Palmela Castle

Palmela Castle



Location: Palmela, Setúbal District, 25 km (16 mi) South of Lisbon Map



Palmela Castle is a medieval fortress situated 25 km (16 mi) South of Lisbon in a city of Palmela in Setúbal District, Portugal. This strategic hill was occupied since the Neolithic times. The name of the settlement comes from a Roman founder Aulio Cornelius Palma (praetor of Lusitania province) who established this city in the ancient times.
Moors or Arabs apparently were the one who erected their first fortress here in the 8th century AD. They greatly expanded their fortifications between 10th and 12th centuries to protect their conquests. However they lost it during the conquest of the peninsula to the Christian Portuguese armies in the 1147 led by king D. Afonso Henriques. Knight- monks of order of Santiago established their monastery here. It was later reconstructed and further increased during reign of king John I in the early 15th century. It came handy as a prison for bishop of Évora who was thrown to prison here for conspiring against king John II.
Changing military tactics and weapons did not made this imposing fortress completely obsolete. During War of Spanish Succession of 1702- 1714 the castle was rebuild to fit the cannons that were fired from this dominating location. In 1755 a great earthquake badly damaged the defences and made castle impossible to use for military purposes.


The early human occupation of the region dates back to prehistory, particularly to the Neolithic period, according to the archaeological testimonies abundant in it. Some scholars point to the date of 310 BC, for the foundation of a settlement on the site of modern Palmela, fortified at the time of the romanization of the Iberian Peninsula in 106 by a praetor of Lusitania, named Aulius Cornelius (or Aulius Cornelius Palma, according to others). Modern archaeological research shows, however, that the subsequent occupation of the site was uninterrupted, initially by Visigoths and later by the Muslims, the latter responsible for the early fortification between the 8th and 9th centuries, greatly expanded between the 10th and 12th centuries.

The medieval castle
At the time of the christian Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula, after the conquest of Lisbon (1147) by forces of D. Afonso Henriques (1112-1185) did not fall in the same year, Sintra, Almada, and Palmela. On the occasion, the Muslim forces defending Palmela abandoned her and took refuge in Alcácer do Sal. In this way, the Portuguese forces only seized the village and its dominions. The Muslim forces, however, soon reorganized, recovering the Southern Bank of the Tagus river. The Christians reconquered Palmela in 1158. Again lost, it was definitely conquered by the sovereign on 24 June 1165. From the following year onwards, work on strengthening was undertaken.

With the accession of King Sancho I (1185-1211) to the throne, the settlement and its domains were donated by the sovereign to the Military Order of Santiago, along with Almada and Alcácer do Sal (1186), at which time Palmela received foral, passed by his master. These locations would fall again in the face of the onslaught of the Almohad Caliphate under the command of Caliph Iacube Almançor, who, having reconquered the Algarve, advanced northward, successively tearing the castle of Alcácer do Sal, The Castle of Palmela and the castle of Almada (1190-1191) from Portuguese rule. Palmela's defenses were badly damaged at the time. It, according to some of the previously 1194, or, more likely, in 1205, the king enjoined him, necessary, in their defence, and confirming the donation of these domains to the monks of the Order, and it was there that they established the headquarters earlier on the 1210, as in the testament of the lord, recorded in the year, as they are referred to as friars from Portugal. Only after the Battle of Navas de Tolosa (1212), in which a decisive victory was recorded for the peninsular Christians, were the Lost Lands reconquered beyond the borders that stretched from the Tagus river to Évora.

King Afonso III (1248-1279), on the 24th of February, in 1255, confirmed the Order of Santiago, in the person of his Master, dom Paio Peres Correia and appointed commander of the domains and castles, donated by D. Sancho I and confirmed by king Afonso II (1211-1223), namely: (Alcácer do Sal, Palmela, Almada, Arruda. His son and successor, D. Dinis (1279-1325), confirmed the Foral to the village (1323), believing that from this phase the construction of the keep in Gothic style, defending the main gate.

At the end of the reign of Ferdinand (1367-1383), when the siege of Lisbon by Castilian troops (march 1382), the suburbs of this village to the South were also looted and burned: and so much they dared [the Castilian troops], without finding anyone to contradict him, who went in batels by the Coina River above, and went there on land, and went to burn the outskirts of Palmela, which are hence two great leagues (Fernão Lopes).


With the outbreak of the crisis of 1383-1385, The Master of Santiago, Fernando Afonso de Albuquerque, in the spring of 1384, travelled to Lisbon in support of the Master of Avis, then Regent by popular acclamation, having integrated the second Embassy sent to England.

Months later, during the siege of Lisbon by the castilians, he was at the top of the towers of the Castle of Palmela, the Constable, D. Nuno Alvares Pereira, who, after the victory at the battle of the Sometimes (1384), lit large bonfires to alert the Master and the city's approach, which, according to the chronicler, was a cause of great joy among the besieged (Fernão Lopes). John I's Chronicle).

During his reign, John I (1385-1433) carried out works of enlargement and reinforcement in the castle (1423), and also determined the erection of the church and Convent where the Order of Santiago, emancipated from Castile, will definitively settle from 1443.

In the context of the plot by The Duke of Viseu against John II (1481-1495), aborted in 1484 with the death of the first at the hands of the second, one of the conjurers, the bishop of Évora, Garcia de Meneses, was imprisoned in the cistern of Palmela Castle, where he died a few days later. The episode, summarily narrated by Rui de Pina and Garcia de Resende, is a little more illuminating in the latter's chronicle: the bishop of Évora, at the time of the death of the Duke [of Aveiro], was with the Queen, and there he went to call him, on the part of el-rei, Captain Fernão Martins; and on his way out, he was soon arrested and taken with a lot of people and a lot of message to the castle of Palmela and put in a waterless cistern that is inside the Keep of menagem, where a few days later he died, and they say with pot.

In the 16th century, King Manuel I (1495-1521) granted the New Foral to the village (1512).

From the war of the Spanish Succession to the present day
Later, in the context of the war of the Spanish Succession, Pedro II (1667-1706) determined to modernize the castle's defences, which received rammed lines, adapting it to artillery fire. In the 18th century, the structure of the castle was seriously damaged by the 1755 earthquake. Still, he remained occupied by the nuns of Palmela until 1834, with the extinction of religious orders in Portugal. It was then occupied by a contingent of the Portuguese army, and there was born the Explorer Brito Capelo (1841), the son of the garrison commander.

It is classified as a National Monument by decree published on June 23, 1910.

In the period leading up to the commemoration of the centenarians (1940), a number of interventions in the castle were promoted, consisting of the overthrow of buildings and alterations in the windows of the Church of Santiago.

The facilities of the old convent were requalified from 1945 as pousada, integrating, from the 1970s, the Inns network of Portugal. Since the end of the 20th century, archaeological prospecting work has taken place in the castle grounds, turning some spaces into museum rooms, services and trade areas.

In 1971, the Spanish director Amando de Ossorio used the castle as one of the sets of the film "La Noche del Terror Ciego". In 2005, SIC recorded an episode of the children's Series "an adventure based on the book" An Adventure in the castle of The Winds " by Isabel Alçada and Ana Maria Magalhães (writer).