Besides my particular liking to visiting parks and all things nature, I also enjoy visiting ancient (or medieval) sites! There’s just something very interesting in trying to figure out the history of a place and the people who lived in it just by the clues that were left behind. And though I live in Lisbon, which has it’s very own medieval fort, I didn’t hesitate on the opportunity to visit Mértola’s very own castle on the top of the hill, when I was there to also enjoy the wonderful Islamic Festival!
Before being the structure that lasted until today, the Castle of Mértola, as well as the church located right beside it, was a mosque and moorish fort (or alcazaba) used a lot during the islamic invasions on the Iberian Peninsula (around 700 a.C.). The location of the town right next to the Guadiana River made it so Mértola was specially useful for commerce, hence a good protection also being required in times of war.
And, funny enough, this fact was well known even before the islamic occupants took the city. The patio in front of the tower was built on top of a roman forum, which means that, even in the era of the Roman Empire, Mértola was busy trading center. Some of the remnants of the ancient forum where preserved and can be viewed outside the castle, as well as old housing structures used by the moorish citizens.
The Castle as we see it today dates back to the XIII century when the Portuguese conquered the southern lands from the arabs. The fort was built using the structure of the old alcazaba and became one of the most impenetrable keeps on all of the Iberian Peninsula, and it shows! Since it is very well preserved to this day, still gazing upon the town of Mértola.
Today it holds a museum in its tower, filled with information on its history and architectural prowess, as well as the exhibition on the patio outside the walls, and, of course a great view of the city!
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