We had been around the castle of Santa Maria da Feira for a few times before, such as for the occasion of the Medieval Fair. However, it was just on 17th August 2014 that we went inside this beautiful castle. As our visit to the castle was related to a wherigo geocache – Vince Castrum Sanctae Mariae, we had access to a section of the castle that is closed to the public.
The diversity of defensive elements implemented in the Castle of Santa Maria da Feira between the 11th and the 16th centuries makes this castle one of the monuments that best represents the military medieval architecture in Portugal.
Its keep tower surrounded by four turrets that are crowned by spires is the most emblematic part of the castle.
The keep tower has three floors. The lower one hosts the cistern, on the highest floor there’s a terrace and, in between, there’s an ample room that has three fireplaces.
The first documented reference to the fortification occurred in the 11th century.
Since 1117, Santa Maria da Feira was the location of one of the most important fairs in Portugal, which, over time, gave the town its name (“Feira” means fair).
The castle of Santa Maria da Feira had a very important role in the Battle of S. Mamede (1128), where the Portuguese forces led by Afonso Henriques defeated the forces led by his mother, Teresa of Portugal.
During the 15th century, the castle was adapted to the new military techniques of that time. Next to the keep tower, it was built a tenaille, which is an advanced defensive work. The “Torre da Casamata” (Casemate tower) allowed the solders to shoot in all directions. The barbican would give protection to the main gate.
Between the 16th and the 17th centuries, when the castle had already lost its military importance, the Counts of Feira transformed the castle into their palatial residence. A palace was built in the parade ground and, outside the castle, next to the barbican, it was built a Chapel devoted to Our Lady of Incarnation, as well as the chaplain’s house.
Due to a fire that devastated the palace, in the 18th century, nowadays there are only a few traces of its existence.
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