A vila onde se vê os pássaros de costas
The village where you see the birds back
The castle of Marvão encloses the wonderful medieval village of the same name, Marvão. Located in Serra de São Mamede, in the district of Portalegre, and very near from Castelo de Vide and the Spanish border, Marvão stands on the top of a huge crag, around 850m (2788 ft) of altitude.
Very well preserved, the castle walls basically surround all the village, giving the place a quite unique landscape. The walls, reinforced by towers, are distributed in concentric defensive lines.
You can find at NW the central keep reinforced by two towers and one cubic tower, dominated by the donjon tower, forming the internal line of defense. Then you have the intermediate line crowned by battlements and reinforced by massive towers. Finally, the external line of defense, made by barbicans with many outlying turrets, surrounds the village.
Historical records indicate that the name of Marvão is derived from Ibn Marwan, a Muslim military leader that should had built the castle between 876 e 877. During the Christian reconquest, it was the king Afonso Henriques, Portuguese nation-builder, that defeated the moors and captured Marvão between 1160 and 1166. Being briefly recaptured by the moors in 1190, it was the Christian victory over the Almohads in 1212 that finaly brought some security to these lands.
The castle quickly became an important strategy point for the young state of Portugal, as it stood in the edge of the conquested territories by the competing Christian Spanish Kingdom of León. In 1214, on the demarcation of the termo of Castelo Branco, Marvão was already included in Portuguese lands and it received its “Carta de Foral”, or just Foral (a royal document to regulate the administration of a new town), by the king Sancho II in 1226. This also allowed the reinforcement of the defenses and expansion works of the walls and towers, especially the construction of the donjon tower, which started in 1300.
Nowadays, Marvão is a municipality with a total area of 154.9 square kilometres (59.8 sq mi) and 4 parishes:
- Santa Maria de Marvão
- Santo António das Areias
- São Salvador da Aramenha
Marvão’s coast of arms