We visited Castle of Penela on the afternoon of 26th July 2014 under one of the activities integrated in the program “Ciência Viva no Verão” (Summer Living Science). This visit that had a biological, geological and historic component was organized by the “Rede de Castelos e Muralhas do Mondego” (Castles and Town Walls of the Mondego Network).
Defensive Line of the Mondego
In 1064, Fernando Magno, King of León, conquered Coimbra. This was a crucial event in the long process of Christian conquests.
Henceforth, the city and Mondego basin assumed the defense of the border between Christians and Muslims.
The Mozarabic Sesnando Davides was the commander of this new frontier. He was the one who established a set of defensive structures, that are nowadays called Defensive Line of the Mondego.
Among others, Defensive Line of the Mondego is formed by the Castles of Coimbra, Lousã, Miranda do Corvo, Montemor-o-Velho, Penela, Soure and Buarcos’ watchtower. The Castles of Pombal and Germanelo and other structures joined the border some time later.
Since Penela was on the road that connected Lower-Mondego to Pombal and Santarém, it was an obligatory point of passage by Muslim armies. Due to its strategic position, Penela Castle had a decisive role in the city’s defensive line.
The battles against the Moorish and the passage of the centuries had a destructive effect on the castle. Thus, it underwent several renovations and expansions over time.
However, the loss of its defensive role led to the neglect of the maintenance of Penela Castle and to the remotion of stones from the castle by the population to be used in other constructions.
The castle was restored in 1940. The walls and the battlements were rebuilt and the houses that, in the meantime were built next to the castle walls, were demolished.
Castle of Penela, located in Coimbra district (Portugal), is classified as a National Monument and, nowadays, is in a good state of conservation.
The castle of Penela was built on a cliff, taking advantage of the steepness of the hillside. For that reason, it has an irregular shape, adapted to the terrain, and some sections of the wall are much higher than others.
Two gates give access to the castle, the Town Gate and the Traitor’s Gate. The Town Gate, also called Gate of the Cross, dates back to the 15th century and it is characterized by a round arch. The Traitor’s Gate, or Fields Gate, is flanked by a square tower and the access is protected by a double elbow entrance. This is a mechanism inherited from the Islamic world.
The Church of São Miguel, which is the mother church of Penela, is located inside the Castle. The oldest reference to the church is in the “Foral” of 1137. A “Foral” was a royal document in Portugal used to establish a Council.
The church was rebuilt in 1420. The temple that we see nowadays is the result of a major reform in the second half of the 16th century.
08h00 – 19h00 (October to March)
08h00 – 21h00 (April to September)
Entrance fee: no fee