Arraiolos Castle (Castelo de Arraiolos)

Arraiolos Castle

Location: Arraiolos, Évora District    Map

Constructed: 13th century


Description of Arraiolos Castle

Arraiolos Castle is a round medieval citadel in a city of Arraiolos, Évora District in Portugal. First human settlements on a site of Arraiolos Castle started in prehistoric times. Modern circle castle date back to the 13th century. Portuguese king Alfonso II in 1217 allowed Soeiro, bishop of Evora, to construct military fortifications on top of the hill. Around the 14th century fortifications were largely abandoned. Few people wanted to live on top of the windy and unwelcome hill. It still was inhabited until Earthquake of 1755 did not destroy its dilapidated walls and towers. Then cholera stroke local population in 1833 castle grounds were used as a huge cemetery for its victims. Only in 1910 Arraiolos Castle got designation of a National Monument and in 1959- 63 it was restored.


Archaeological finds, in particular the ancient copper ax found during excavations in the castle and currently stored in the Evora City Museum, testify to the early development of a rocky hill known as St. Peter's Mountain, north of Arraiolos.

It is believed that the settlement was formed around 300 BC.

The strengthening of the village began with the fact that Arraiolush was granted by King Afonso II (1211-1223) to Bishop Evora Soeiro, who obtained permission to build a castle on the hill (1217).

However, in reality, construction began only by agreement signed between King Dinis (1279-1325), Alcald, a judge and the municipality of Arraiolush (1305). It stated that the castle should have a wall of 207 fathoms long and three fathoms wide.

Construction work began in 1306 with a budget of £ 2,000 provided by the monarch, and under the supervision of engineer Juan Siman. In 1310, construction was completed, and in addition to the walls, a palace and a church were erected.

However, the castle was almost abandoned already in the XIV century: it stood on the top of the hill, which was why it was blown by the winds, and it was not comfortable to live in or near it. King Fernando I (1367-1383) tried to remedy this situation by providing special privileges to the villagers (1371). These measures, however, turned out to be useless, and only locking the castle’s doors at night and the threat of excommunication prevented the inhabitants of the castle and the village as a whole from permanently leaving the village.

After the crisis of 1383-1385, the surroundings of Arroyolush and the castle were transferred to Connable Nun Alvaresh Pereira (1387), who received the title of Count Arraiolush. Between 1385 and 1390, Pereira conducted several military expeditions against Castile from this region.

At the end of the XVI century the castle was still inhabited, every day at sunset from the tower a signal was given by a bell (1599). At this time, a large number of new houses were erected on the nearby hillsides. However, at the beginning of the XVII century, the neighborhood was depopulated, and houses were destroyed.

In 1613, the castle and its buildings were in disrepair, which was complained by officials of the city council.

During the reign of King Joao IV (1640-1656), the village wall and castle were reconstructed (1640). But a few years later, in 1655, part of the barbican collapsed, and the donjon and the Alcalde Palace were abandoned.

A century later, the 1755 earthquake caused serious damage to the castle.

In the XIX century, the castle parade ground became a cemetery for victims of cholera in the region (1833).

June 23, 1910 the castle was declared a national monument. Between 1959 and 1963, the castle and walls of Arraiolos were partially restored under the auspices of the Directorate General for National Buildings and Monuments (DGEMN).



Located in the northern part of the castle, the Alcalde Palace has a square layout. Its interior is divided into four floors, and the exterior is crowned with battlements.

The rampart is also notched, has the shape of an ellipsoid and is currently in good condition. Initially, the wall had two gates:
Porta Vila (barbican) in the south - to date, only a large opening in the wall has remained from the gate;
Porta de Santarém in the northwest - in the Gothic style, surrounded by two towers.
Perhaps the castle had another gate on the east side, where the wall has some damage, similar to traces of the walled gates.

Inside the walls there is also a clock tower decorated with a spire until the time of Manuel I (1495-1521), and the Church of the Savior.

Local tradition says that there is a secret underground passage connecting the castle and the monastery of the Assumption of Our Lady (Loyosh Monastery).