Updated:
16-dec-2009



We visited this castle in 2004.

Silves Castle lies in the town of Silves in the Algarve province in Portugal. It is locally known as Castelo de Silves.

Silves Castle was probably built, on the site of late Roman or Visigothic fortifications from the 4th/5th centuries, during the Moorish occupation, which started around 715, and was part of the city walls that surrounded the town. To the Moors this town, which they called Xelb, was their regional capital. It is situated near the, now silted up, Arade river.

In 1060 the castle was taken by Fernando I, King of Leon and Castile. Shortly after it was retaken by the Moors. In 1189 Portuguese Christian forces, aided by thousands of English, German and Flemish Crusaders on their way to the Holy Land, attacked the town. They razed everything outside the town walls and lay siege to the castle. After six weeks the Moors surrendered after an agreement was made with the Portuguese King Sancho I that they could leave unharmed taking their belongings with them. But when they left the mercenary Crusaders violated that agreement; they slaughtered them all and pillaged the town.

Trying to recapture the town in 1190, Yacub Ben Yussuf attacked the castle in vain, only to return in 1191 with more success. During the 1190 siege England's Richard the Lionheart helped the Christian forces to defend the town.

In 1198 the town was again retaken by Sancho I, again with help of German Crusaders. But being unable to keep the castle he dismantled it. Finally, in 1242, Silves was conquered by the Master of the Order of Santiago; Don Paio Peres Correia, during the reign of Alfonso III, who ordered its reconstruction. It's this king's statue standing just outside of the castle gate. After this the town importance gradually declined.

In 1722 and 1755 two heavy earthquakes also damaged the castle. In 1940 the castle was restored.

The castle was built out of large, red sandstone blocks and taipa; a Moorish mixture of mud and sandstone that hardens out like stone. It is equipped with eleven square towers, two of which are barbicans joined to the ramparts by a supporting arch that holds up the walk way. Its, up to 4 meter, thick walls enclose an area of ca. 125x100 meters.

There were two entrances to the castle grounds; the main gate defended by two towers and a so-called 'traitors-gate'. This was situated close to a projecting tower which served as a keep, in the northern wall, but was bricked up during one of the restorations. Four of the towers which were modified at the time of reconstruction work carried out in the 14th/15th century, have gothic doorways, vaulted halls and stones bearing the marks of medieval masons.

Inside the castle nothing remains of the buildings that must have been there but partially excavated foundations. Two cisterns do remain; a small one, 60 meters deep and of Roman origin, and a larger one. The larger one is called 'El Moura Encantada', after a legend that says you can hear a moorish princess mourning her beloved at this well where he committed suicide. This cistern has four vaults supported by tall columns but is permanently closed.

In my opinion this largest castle in the Algarve region is really a must-see if you're in the area. It offers nice views over the town and the surrounding countryside.

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