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Fortifications

The mediaeval castle (Chaves)
Built over what may have been a hill-fort and a later Roman fort, this castle had a similar life to that of Chaves. Its keep still stands, together with remnants of the walls that once enclosed the old citadel. It was destroyed several times during the Germanic and Moorish invasions, and then re-built during the reign of Alfonso III “The Great”, king of Léon, and Sancho I of Portugal. One of the last reconstruction projects, in 1346, is attributed to King Dinis of Portugal. This castle played an important role in the dynastic crisis of 1383, during which it supported the legitimist line. Captured by the Grand Master of Avis, the castle was given to Nuno Álvares Pereira, a knight who had distinguished himself in the process of its conquest. He then gave it as a dowry to his daughter Beatriz, who together with her husband, Afonso, first duke of Bragança, lived for many years in the palace adjoining the tower which they ordered to be built as their home. During the Wars of Restoration and the French invasions, the walls were rebuilt, whose remains can still be seen today. Together with the forts of São Francisco and São Neutel, it was declared a national monument on 22 March 1938, and since 1978 its thick walls have housed a Military Museum, which is run by the Network of Museums in Chaves. On its different levels, the museum displays a wide range of information and military equipment, offering visitors an overview of the deeds and exploits of the regiments from the region of Chaves throughout its history. Its walls and gardens provide sweeping views over the Tâmega Valley and the mountains.
The medieval castle
Fortress of São Francisco (Chaves)
The fortress was built out of granite between 1658 and 1662 on the hill of A Pedisqueira, occupied since ancient times by a convent dedicated to St. Francis (1635) which was first given the name of San João da Veiga under the administration of the Knights Templar, until 1310. The Dukes of Bragança were the first patrons of the fortress. Developments in firearms and new military strategies meant it was necessary to create this new structure to protect the city, which until then had been surrounded by the obsolete mediaeval walls. It was built in the shape of a four-pointed star by Rodrigo de Castro, Count of Mesquitela, based on the Vauban construction system. This is from where the French troops were put to flight in 1809, liberating the city of Chaves. It then served as the barracks for the Tenth Hunters Battalion until the 1970s, and now, apart from containing the church of São Francisco, has a hotel.
Fortress of São Francisco
Fortress of São Neutel (Chaves)
Two years after work finished on the fortress of São Francisco (1664), General Andrade e Sousa began work to the north of the city on a new fortress, separate from the defensive system of Chaves. Equally inspired by the defensive designs of the period, it has a similar appearance to the Fortress of São Francisco, and was used as an advance defense for the city against attacks by the Spanish. Inside is the chapel of Nossa Senhora das Brotas, where a religious festival is held each year. It was still in use by the army until quite recently, and welcomed numerous refugees from the Spanish Civil War.
Fortress of São Neutel
Castle of Monforte (Águas Frias, Chaves)
The castle of Monforte is situated in what was the former local council of Monforte de Rio Libre, and was built over the remains of a hill-fort in the twelfth century. Destroyed during the wars against León, it was rebuilt by Afonso III, who granted the walled fortifications a charter, transforming it into a town. It belonged to Prince Francisco, the brother of King João V, and was finally abandoned in 1853 when the local council ceased to exist.
Castle of Monforte
Castle of Santo Estêvão (Santo Estêvão, Chaves)
The castle of Santo Estêvão is in the parish of the same name, and still contains a defensive tower with battlements and narrow windows for archers, and which, together with the tower of the church in the same town, formed a defensive complex for the valley. In 1258, the population of Santo Estêvão received a charter from Afonso III, and the tower is thought to have been built during the reign of Sancho I. The tower was declared a national monument in 1939.
Castle of Santo Estêvão
The remnants of the town walls (Verín)
When war broke out with Portugal in 1640, work began on building a wall stretching more than two kilometres to surround the town of Verín. At first, 100,000 ducats were provided for the project, designed to protect the population against unexpected attacks from the Portuguese across the bottom of the valley. The wall was constructed using the defensive techniques of the time, supported by new firearms and military strategies. However, its low height and lack of solidity did not convince the local inhabitants, who would take refuge in Monterrei or the neighbouring hillsides during artillery attacks. The stretch of wall we can see today belonged to a bastion that defended the bridge and the valley road. To help pay for the war in the region, in the mid-nineteenth century the king ordered that the stone from its walls should be auctioned off in lots.
The remnants of the town walls

Castle of Monterrei (Monterrei)
This fortified area, one of the most important in Galicia, was built over the site of an ancient hill-fort, which in the Middle Ages was converted into a fortress to safeguard the frontier. The area still contains the remnants of walls from this period, together with more modern parapets and bastions, the result of advances in fortified structures and new firearms. Inside the mediaeval precinct is the Romanesque church of Santa María de Gracia, containing an interesting altarpiece, the Keep or Tower of Don Sancho, and the Tower of the Damas (the Ladies’ Tower), around which grew the Renaissance palace of the Counts. Monterrei once contained three monasteries (belonging to the orders of St Francis, the Mercedarians and the Jesuits), Galicia’s first ever printers, and the Pilgrims’ Hospice. Close to the castle is the Parador or state-run hotel, built on the site formerly occupied by the Jesuit monastery.

Castle of Monterrei
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