The Castle in Vila Vicosa, Portugal

Vila Viçosa started life as a small Roman settlement which then became part of the Visigoth Kingdom, and in the 8C the Moors gained control. The Order of Avis reconquered the area in 1217 and in the early 14C King Dinis I built a Castle in Vila Viçosa to protect the Mediaeval town from the Spaniards. In 1461 the Dukes of Braganza took ownership of the town and moved into the Castle. But by 1501 the Dukes were tired of the Mediaeval residence and work started on the splendid marble-clad Ducal Palace.

The image taken from Google Maps shows the walls of the Mediaeval village, the five gates, the Church of Conceição and the Castle on top of the hill.

GOOGLE MAP OF VILA VICOSA-

For a long time the architectural heritage of Portugal was neglected but as awareness grew of the importance of historical buildings so the sites were opened up again. The photographs of Vila Viçosa below are undated but are perhaps 1900-50?

The Castle in Vila Vicosa before & after the urban interventions (http://www.iphs2010.com/abs/ID293.pdf)

The Castle in Vila Vicosa before & after the ‘interventions’ (http://www.iphs2010.com/abs/ID293.pdf)

The same view of Vila Vicosa today

The same view of Vila Vicosa today, with the walls increasingly hidden by vegetation

The Town Gate, facing the main square of Vila Vicosa

The Evora Gate, facing the main square of Vila Vicosa

The Gateway of the Tower is hidden behind a square tower and nearby is a 17C (?) Pillory, 8 metres high and with curious, somewhat menacing frogs (?) at its foot.

The square tower protecting the lower gateway

The square tower protecting the hidden gateway

The Square Tower protecting the hidden gateway

The Square Tower protecting the hidden gateway

The Town Gate is protected by round towers and the gateway leads into a few streets of low houses, and walled gardens below the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (Nossa Senhora do Conceição.) The imposing bronze statue near the Gate seems to be a soldier of the 17C

The walls and the Town Gate of the Castle, Vila Vicosa

A soldier of the 17C? outside the walls of the Castle, Vila Vicosa

The Town Gateway into the Mediaeval Village, Vila Vicosa

The walls of the Mediaeval Village, inside the Town Gateway, Vila Vicosa

From the top of the castle there are wide views over the town and the countryside. The castle building itself is protected by walls, a moat, and a drawbridge inside the walls of the Mediaeval Village.

The view from the Castle ramparts up the Republic Square, Vila Vicosa

The view from the Castle ramparts over the Alentejo countryside

The drawbridge into the Castle, Vila Vicosa

The Church of Conceição (originally Santa Maria do Castelo) is just below the Castle and prominent in the old photographs above. This Church is important because it holds the statue (14C) of Nossa Senhora do Conceição who was crowned Patron Saint of Portugal by King Joao IV in 1646. Inside the building is calm and spacious and with a dim light reflected from walls covered in 17C blue and yellow tiles.

The Church of Nossa Senhora do Conceicao, Vila Vicosa

The High Altar of The Church of Nossa Senhora do Conceicao, Vila Vicosa


It was quite difficult to convey the passing of time around the Castle – I hope this gives you a taste – do visit!

You may be interested in
Castles in Portugal
The early history of Portugal – Romans & Visigoths, with maps, and here for the Reconquista
Good information on all of Portugal, and a map with the sites for Vila Vicosa