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Name of Monument:
Almeida Fortress
Also known as:
Vila Fortificada de Almeida
Location:
Almeida, Portugal
Date:
1641–1680
Denomination / Type of monument:
Military architecture
Artists:
French Military engineers: Pierre Gilles de Saint-Paul (active: c.1641–1651), Pierre Garsin (active: 1645–1646); Portuguese military engineer João Saldanha e Sousa, (active: c.1641–1650); Portuguese contractor: David Álvares; Portuguese military engineer: Miguel Luis Jacob (1762)
Patron(s):
King João IV (1604–1656; r. 1640–1656). Royal Household: “Junta da Fortificação” (1641); D. Álvaro de Abranches
History:
Construction of Almeida Fortress was part of the national plan to protect the kingdom, conceived and partially executed during the reign of King João IV within the context of the so called Restoration Wars against Spain.

As soon as Portugal recovered its independence from Spanish rule on 1 December 1640, the Portuguese began preparations in readiness for Spanish retaliation. The decision was made to strengthen the Portuguese borders, a project that was completed in around 1680.

The strength of the fortress would be tested with the Seven Years War and General O'Reilly's siege. It was already in need of restoration in 1810, during the Napoleonic Wars; then the fortress was conquered by Massena, and later by Anglo-Portuguese troops under the command of Lord Wellington. The French siege saw the demise of the magazine, totally destroying the Manueline castle.
Description:
Built on a gently sloping area, the fortress is a colossal stone shield whose frontage is faced by an advance line of stone defence walls combined with earthworks. It is built on an almost regular hexagonal shaped plan. In the angles of the hexagon are the bulwarks or bastions distributed radially to command manoeuvres of a characteristic “diamond” shape. A remarkable engineering masterpiece, their scale is enhanced by the great depth of the moat surrounding them as well as the outside slope or glacis in front of the curtain walls. When under siege, the fortress' facilities provided long-standing autonomy, beside the vaulted subterranean rooms, therefore, are the former Hospital of the Blood, the powder-magazine and the casemates for the soldiers.
The fortress is composed of six bulwarks: St. António for 18 cannons; St. Pedro for 10 cannons, and an earth covered powder-magazine; St. Francisco; S. João de Deus for 28 cannons, and casemates; St Barbara (patron saint of artillery soldiers) for 23 cannons, and a powder-magazine; the Chapel of St. Barbara, extant; the Bulwark of Nossa Senhora de Brotas for 13 cannons, which includes the riding school, known as the Trem or “Carriage” building. There are three posterns for strictly military purposes as well. The fortress has two gates: the Gate of St. Francis (or of the Holy Cross) and the Gate of St. António.
How monument was dated:
Historical evidence and stylistic analysis

 

View Details

 
 
Gates of São Francisco (St. Francis) – exterior and interior gates

1646–1661

Attributed to Pierre Garsin

Main entrance following the designs of Salomon de Brosse.
 
 
Gates of St Anthony (Santo António) - exterior and interior

Exterior

c. 1645–1646

Attributed to Pierre Garsin

Gates designed in the Classical style of French military architecture.
 
 
Slope and Ditch with Bulwark and Ravelin

Exterior

c. 1650

Pierre Gilles de Saint-Paul

Besides its military efficiency, the large earthworks and buildings were important to social cohesion. The bulk of the architecture was a rhetorical statement that the country could face any menace from foreign armies. The fortification was, therefore built both symbolically and practically to discourage further enemy actions.
 
 
Casemates for the Military

Inside the walls

1641–1651

Pierre Gilles de Saint-Paul,Manuel de Azevedo Fortes and others

A row of buildings to accommodate military casemates. Eighteen of the twenty underground rooms have ventilation, access to a well, a water mine and a water-drainage system. In case of attack, the townspeople would seek refuge in the underground rooms, which also served as military lodgings, a warehouse and even as hospital in critical periods.
 
 
Bulwark

1641–1651

Pierre Gilles de Saint-Paul and others

The Bulwark of St. João de Deus for 28 cannons with casemates.
  Selected bibliography:
Pimentel, L. Serrão, Methodo Lusitanico de Desenhar as Fortificaçoens das Praças Regulares & Irregulares, Lisbon, 1680, p. 318.
Manuel de Azevedo, O Engenheiro Portuguez…, Lisbon, 1729, Vol.II, p. 292.
Gomes, R. Costa, Castelos da Raia. Beira, Vol. I, Lisbon, 1997.
Moreira, R., “Do Rigor Teórico à Urgência Prática: a Arquitectura Militar” in História da Arte em Portugal, O Limiar do Barroco (ed. Carlos Moura), Lisbon, 1986;
Valla, M., O Papel dos Arquitectos e Engenheiros – Militares na Transmissão das Formas Urbanas Portuguesas, presented at the 4th Congress Luso-Afro-Brasileiro, Rio de Janeiro, 1996, in “Revista Urbanismo”, Vol. I.
Campos, J., Almeida Gates and Posterns of the Fortress, Câmara Municipal de Almeida, 2007.
Citation of this web page:
Paulo Pereira "Almeida Fortress" in Discover Baroque Art. Place: Museum With No Frontiers, 2014. http://www.discoverbaroqueart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;BAR;pt;Mon11;34;en
Prepared by: Paulo Pereira
Translation by: Cristina Correia, Manuel Silva Pereira
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PT 34