Watch out for the peacocks...
St George’s Castle occupies the foremost strategic position in Lisbon, sat atop its highest hill. Fortifications have existed here since the Iron Ages, and its military value was acknowledged by the Romans and Visigoths, but the current structure was built in the middle of the 11th Century, during the Moorish Era. Following the ‘Reconquista’, when the Portuguese took back the Iberian peninsula from the Moors, the castle became the main residence of Portuguese kings.
The castle complex is encased in formidable outer walls which offer outstanding views of the city and sea below. Inside, a parade ground and beautifully maintained gardens lead you towards the citadel, which is sealed off by ramparts connecting eleven crenellated towers. You can walk from tower to tower, and get some impression of what a forbidding place this would have been to attack.
Indeed subsequent Portuguese kings were quite paranoid about the Moors making a return. They had the walls, cellar and wells of the castle upgraded to withstand long sieges. The slope leading to the main entrance was made steeper and a sharp turn was added to prevent the use of battering rams or cavalry changes.
Putting Your Body On the Line
The entrance to the castle, the Gate of Martim Moniz, was dedicated to a noble Portuguese knight of the same name. Legend has it that he was part of the Christian invasion lead by King Afonso Henrique during the reconquest of Lisbon. He led an attack during the siege of St George’s Castle and managed to prevent the gates shutting by putting his own body in the way. That rush of blood to the head obviously killed him, but his body wedged the gates open and the castle was taken.
Join the fastest growing community of professional tour guides.
Use our easy to integrate toolset to include Tours & Attractions in your customer journey.