- By Super User
De Elvas Vesting
From the 17th century, Elvas was transformed into the pre-eminent fortress in Portugal, having played an imortant role in the War of the Restoration. The sequence of 17th century ramparts, designed by the Flemish Jesuit Cosmander, and constructed under the direction of Nicolau Langres, Correia Lucas and Pedro Fernandes, still, today, makes a great impression through its magnificence and its solidity. It forms an irregular polygon, whose greatest diameter is about 1,100 metres and shortest about 700 metres, including seven bastions, four semibastions and a redan, connected by curtain walls. Into this defence system were also integrated the fortresses of Santa Luzia and Graça, the latter only in the 18th century.
In the 17th century battlements, which assimilated the earlier walls dating from the time of King Fernando (1367-83), there are three principal gateways giving access to and from the city – Esquina (“the corner”), Olivença and S. Vicente – which, until the beginning of the present century, were locked at midnight and reopened at daybreak. In the 1950’s, to facilitate, communication between the city-within-the-walls, a viaduct was constructed, and a new opening made in the walls. It is close to this new entrance, lying within the walls above Praça 25 de Abril, that this tour begins.
From the car park go down to the highway (EN) and turn left, in the direction of Spain. Your first destination is Fort Santa Luzia which, almost immediately, appears on the horizon, and which you reach by turning right at the Crossroads where there is a sign, to the estate of Torre de Bolsa. Ascend the dirt road, park close to the main gate, an impressive example of 17th century architecture, and enter the fort by way of drawbridge. Designed by Geronimo Rossettti and later enlarged by Nicolau de Langres and other engineers, it surrounds a square 150 metres wide, and comprises a series of bastions, battlements, turrets, and other military structures. It is surrounded by a covered road, and protected by three lines of trenches, some cut into the rock itself. At the centre, in the principal stronghold, rises the House of the Governor, a square building with a covered turret, under which is found the, now desecrated, chapel of Santa Luzia. At the end of the visit, return to the main road, and cross it in the direction of the city walls. In the distance, the beautiful outline of the Church of S. Domingos stands out. Follow the example of kings and enter the city to the left, through the Porta da Olivença, also called Porta Real (“the Royal Gate”). Turn immediately to the right, and cross the Avenida de S. Domingos, following the inside of the 17th century ramparts. Go past the church, and follow the signs to Portalegre and Spain. On meeting a double section of the walls, rather than Climbing towards the castle, follow the city via Porta de S. Vicente. In the bays which flank the road above the moat you can park to admire the exterior of the gate, and to view, to the right, the sweep of the walls backing onto the castle, and, to the left, the Obra Coroa. The Forte da Graça rises up in front of you, which later will provide a view over this side of the city.
Continue in the direction of Portalegre, circling the walls and the gardens, which include the fountain and the picnic area, and follow the road, keeping the Forte da Graça on the right. Next to an automobile service station, take a turn to the left, onto a dirt road that runs alongside a warehouse. Further on, pause to look at an interesting landmark from the last century, which indicate, on a marble sign, the direction to follow: to the rught, but not as far as Santa Eulalia and Barbecena. Our route ends a little further up where, looking out over the Aqueduto da Amoreira, towers the monument commemorating the Battle of the Elvas Lines which, on 14th January 1659, gave a decisive victory to Portugal, putting an end to the War of Restoration. Built of Estremoz marble, it comprises a Tuscan column about five metres high, topped by a royal crown, set on a square, paved base of three levels. On the faces of the pedestal are engraved inscriptions referring to the glorious battle. If you are travelling by 4-wheel drive, or like to walk, go a little further up and discover, at the top of the hill, the small hermitage of Santo Amaro. Go back the way you came and, when you reach the main road, immediately turn right up to the Forte da Graça, also known as the Forte de Lippe, in homage to the Count Marshall who designed it. Constructed between 1763 and 1793, it is also a fort with a quadrangular design, each side measuring 150 metres, and with 4 bastions: of Malefa, of Badajoz, of the City, and of Santo Amaro. The principal gateway, called the Gate of the Dragon, is a beautiful example of the architecture of the period, profusely ornamented. Also of note is the interior access gate to the central fortification, which displays the same architectural and decorative motifs. This stronghold comprises two levels and a parapet, raised up above this, the House of the Governor, built by Valleré, and decorated with beautifull stucco which was fashionable at the time. This decoration is repeated on the chapel of the fort, dedicated to Na. Sra. Da Graça, situated in the middle of the military constructions.
Strategically located at an altitude of 168 metres, this fort, which has, through time, been a military stronghold, and still today houses a symbolic garrison, offers itself as an excellent observation platform from which to appreciate the diverse landscape and countryside around Elvas.
Return to the city and, following the directions to the centre, complete now your tour around the 17th century walls until you come to the arches of the Aqueduto da Amoreira.