Portugal as a rich history. From amazing discoveries to great conflicts, the remnants of this vast history are scattered all over the country and are still preserved and celebrated today. I’ve recently got the chance to visit one of this remnants of ancient portuguese history: the Castle of Torres Novas. So, for all those interested in exploring some of Portugal’s history, I’ve made this article exploring the site’s beauty, it’s importance and why you should take a look if you can!
Torres Novas is a small town located to the north of Lisbon, near the city of Santarém and the Serras de Aire e Candeiros Natural Park. The town, although small, has a charm to it! The gastronomy is hardy and savory, the river Almonda flows through the town and, most of all, it has great historical value.
The view of Torres Novas from the castle walls.
It was believed that the castle was first built by muslim invaders to defend the area after it was conquered, but recently it was found evidence of a much earlier roman occupation of Torres Novas, which probably laid the foundation for the castle we see today, but there are also claims of even earlier celtic occupants. Now, throughout the years, this fortification has had a lot of ups and downs. Like I said before, the castle as we see today was built by the muslims that invaded the Iberian Peninsula in between the XI and the XII centuries, and its possession was on a constant shift between the muslim and the portuguese armies, and it was only after its definitive conquest that the king, D. Afonso Henriques, gave the town its name of Torre Novas, and ordered the castle to be fortified. After that more battles were fought around the castle, mostly between the portuguese and the spaniards.
With the passing of the years and the end of the conflicts in the middle ages, the castle fell into abandonment, and, in 1755, the massive earthquake that shook the country destroyed part of its walls and towers, a fact aggravated later during the Napoleonic Wars. It was only in 1910 that real efforts to restore the castle begun, after it was deemed as a National Monument. Now its fully restored and regularly maintained, as it is the town’s biggest attraction. From its nine towers you can gaze into the landscape, and inside its walls you can walk the wonderful garden and see the elements still preserved from the castle ancient origins, and best of all, its free! Although it closes early, at 5 pm. It’s also a must-see between the months of May and June, because in that time the town organizes it’s annual Renaissance Fair and the celebrations go all to way up to castle!
Part of the garden and the tunel called "Traitor's Pitt".
I only heard of this legend after I visited the castle but I still find it very interesting to tell you, especially if, like me, you like Game of Thrones. This brutal story goes like this:
In the year 1372, the spaniards sacked Torres Novas and started to make their way to the castle, but the town’s noble chief, Gil Paes, secured the castle and protected it from the intruders. Paes was able to protect the fort but the invading army captured one of his sons. So, the chief was met with a dilemma, either let the spaniard take the castle or lose his son. In the end, Paes decided to not give in, but his son was killed in the castle doors. (Like I said, very Game of Thrones like).
I hope that got you interested in visiting this wonderful historical landmark, I sure was surprised by how well preserved it was and by the history it holds!
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