Sintra’s Moorish Castle Review – 10th Century Time Capsule

The walk up to the top of the castle looks more daunting than it is


It is actually a Romantic German Prince (and later a Portuguese King by marriage), Ferdinand II, whom you have to thank for the awe inspiring views that reward you after the climb up to Sintra’s Moorish Castle.


Volcanic activity created the granite boulders that you see throughout the castle grounds, and which were used to make the granite blocks of its walls


Originally an outpost and lookout for Islamic rulers of Lisbon, this castle had been abandoned in the 15th Century. 


The moss covering on the walls give it an especially romantic feel


Ferdinand II’s interest was typical of Romantic’s love of antiquity, one that was not as concerned with historical accuracy as we expect from modern restoration efforts.  That’s why you see sequoias everywhere, a tree he favored that was exotic to this land.  Then again, the lushness of these trees and the entire verdant landscape is not anything you would ever complain about.  


The woods surrounding the castle were in various hues of deep greens giving the entire park an extremely lush feel


This is a top recommended historic green space site to include in any Portugal tour that can take the quick trip from Lisbon to Sintra by train or automobile.


As you walk up to the castle you can look over the walls to see beautiful vistas of Sintra below


What’s not green is granite—everywhere! 


To create blocks they would create holes like this in the large boulders, and then put wood in that was watered to swell and break the rock


One of our first glimpses of the castle wall up close, as you walk to the castle summit from the parking area. In between these boulders in the foreground there were often vestiges of grain silos dating back to Moorish times


On the climb up to the top you pass what were silos in the rocks used as graineries and also tombs, some holding 4 people in one space. 


At a midpoint on the climb up the castle, you get to a high wall where you can look across to one higher still


You also see remnants of the Moorish houses just outside the castle walls where the commoners lived. 


in 2008/9 the "“Conquering the Moorish Castle” initiative augmented the site with tourists in mind in additon to many archeological digs to help reclaim and discover the castle's past


Looking down at some of the silos used for storing grain


“Conquering the Moorish Castle” is the name of the 2008/9 initiative that included archeological digs and creating visitor-friendly spaces and signage throughout the castle and its park. 


This is the remnant of Sintra's first Christian church. Excavations here showed that contrary to legend there was not a huge battle between Moors and Christians. They were buried peaceably near each other


Of particular interest is Church of S. Pedro de Canaferrim, Sintra’s first church that dates to the 12th Century.  The archeological work that found the church’s cemetery remains including both Islamic crescent moon markers and crosses was able to debunk the legend that big religious battles had been fought there.  Actually, this had been a peaceful place that was only abandoned in the 15th Century when its denizens moved to lower elevations in order to farm more easily.


And, don’t miss the “Door of Betrayal”, where one could make a secret escape to outside the castle, or, conversely where your enemies could sneak in.   


Note to acrophobes:  You don’t have to go to the summit to get stunning views. 


Our tour guide Carla Ventura of Parques de Sintra has mastered an encyclopedia of information-- historical, botanical, archeological- about the various palaces and gardens of greater Sintra


In the summer high season the visiting hours window is longer. 


The view of Sintra from the top of the Moorish Castle


The view of Pena Castle from the Moorish Castle


For details visit the Parques de Sintra website.



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