The town of Silves, once the capital of the Algarve, with its Moorish Castle, medieval streets and historic Cathedral, is 16km interior from coastal Portimão/Carvoeiro areas.
Silves Castle stands majestically on a hill overlooking the town of Silves in the Algarve region of Portugal (in 1722 & 1755 heavy earthquakes damaged the castle).
In the year of 1060, Fernando I, King of Leon and Castile seized this magnificent castle built from red sandstone blocks and taipa : a Moorish mixture of mud and sandstone that hardens out like stone and held it for a short time. It was later retaken by the Moors.
In 1189, with the help of foreign forces from England, Germany and a contingent of Flemish crusaders, Portuguese forces, attacked the town destroying everything outside of the town’s walls. It took the combined armies six weeks before the Moors surrendered, after an agreement was reached with the Portuguese King Sancho.
The Moors along with all their belongings were allowed to leave unharmed. After leaving the safety of Silves castle with the knowledge that their passage to safety was assured, a group of mercenary Crusaders violated the agreement struck the King of Portugal and every last man was slaughtered. On top of this atrocity the town was ransacked.
In 1190, a Moorish force lead by Yacub Ben Yussuf tried in vain to retake the castle. His attempts were thwarted due to the town being stoutly defended by Christian forces with the help of Richard the Lionheart. A more successful attempt was made a year later.
The roller coaster ride for ownership of the castle at Silves was again brought to the fore when it was retaken by Sancho I, in 1198 with the help of German Crusaders. This time around Sancho was unable to keep the castle from falling into enemy hands and gave the order for it to be dismantled. 1242, Silves was finally conquered by the Master of the Order of Santiago; Don Paio Peres Correia, during the reign of Alfonso III, who ordered it to be restored. It is his statue that can bee seen just outside the castles gate.
Twice during the 1700′s the Algarve was rocked by heavy earthquakes which seriously damaged the castle. The first time was in 1722 and the second time was 1755. It was not until the start of the Second World War in 1940, which Portugal played no part in that the castle was restored.
Silves castle was constructed with eleven square towers, two of which are barbicans joined to the ramparts by a supporting arch that holds up the walk way. There were two entrances to the castle grounds; the main gate defended by two towers and a so-called ‘traitors-gate’. The walls are topped by merlons and have arrow slits. The governor’s house has 18th C painted ceilings.
During the 14th and 15th century, four of the towers which were modified at the time, have gothic doorways, vaulted halls and stones bearing the marks of medieval masons.
- Silves Cathedral
Inside the castles walls, nothing remains of the original Moorish buildings but two cisterns; a small one, 60 meters deep of Roman origin, and a larger one. The larger one is called ‘El Moura Encantada’, after a legend that says you can hear a Moorish princess mourning her beloved at this well where he committed suicide.
Built in the 12th C and remodeled in the 13th, this Gothic church underwent several restoration campaigns during the following centuries.
It has painted archivolt portico, two towers and an interior with a nave and two side aisles. For more info click here
- Street in Silves
- The vast triangle defined by Silves, São Bartolomeu de Messines and Armação de Pêra is a land of fruit trees and vegetable gardens, of small villages where the houses have whitewashed walls, with doors and windows picked out in blue, and ornate chimneys that resemble a more solid version of lace. A walk through this region is a chance to appreciate the glowing colours of oranges, the green foliage of almond trees, the broad crowns of carob trees and the fig trees that are often bent right to the ground.
To the north lie the hills, smooth and round as pebbles covered with typically Mediterranean vegetation consisting of evergreen oaks, arbutus-berry trees, oaks, cistus and gorse. In addition many other species of flora that have adapted to the poor schisty soils and harsh climate are interesting from a botanical point of view. In a landscape of heat and light, the Arade and Funcho dams open like cool windows and the scattered white houses of villages offer welcome relief the near desert conditions in the hills. The area as a whole is home to a variety of animal life, including approximately 80 species of nesting birds.