The older material shows evidence of Penela Castle dating from the XI century, but we believe that its history began before this. The final conquest of Coimbra in 1064 gave this fortification a decisive role in the city's defensive line due to its strategic position, linking the Lower-Mondego, Pombal and Santarém and making Penela an obligatory point of passage by Muslim armies.
In his testimonies in 1087, D. Sesnando, governor of Coimbra and Lord of the whole region, claimed to have populated Penela. Interestingly, the oldest portion of the castle - a small enclosure erected atop the highest rocky outcrop - appears to date from D. Sesnando's reign. Consequently, around the 1070’s and 1080’s, Penela Castle already constituted a separate and inaccessible castle. From the community that lived there, there still remains three anthropomorphic graves and the cave dwellings of these early settlers.
We can attribute the following work to the reign of D. Afonso Henriques, who transferred his court to Coimbra in 1131, with emphasis on the expansion of the castle and the keep construction. The award of a charter in 1137 and the Germanelo Castle construction in 1142 to assist in the defence of the Penela region proved the growing importance of the town. The surviving Penela Castle is a structure where different eras overlap: sesnandina (the word used to define D. Sesnando's reign), Romanesque, and in its general apparatus, Gothic. In the latter period extensive walls were created with three gates: the Village Gate (west), the Betrayal Gate (north) and Clock Gate (damaged in the earthquake of 1755 and then demolished).
In 1408, King D. João I gave Penela to his son, Prince D. Pedro. We owe him the renewal of the S. Miguel Church, and the construction of a palace inside the castle, now totally destroyed.
The castle came into the XX century in a state of near ruin. The intervention carried out by the Direção Geral de Edifícios e Monumentos Nacionais, in the 1940s, gave it its current configuration.
It has a very irregular polygonal outline shaped by the characteristics of the terrain. The sections of wall facing west are higher and stronger than those facing east since they use the escarpment. It is here, on the highest cliff, that the sesnandino little castle stands, transformed into a dungeon in the reign of D. Afonso Henriques and much later endowed with openings for firing guns. Several semi-circular and polygonal towers flank the walls. Access is made by two ports: the Village Gate, main and located southwest and the Betrayal Gate or Fields Gate, northeast, cut into a tower and forming a bend or elbow, a mechanism inherited from the Islamic world and that hindered the entry of enemy troops.
MN - Monumento Nacional (National Monument), Decreto de 16-06-1910, DG n.º 136, de 23 junho 1910 / ZEP, Portaria, DG, 2.ª série, n.º 208 de 05 setembro 1958
Rua do Castelo, Rua da Filarmónica Penelense, Câmara Municipal
Coordinates: 40.03018992946208 N, -8.390266299247741 O
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