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Lisbon Castle History

Castelo Sao Jorge LisboaCertain is that under the Islamic domination this old fortress was rebuilt and enlarged which at this time originated the Moorish hedge, usually known as the Cerca Moura, an ancient primitive defensive wall of the city, which was built by the Muslims probably between the middle of the 10th century and 1147.

Already under the Christian area the castle was again subject of construction assimilable to the planimetric array of today. Lisbon became the capital of the Kingdom of Portugal in 1255. Its strategic location in relation to River Tagus and the sea had a favourable and marking effect on its defensive qualities.

From the 13th century until the 16th century the castle lived his golden period. At this time Lisbon was the starting point for the discoveries made by Portuguese navigators like Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral.

The castle turned into the Paço Real, the ancient royal residence and many its spaces were extended, also additional new ones were constructed. The earthquakes of 1531 and 1755 were the two most disastrous earthquakes in the history of Portugal which destroyed two-thirds of Lisbon including most parts of the castle and the Moorish hedge. After the relocation of the royal residence, the castle had military functions once again but the adulteration of the original Castle plant and the Royal Palace, Paço Real, continued by successive constructions and changes so that most original parts are kept invisible for us today.

The intervention of 1938-40 under the dictatorship regime of Estado Novo from President Salazar gave the castle the magnificence it has today, according to a well structured national plan to requalify and elevate Portuguese history in order to increase a more nationalist feeling and restore past glories. Monumental works of reconstruction were realised, a large part of the walls were elevated and many towers altered. In contrast to what one might think at first sight, the medieval character of this whole military stronghold is due mostly to this campaign of reconstruction and not to the original inviolableness of spaces proper to the castle of São Jorge since the middle Ages to that date, which subsists to present days.

Posterior interventions, particularly those started in the last decade of the twentieth century, contributed in a singular way to stir the memory and to remember the ancient occupation at the top of the hill returning pages to the history which were kept hidden, thus unveiling to present generations a bit more of its past.

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