preserve and protect the monument and allowing it better conditions of accessibility and circulation.

It is currently possible to visit the Castle of Almourol and take tours on the Tagus River, adding value and interest to visits to the Monument. From Tancos, Arripiado and Vila Nova da Barquinha.



The construction, in granite stonework and mortared masonry, has an irregular (organic) plan, reflecting the irregularity of the terrain, and has a division demarcated into two levels, a lower exterior and a higher interior.

The first level is accessed through the main entrance where there are tombstones that make reference to the intervention by Gualdim Pais and where the name of the worker and the year in which the intervention took place are mentioned. In this space, the walls feature nine tall circular towers (four equidistant to the west, and five to the east) and here you can also find the betrayal gate and vestiges of what would have been a well.
Going up some steps and going through another door, you enter the second level, the highest interior area where the quadrangular keep, a characteristic element of the Templars, built in the 12th century, stands. This three-storey structure now features only the shoes as an original element (where the wooden framework would be supported) and a patesque cross above the window, a symbol adopted by the Templars. Here the curtain walls crowned by merlons and loopholes feature staircases that give access to the top of the wall and the path that runs through it, the adarve. Communication between the different parts of the castle can be done through several stonework passages.
Through the islet, other paths were built, allowing not only the path that embraces the castle, but also the possibility of glimpsing the surrounding landscape from various perspectives.

The epigraphic question
On the main door of the castle, an epigraphic inscription dating from the era of 1209 (1171), mentions, in addition to Gualdim Pais from Braga and his military action against Muslims in Egypt and Syria, his rise to the leadership of the Order of the Temple in Portugal and subsequent construction of the castles of Pombal, Tomar, Zêzere, Cardiga and Almourol (…factus domus Templi Portugalis procurator, hoc construxit castrum Palumbare, Tomar, Ozezar, Cardig, et hoc ad Almourol), showing that, in that year, the Almourol castle was, like the others indicated, already built. However, a second inscription, on the inner door, informs that it was in the 1209 era that Gualdim Pais built the Castle of Almourol. A third inscription, on the door of the sacristy of the church of the Convent of Tomar, also dated from 1209, similar to the first, except for the enumeration of the castles, which also includes those of Idanha and Monsanto, which shows that this third one was later than the first, since these last two castles were built after 1171.

There have been several popular stories exacerbating the romanticism associated with the Templar castle, among which are:

In the early days of the Reconquista, D. Ramiro, a Christian knight, was returning proud of fighting the Muslims when he found two Moorish women, mother and daughter. He was bringing the young woman a pitcher of water, which, frightened, she dropped when he asked her rudely to drink the knight. Enraged, he had just taken the lives of the two women when a young Moor appeared, son and brother of the victims, soon imprisoned. D. Ramiro took the captive to his castle, where he lived with his own wife and daughter, whom the Moorish prisoner soon planned to murder in reprisal. However, if he began to administer a slow-acting poison to his mother, he ended up falling in love with his daughter, whom the father planned to marry a knight of his faith. Corresponded by the young woman, who in the meantime had become aware of her father's plans, the lovers left the castle and disappeared forever. Legend has it that, on Saint John's nights, the couple can be seen hugging at the top of the keep and, at their feet, begging forgiveness, the cruel D. Ramiro. (in: PINHO LEAL, Augusto Soares d'Azevedo Barbosa de. Ancient and modern Portugal: geographic, statistical, chorographic, heraldic, archeological, historical, biographical and etymological dictionary of all the cities, towns and parishes of Portugal and of a large number of villages… (12 vols.). Lisbon: 1872 et seq.)
An Arab lord of Almourol was betrayed by the Christian knight with whom his daughter fell in love, and to whom she revealed the secrets of entering the castle. The knight used the information to ambush and the emir and his daughter preferred to jump from the walls to the river rather than be held captive.

The heroic knight Palmeirim de Palmeirim de England was hit by a great storm that forced the ship in which he was traveling, from England to Constantinople, to dock on the Portuguese coast, anchoring in the Douro River. Landing in the city of Porto, the knight became aware of the adventures of some knights who had fought the giant Almourol, who in his castle in the middle of the Tagus river guarded the beautiful princess Miraguarda and her ladies. In search of adventures, the Palmeirim moves south, where, on the banks of the Tagus, in the distance, the Castle of Almourol can be seen. Approaching, he sees the end of the fight between two knights in a square next to the castle, recognizing in the victor the Sad Knight, with whom he had already dueled. As a sign of victory, the Sorrowful Knight joins his shield to that of others, who had also obtained it. On this shield was portrayed his lady, the beautiful princess Miraguarda, with whom the Palmeirim is enamored. As the battle between Palmeirim and Cavaleiro Triste ensues, night falls, ending the fight without a winner. The Sorrowful Knight is taken to the castle to tend to his wounds, while the Palmeirim goes to a nearby village for help. Neither one nor the other, however, wins favor with the princess, who advises the former to withdraw and give up further fighting for a year, while the Palmeirim resumes its way to Constantinople. After this feat, the giant Almourol was attacked and defeated by another giant, Dramusiando, under whose protection the beautiful princess and her court are henceforth.