Situated in a small scarped island, in the Middle Land of the course of the Tagus river, the Castle of Almourol is one of more emblematic and spledorous military medieval monuments of the Reconquista, being, simultaneously, one of that better evokes the memory of the Templar Knights in Portugal.

Close look of the Islet and its Castle (from IPPAR)

The conquest of the Castle

The origins of the occupation of this place are very ancient and, therefore, enigmatic. Some authors had related the possibility of having itself here installed a primitive lusitanian redoubt, or before the Romans, that later conquered it for them, occupatied throughout all the late Middle Ages. For certain is that in 1129, date of the conquest of this land for the Portuguese troops, the castle already existed and was called Almorolan.

The Castle and the Templar Knights

It was delivered to the Templar Knights, that then made the settlement between the Mondego and the Tagus rivers. They were also the main responsible ones for the defense of the capital, then Coimbra, the castle was rebuilt and it assumed the architectural characteristics and essential artistic, that still today if can be observed.

Through an epigraph, placed on the main door, we know that the conclusion of the building reconstruction was in 1171, two years after the buinding of the Castle of Tomar. There are several characteristics that join both, in the same style of military Templar architecture. They opted for a quadrangular disposal of the spaces. The high walls, protected by nine circular towers and the tower of house arrest under bail, true center of all the structure.

These last characteristics constitute two of the innovative elements with that the Templar Knights brought to the military architecture in Portugal. With effect, the house arrest under bail tower is stranger to pre Romanic castles, that appeared only in 11th century in Tomar, the main Templar defensive redoubt in Portugal. The tower of house arrest under bail of the castle of Almourol had three levels and sufficiently modified during its long centuries, but it still keeps important original characteristics. On the other hand, the walls with equal towers in the sides, had been brought to the west of the Iberian peninsula by this knights, they are also applied in Almourol.

The abandonment and the castle's renaissance

The Order of the Templar Knights was exctinct, and the reconquista was over that justified its importance in the medieval times, the Castle of Almourol was forgotten. In the 19th century, inserted in the mental process of search and valorization of the Middle Ages, the castle was reinventaded, to the light of a romantic ideal. Many of the primitive structures had been sacrificed, in benefit of an ideology that it intended to make of more emblematic medieval monuments to be true masterpieces, without parallels in the patrimonial inheritance.

The Castle has an headquarter for the dictaturial regime

In the 20th century, the set was adapted the be an Official Residence of the Republic, here happens some important events of the dictaturial regime that devastated Portugal. The reinveted process, initiated a century before, was definitively consummated by this intervention in the 1940s and 1950s, consummating itself, thus, the allure that the scenery of Almourol caused in the long Romantic times and to the Portuguese politicians.

Location of the castle

This Castle is found on the Rio Tejo Islet (Ilhota do Rio Tejo) in the municipality of Vila Nova da Barquinha and is free to be visited. Visiters only pay for a cheap boat trip.

See also: Monuments of Portugal - History of Portugal - Timeline of Portuguese history - List of Portuguese monarchs - Kings of Portugal family tree