Geogad has just released a brand new audio tour that takes travelers throughout Downtown Lisbon. With Geogad, travelers can learn about the dynamic history of Lisbon, while also enjoying the rich cultural history of the city. One of the must see locations in the City is Castelo de Sao Jorge. This castle is perched on a hill side and offers some of the most spectacular views of the city.
Overview of the Castelo de Sao Jorge
As you take in the views around the castle, you will notice that this hill is the highest in the center of the city. For thousands of years, military minds have recognized that high ground is easiest to fortify and defend. Archaeological evidence shows that the hill has been the site of a military stronghold in one form or another for hundreds of years. Roman fortifications from 137 BC have been excavated. Other evidence shows that this area has been occupied for at least another 400 years before these Roman walls were built. In the 5th century A.D., the Visigoths, a tribe of Germanic people who sacked the Roman Empire and took control of this area, strengthened the fortress. Their guard towers still remain. A few hundred years later under reign of the Moors, another city wall was built to protect mosques, palaces and bazaars, but this wall could not protect Muslim Lisbon from the future King of Portugal.
In 1147, Lisbon was a prosperous city in which Moors, Christians and Jews lived and worshiped peacefully. The peace came to an end when the first king of Portugal, Dom Afonso Henriques, laid siege to this fortress for 17 weeks. According to a European named Osbernus who was part of the Christian forces, Lisbon at this time held 154,000 men and a greater number of women and children. Afonso Henriques hired crusaders who were on their way to the Holy Land to fight for him. These men were interested first and foremost in the spoils of war. Afonso Henriques agreed that they could keep the property of the conquered and would receive land if they decided to remain. In exchange, Afonso Henriques would get Lisbon.
The crusaders laid siege to Lisbon on July 1. On October 21, the Moors agreed to surrender because they had run out of food. According to the terms of the surrender, the people of Lisbon were to leave with their lives and property. Once the gates were opened, these terms were ignored by the conquerors. They went wild, murdering, raping and stealing. They even slit the throat of the elderly Christian bishop, who had reigned over Lisbon’s small Christian society.
In contradiction to blood bath that ended the Siege of Lisbon, a legend began that the success of the siege was due to the bravery and sacrifice of one man. According to the legend, just when the Moors were about to close the gate in front of the Christian invaders, a Portuguese knight, Martim Moniz, sacrificed himself by using his own body to prevent the Moors from closing the gate before Christian reinforcements could arrive. Thanks to this heroic act, which cost Moniz his life, the Christians were able to enter the fortress and defeat the Moors. The northern gate of the castle is named in his honor.
To learn more about Castelo de Sao Jorge, listen to Geogad’s Lisbon Tour