Sabugal (EN233) -
“A castle with fives sides is not be found in Portugal,” says the old song,
“If not on the banks of the Côa, in the village of Sabugal.”
And true to its word, the keep of the castle of Sabugal is pentagonal. It is quite a castle at that. As the first walls rose in the 12th century’s Ogival style, the small town became a battleground, first between a young Portugal and the Moorish armies, and then between Portugal and Castile.
A legend has it that the kings of both nations met in the castle in 1224 to work out the disputed border. Almost a century later, the lands were still in dispute, leading King D. Dinis to expand the castle, adding an unprecedented five sided keep, a solid new ring of walls, and a subtle message to the Castilians: This was a Portuguese town. Sabugal retained its importance in 15th century when King D. Manuel I ordered it repaired, adding elegant balconies with murder holes, and cross-shaped archer’s loops. The town played an important role in the 1640s during the war of independence from Spain, with the legendary adventurer and soldier Bras Garcia de Mascarenhas winning important battles in the region until his rebellious spirit landed him a cell in one of Sabugal’s towers. From his prison he wrote a series of moving letters that eventually convinced the king, D. João IV to free him. Today, the restored castle retains its ancient might with well preserved rings of circular, delicately castellated walls, and a five-sided keep that still proclaims: This is Portugal.