Beja Castle (Portugal)

Beja District     See list of castles in Portogallo

Although the primitive human occupation of its site dates back to prehistory and is mentioned in the writings of Ptolemy and Polybius in the middle of the second century BC, its fortification dates from the Roman Invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, possibly due to the importance acquired in the regional scenario . This was the place chosen by Julius Caesar to formalize the peace with the Lusitanos (49), after which he became known as Pax Julia, and was the seat of one of the three Roman jurisdictions in Lusitania. It is believed that the Roman walls of defense go back sometime between the third and fourth centuries.

This economic and strategic relevance remained at the time of the Suevi, the Visigoths and under the Muslim occupation.

At the time of the Christian Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula, it was initially conquered by the forces of D. Afonso Henriques (1112-1185) in 1159, to be abandoned four months later. It was reconquered by surprise, by an expedition of popular ancients of Santarém, in principle of December of 1162.

In the years that followed, after the defeat of that sovereign in the siege of Badajoz (1169), the knight Gonçalo Mendes da Maia - the ninth-century Lidador, lost his life in defense of the walls of Beja. In view of the lack of information on the period after that date, scholars believe that the great Almohad offensive of Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur (1191) to the Tagus River, after regaining Silves, also included the reconquest of Beja, remaining in the power of the Christians only Évora, in all the Alentejo. It is also assumed that the settlement would have returned to Portuguese hands only between 1232 and 1234, at a time when the neighbors Moura, Serpa and Aljustrel were documented to have returned.

The first restoration of the walls of Beja dates from the reign of D. Afonso III (1248-79), who began them from 1253, with resources originating, for ten years, by two-thirds of the tithes of the churches of Beja. The following year (1254), the village received its charter on the same terms as that of Santarém, confirmed in 1291 in the reign of his son, D. Dinis (1279-1325). This, in turn, continued the reconstruction works, reinforcing and enlarging the walls and towers (1307) and began the construction of the keep (1310).

The town and its castle supported the Master of Avis in the context of the crisis of 1383-1385, having involvement with subsequent episodes of the History of Portugal, as the phase of the Discoveries.

In the fifteenth century, under the reign of D. Afonso V (1438-1481), the village was elevated to a duchy, having as 1st Duke of Beja his brother, the infant D. Fernando, and later King D. Manuel I (1495-1521). In the reign of this last sovereign takes place great works of improvement of the defenses of the town, elevated to the city in 1517.

Until the 17th century, Castelo de Beja was the object of several extensions and modernizations, particularly in the context of the Restoration War of Portuguese Independence, when it was reinforced by bastions according to the design of the military engineer and French architect Nicolau de Langres, approved by the engineer and chief cosmographer of the realm, Luís Serrão Pimentel, and General Agostinho de Andrade Freire (1644). In the period from 1669 to 1679 the works were directed by the engineers João Coutinho, Diogo de Brito de Castanheira and Manuel Almeida Falcão, but they were never completed.

About a century later, part of its walls was demolished and its stone used in the construction of the new church of the extinct Jesuit College, to seat the Episcopal Palace (1790).

In the early nineteenth century, with the outbreak of the Peninsular War, the city of Beja opposed serious resistance to Napoleon's invading troops. As a result, the forces under the command of General Jean-Andoche Junot, killed about 1,200 people in the region (1808).

A few years later, with most of the seventeenth century works remaining, the Liberal Wars made new victims among the population. Still in the 19th century, a catastrophe destroyed part of the defensive perimeter of the castle, and there was news of the reconstruction in 1867 of the so-called Porta de Moura and the demolition in 1893 of the Porta Nova de Évora.

In the 20th century it was classified as a National Monument by Decree published on June 16, 1910. From 1938 onwards the Directorate General of Buildings and National Monuments (DGEMN) began to intervene, with the unblocking and consolidation of the doors of Évora and the rebuilding of the alcáçova roof. Two decades later, the consolidation campaigns of the sections of the walls (1958, 1959-1962, 1969, 1970-1973, 1980, 1981 and 1982) and the recovery of the Tower of Menagem (1965, 1969, 1981) began.

On November 13, 2014, part of the battlements of the balcony of the castle tower fell into the walls, causing data on the lower balcony and the access door to the tower's staircase. In 2016, after repair work, the keep was reopened to the public, allowing a fantastic view of the city and the Alentejo plain around the city.

Images of the castle

Useful infos

Latitude: 38.0174
Longitude: -7.8654667
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Map of Beja Castle