Castle of the Moors

View from the Moorish Castle

Situated on a high hilltop above the town of Sintra the site does indeed date back to the Moorish occupation of Portugal. The walls and towers that you see now though are the Romantic/decorative work of the 19th century King Ferdinand II

Set high on the Serra de Sintra is the towns oldest monument, the Castleo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle). The ruined ramparts of this ancient castle hug the hilltop, spanning two of its highest pinnacles and incorporating the rocky outcrops into its walls. The castle is believed to date back to the 8th or 9th century when large swathes of Portugal were occupied by the Moors. However, the castle fell back under Christian rule when Portugal's first king, Afonso Henriques, reconquered it 1147. Aided by Scandinavian crusaders this was a major victory in the reconquest of Portugal and can't have been an easy task given the castles position and fortifications. Besides the name there are many reminders of the castle's Moorish credentials

.Along with the ruined remnants of a mosque recent excavations have revealed the remains of several muslim houses within the walls. On the site of the mosque now stands a small christian chapel dedicated to São Pedro de Penaferrim. Over the centuries, as Sintra's strategic importance waned, the castle was left to fall into disrepair. However, in the mid 19th century a restoration project began under the direction of King Ferdinand II as part of his Romanticist designs on Sintra which included the neighbouring Pena Palace.

From the walls of the Moorish Castle the views are spectacular - which is little surprise considering its strategic position and the climb up the hill! To the south you can see beyond the river Tejo to Arrabida, to the west, Cabo da Roca and the north, Peniche.

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Considered not only one of the wonders of Portugal but indeed of Europe, Sintra is truly a gem. Once the royal town of the country, it now deservedly holds UNESCO world heritage status and attracts hordes of visitors throughout the...