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Coimbra Castle History

Coimbra castle, today entirely disappeared, stood on the current square D. Dinis on the university campus. Estimated to have been built in the XI century, during D. Sesnando Davides regency, it would have had cramped dimensions and an irregular plan. Expanded and transformed in the following centuries, it survived, albeit gradually neglected, until the end of the XVIII century when, under Marquês de Pombal's reform of the University of Coimbra, it was completely destroyed in the construction of the Astronomical Observatory.

Nevertheless, today's surveys and views allows us to reconstruct and understand its position in the city profile.

Its location was strategically designed, defending one of the easiest access points to the city. In fact, it became the chosen point by any army to attack Coimbra. The function of this new military structure was exactly reversing this defensive frailty.

It was in this castle that D.Teresa took refuge, widow of Count D. Henrique when, in 1116, the Islamic army under the command of Ben Ali Yusuf rode into the city.

D. Afonso Henriques, son of D. Teresa and first king of Portugal, proclaimed Coimbra as the capital of the new kingdom, strengthened the castle and gave it an impressive keep, an element that was then an important technical innovation introduced by the Templars, in particular by D. Gualdim Pais, master of the Order in Portugal.

In the next reign, in 1198, D. Sancho I built another tower in the most advanced part of the citadel with pentagonal profile, assuming the name of Torre Quinária.

Already in the XIV century, a time deeply marked by wars with D. Fernando of Castille, the Castle of Coimbra was again the subject of important renovation involving the towers, gate, moat and barbican.

Over the following centuries, the tactics of war changed and the castle's role diminished, serving almost like a prison. Phased out, its condition would be already very weak when, in 1722, responding to the urgent modernization of the University of Coimbra, a project was designed to build an astronomical observatory. For this building they used the space of “castello de Coimbra: Portas delle, e e todos os terrenos, que a elle pertencem” (old Portuguese, meaning: Coimbra castle: its doors and every land that belong to it). Before the destruction, however, the Marquis did draw a plan of the castle, a source of study today. The demolition work, started in 1773, was lengthy and very expensive, largely due to the strength of the old keep. In 1775, raised doubts were raised about whether this would be the ideal location for the Centre, but also due to economic constraints. The work was postponed and then abandoned two years later.

In the construction of the new campus, which started in the 1940s, the few vestiges that still existed of the old castle were permanently erased. However, archaeological investigations started in 2010 and confirmed the exact location of the castle.


Town Wall History

Built in the late-Roman period, reflected by the tombstone dedicated to Constâncio Cloro by aeminienses (old term to designate a Coimbra native), the wall of Coimbra suffered in the course of the following centuries, under Visigoth, Muslim or Christian domain, successive works of conservation, coupled with specific changes observed mainly at the level of gates and towers.

Over 1800 meters and circumscribing almost 22 acres, the wall had five gates (Almedina, Belcouce, Traição, Sol and finally Porta Nova) and a considerable number of towers, with particular emphasis on the Almedina Tower.

Installed in the Almedina Tower today is the Core of the Walled City of Coimbra. We suggest you visit it for a better understanding of the whole complex defensive system of Coimbra.


Characterization

The city's defensive system consisted of a castle and a fence or wall. This, with a roughly circular perimeter, hugged the hill where the town had settled. Under Muslim rule, this area was called Almedina. So, today, place names like Almedina Arc, Door and Tower are used, corresponding to the main entrance of the old historic core. With a length of almost 2km, it had a considerable number of towers, either flanking doors or tactically enhancing the long walls.

The Castle had an irregular plan and two main towers: the keep, square, isolated in the centre of the parade ground had been erected in the reign of D. Afonso Henriques; the Quinária Tower, pentagonal, built by order of King Sancho I, occupied a prominent position at the east front of the castle, defending the hill, next to an old Roman aqueduct.


Classification

MN - Monumento Nacional (National Monument), Decreto de 16-06-1910, DG n.º 136 de 23 junho 1910, (Cerca de Coimbra nomeadamente, Arco de Almedina, Pequeno Arco de Almedina) / Decreto nº 2 789, DG, 1ª série, n.º 121 de 16 junho 1921 / Decreto nº 7 552-A, DG n.º 133 de 1 julho 1921 (Pequeno Arco de Almedina) / Decreto nº 26 141, DG, 1ª série, n.º 287 de 10 dezembro 1935 (Torre de Anto) / ZEP, Portaria, DG, 2ª série, nº 153 de 02 julho 1960 (Cerca de Coimbra nomeadamente o Arco de Almedina, o Pequeno Arco de Almedina) / Portaria, DG, 2ª série, n.º 269 de 17 novembro 1961 (Torre de Anto)


Almedina Tower Access

Rua Ferreira Borges, turn at Porta da Barbacã
Coordinates: 40o 12”32,33”N 8o 25"14"3,54”O


Anto Tower Access

Rua de Sub-Ripas


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