Castle ✔︎, tower ✔︎, dragon – TBD
What do you want to be when you grow up? According to my family lore, at the tender age of six, I firmly insisted on becoming a movie location scout. A bit uncommon, it still sounded less outlandish than my farther’s wish to be a border patrol dog when he would grow up. Neither of us achieved these aspirations. Yearning for new places eventually led to a nomadic life, but it was not until I stumbled across the charismatic Almourol Castle to be reminded of my childhood dream.
On a sunny afternoon, the castle is picture-perfect. At first sight, it looks like a movie set. The crew just left for lunch, so it is quiet at the moment. But there is a movement up in the tower. Who is there? Princess Fiona or Rapunzel? Or, perhaps, some newcoming beauty from a future Hollywood blockbuster? The enchanted word envelops the castle. Time slows down. Welcome to fairytale!
Let’s get serious
With all its sublime romanticism, the castle was once a force to be reckoned with. It is one of the most emblematic castles of the Christian Reconquest period in Portugal.
Situated on an island in the middle of the River Tagus, Almourol stands out from the crowd due to its historical significance and surrounding landscape.
Together with the castles of Tomar, Zêzere and Cardiga, it formed the so-called Tagus Line (Linha do Tejo), the defensive line of fortifications along the River Tagus controlled by the Knights Templar.
There is little left of the original structure. It consisted of three levels, which have been altered over the centuries. The unique footprint still exists and gives an idea of the overall dimensions.
The keep is actually an innovation at this castle, appearing in the 12th century after the Castle of Tomar, the principal defensive redoubt of the Templars in Portugal. Similarly, the watchtowers were innovations brought into western part of the Iberian peninsula by the Order, and applied in Almourol. The high walls were protected by the nine circular watchtowers. They have irregular shapes largely thanks to the uneven terrain where they were built. Inside, there are several stone gates that connect different parts of the castle.
The castle’s history
It is thought that the castle was constructed on the site of a primitive castro lusitamo that the Romans conquered during the 1st century BC. The exact construction date is unclear, but it is known that the Castle of Almourol existed before the beginning of the Kingdom of Portugal. Over time it was rebuilt by a succession of invading warriors, including the Alans, Visigoths, and Moors. When the castle was conquered from the Moors in 1129 by the Portuguese forces, it was called Almorolan. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, presented it to Gualdim Pais, the master of the Templars. According to an inscription at the main gate, its reconstruction work began in 1171.
The castle lost its strategic role after the Order of the Knights Templar was dissolved and the need to defend the territory no longer existed, It was abandoned and fell into ruins.
In the 19th century, Almourol underwent some unfortunate restoration that severely altered its appearance. During the 20th century, the castle underwent multiple repairs and partially returned to its original form.
1. In the early 12th century, the lord of Almorolan was an Arab emir named Almorolon. The emir’s beautiful daughter fell in love with a Christian knight. She began to sneak him into the castle every night so they could spend time together. The knight was just using the poor girl, and one night opened the gate to his fellow knights, who captured the castle. Almorolon and his heart-broken daughter embraced and threw themselves from the parapets into the river below.
2. In the 9th or 10th century, Beatriz was the daughter of the cruel Visigoth warrior, Dom Ramiro. He killed a Moorish woman and her daughter over a cup of water and soon captured an 11-year-old Moorish boy. Unknown to Dom Ramiro, he was the son and brother of the murdered women. The boy became the page of Dom Ramiro at Almourol, where he lived with his wife and daughter Beatriz. The revengeful boy slowly poisoned the don’s wife until she died. While Dom Ramiro was off at war, the girl and her page fell in love, and his desire for revenge vanished. Soon, Dom Ramiro returned bringing with him a knight to whom he had promised Beatriz. The Moor told Beatriz of her father’s cruelty – and about his own murder of her mother. The young couple vanished without a trace. Dom Ramiro died of remorse. It is said that on some nights with a full moon you can see the Moor hugging Donna Beatriz, with Dom Ramiro kneeling at their feet, asking for their forgiveness.
Check Castelo de Almourol website for the information about tickets and schedule.
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