Alexandre Herculano -- The tale of a Bloody Castle
Mértola and its Castle

The Castle of Beja

It would be hard to find a higher or prouder tower than that of the castle of Beja. The town was an important Roman outpost called Pax Julia, and it served as a county seat in ancient Roman Lusitania. With its capture by the Moors in 713, Beja flourished as an intellectual center. But, the walls grew stronger as the constant political bicker between local Moorish Califs led to the city’s final capitulation to a Portuguese army of common people and untitled knights in 1162.  The first order of business was to rebuild the shattered defenses, and the walls now served as the southern-most border against the Moors. Perhaps because of its importance as a southern outpost, or in honor of its rich past, but Portugal’s kings set to build unequalled churches and fortifications in Beja throughout the medieval period. In 1307 the king, D. Dinis I ordered a towering keep to be built with an impressive balcony, and all defended by elegant pointed castellated walls.The castle saw action again, as the town revolted against the Spanish in the 1580s, and again with a bloody popular revolt against the occupying French in 1808, and once again during the 1830s Civil War. Much remains of the great castle, and the well-preserved tower is seen well in the distance.  Inside the great keep are three elegant Gothic chambers with high vaulted ceilings. To climb to the top, one must contend with 183 steps in a circular staircase. Many vestiges of earlier forts are found in the castle walls. Old stonework is clearly seen integrated into the keep, and a Roman arch and tower are still found in the barbican. Castelo_de_Beja_2


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