1. Main Gate
2. Town Gate
3. Traitor's Gate
4. Castelejo (Torre de Menagem)
5. Church of St. Michael
6. Museum - Sacred Art
8. Quintal das Lapas
Castle of Penela
National Monument by the decree of 16/6/1910
The military occupation of this hill goes back to ancient times, at least to the Romans, who kept watch over the Mérida-Conímbriga-Braga road from here. Invaded by the Arabs in 716, it was recaptured in the 11th century by Count D. Sesnando, the first governor of Coimbra. The count ordered that a strong castle was erected in the place of this fortification, which he had resettled, thus creating a Christian town, protected by battlemented walls. All that remains of this settlement are graves excavated in the rock, of anthropomorphic design.
The castle of Penela is a medieval fortress with an irregular shape and curved silhouette, extending in a North-South direction. It takes full advantage of the natural steepness of the hillside, and so the wall varies in height between 7 and 19 meters. It formed part of the defensive line of the Mondego during the Christian Reconquest, and was second only to the castle of Montemor-o-Velho in order of grandeur. The two present gates are located in the surrounding walls, which enclose the medieval town with its houses, streets and church. There is Town Gate or the Gate of the Cross (15th century), with a full arch, just beyond which, during times of peace, the outskirts began to spread, and then there is Traitor's Gate which was used to gain access to the fields. The 'breach of the disappeared' (brecha das desaparecidas) is the third door and is now the entrance to the fortress that is most often used. It faces south, guarded by the quinary tower, and it is used as a more direct route from the outskirts to the church. In the more exposed areas, towers were put up to allow the cross-defence of the squadrons (stretch of walls between the towers) and the gates. Of the twelve towers that existed until the 18th century, apart from the quinary tower only one or two round and square ones remain.
The keep, now no longer there, dated from 1300 and was built in the castelejo, the original defensive stronghold, which was rebuilt in the 15th -16th centuries.
The battles against the Moors and the passing of the centuries made repeated enlargement and restoration of the castle necessary, and so its (re)construction lasted from the 11th to the 16th centuries, by order of various kings, including: D. Afonso Henriques, D. Sancho I, D. Dinis, D. Fernando.
The castle's loss of defensive importance led to its maintenance being neglected, and the population started using the stones in other buildings, damaging it still further. It was restored in the 1940s, the walls and battlements were rebuilt according to what still remained, and the houses in the meantime built against the walls were pulled down. The 18th century bell-tower was also dismantled.
Since 1992 the IPPAR has seen to it that the access roads those within the castle grounds have been paved, the walls have been cleaned and restored and the circuit has been improved with the installation of footpaths around almost all the perimeter.
The occupation of this fortress is now reduced to the church and the priest's house.
Câmara Municipal de Penela
Praça do Município
Tel. + 351 239 560 120
Fax +351 239 569 400
Tourist Information Office
Praça do Município
Tel. +351 239 561 132