Saturday, January 28, 2012
ST. GEORGE'S CASTLE - LISBON, PORTUGAL
ST. GEORGE'S CASTLE
Castle of St. George
Overlooking the city from millennium-old walls
Saint George's Castle can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. Its oldest parts date from the 6th century, when it was fortified by the Romans, Visigoths, and eventually the Moors. It served as a Moorish royal residence until Portugal's first king Afonso Henriques captured it in 1147 with the help of northern European crusaders on their way to the Holy Land. It was then dedicated to St. George, the patron saint of England, commemorating the Anglo-Portuguese pact dating from 1371, and became the royal palace until another one (that was destroyed in the Great Earthquake) was built in today's Comercio Square.
It is now an oasis of peace, but just past the main gate is a statue of King Afonso Henriques and a series of cannons, reminders of the castle's original purpose. What remains of the Alcaçovas Palace where medieval kings lived, is a stone building now housing a restaurant, and round the back, a small archaeological museum in three underground chambers (including the one where Vasco da Gama was once received by King Manuel).
Most of the castle was destroyed over the years, especially in the Great Earthquake, but still includes a long extension of walls and 18 towers. Visitors can climb the towers and walk along the ramparts for the mostbreathtaking views of the city, or relax in the gardens where peacocks, geese and ducks strut around. One of the castle's inner towers, the Tower of Ulysses, holds the Câmara Escura, a periscope that projects sights from around the city.