Cover image: © iStock/Pedro Pozo Alcántara
Cover image: © iStock/Pedro Pozo Alcántara

Juromenha – an abandoned fort from a forgotten world

3 minutes to read

Not many people would know this place exists. I only came here because I was crossing the border from Spain to Portugal by car and stumbled upon it. Juromenha is ruins. The ruins of a fortified town. One that protected a kingdom from invaders. One that was part of an empire that spread across the globe. And yet here it lies in ruins, an already partly crumbled castle and empty decrepit church surrounded by fortress walls in a largely unknown and isolated spot, atop a hill overlooking the River Guadiana.

Picture Credit: © Adam L. Maloney (The ruins of the Portuguese fortified town of Juromenha)
Picture Credit: © Adam L. Maloney (The ruins of the Portuguese fortified town of Juromenha)

Celtic tribes and Roman rulers

Humans had been in this little spot for centuries upon centuries. Even before it was a small Roman settlement, Celtic tribes inhabited the land, presumably because from here they would have access to water from the river, and being situated atop a hill is always a good place to be if you ever have to defend yourself from potential attacks.

Picture Credit: © Adam L. Maloney (A guardpost on the fortress walls)
Picture Credit: © Adam L. Maloney (A guardpost on the fortress walls)

The Muslim Conquest

Like many other Roman settlements across Portugal and Spain, Juromenha would later be controlled by the Moors whose huge Muslim empire ruled large parts of the Iberian Peninsula for over 700 years. From the 10th century onwards, Juromenha was a defensive fort ruled by the Caliphate of Córdoba. Its purpose was to protect the nearby city of Badajoz from the Christians who resided in the North of the Iberian Peninsula, and who would recapture the territory in 1167 only to lose it again to the Moors in 1191.

Picture Credit: © Adam L. Maloney (The Moorish tower overlooking the abandoned chapel)
Picture Credit: © Adam L. Maloney (The Moorish tower overlooking the abandoned chapel)

A Portuguese rise and fall

In 1242 however, the Christians, who we now know as the Portuguese, reconquered Juromenha and would go on to build an even larger defensive fort which they would use in centuries to come when at war with their neighbours, the Spanish. It twice fell under Spanish control for short periods of time; first from 1662 to 1668; and then again from 1801 to 1808 during the so-called War of the Oranges. After the First World War however, such forts lost their effectiveness as the world was introduced to aerial bombardments.  Therefore, the fort was abandoned in 1920 and has remained a ghost town of Portuguese history ever since.

Picture Credit: © Adam L. Maloney (The Portuguese flag hoisted on top of the Moorish tower in sight of Spain just across the River Guadiana)
Picture Credit: © Adam L. Maloney (The Portuguese flag hoisted on top of the Moorish tower in sight of Spain just across the River Guadiana)

Walking amonst warriors

What I love about about finding these abandoned hidden gems is the feeling of having my own private access to an undiscovered museum, where nothing is behind glass, where swarms of people are nowhere to be found, and where I can walk freely and peacefully within the fortress walls and up and down the stone staircases of fallen empires from a forgotten world.

Picture Credit: © Adam L. Maloney (Standing atop the Moorish tower with the abandoned church to the left and Spain in the background across the river)
Picture Credit: © Adam L. Maloney (Standing atop the Moorish tower with the abandoned church to the left and Spain in the background across the river)

A land that time forgot

But there is also a certain sadness about places like Juromenha. Its ruins are a symbol of a time that has not simply been forgotten but also, an entire history that has been neglected and left to decay. I felt it walking inside the empty church and as I climbed the Moorish tower from which I stood beside a hoisted Portuguese flag and gazed across the river at Spain. One can only hope that such rare and secret remnants of the past will not be left to completely crumble.


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The author

Adam L. Maloney

Adam L. Maloney

Adam is a Londoner who travelled to over 20 European countries and lived in both Portugal and Spain for several years. Adam is a fan of exploring intriguing neighbourhoods and meeting locals.

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