January 2, 2015

1390 PORTUGAL (Faro) - Castle of Silves

Situated on a hill above the Arade River, navigable in historical times, and bordered to the south by the Atlantic Ocean, Silves was possibly founded during the times of Roman domination. Former capital of the Algarve, it was one of the most important towns of western Al-Andalus. Silves Castle (Castelo dos Mouros, Moorish Castle), located on the top of the hill and built between the 8th and 13th century, is one of the best preserved of the Moorish fortifications in Portugal. In the next hundred years, the fortification was strengthened by Moors and passed twice, for brief periods, under Christian dominion, until  Afonso III of Portugal definitively conquered it.

After the Christian conquest, the castle served as the seat of the alcaide-mor (provincial governor) till the middle of the 16th century, afterwards the towers were used as a prison. In 1755, it was damaged by the Lisbon earthquake, resulting in the "...loss of its cathedral, tower, castle and walls...". Sometime during the 18th century, the dungeons were reconstructed, and the ceilings repainted. During the Liberal Wars the walls were repaired by the population.

The castle consists of an irregular polygon overlooking the community of Silves, comprising four towers and seven crenellated posts, linked by red sandstone walls with ardaves. It has  two gates, the principal one between two towers and the Traitor's Gate carved into the northern wall. Alongside the principal gate is the guardhouse, constructed with a vaulted ceiling, and covered in tiles. Within its courtyard are various subterranean structures, with accesses at soil level. The Cistern of Moura has five naves marked by four orders of columns, interlinked by semi-circular archways. The Cisterna dos Cães, within the courtyard, is a vertical hole of 60m depth, that also supported water supply in the castle.

At the entrance of the castle is the statue of Sancho I, the second king of Portugal, who reigned between 1185 and 1212. His forces, supported by a strong Crusader army, conquered the citadel of Silves in 1189. He used the title King of Silves from 1189 until he lost the territory to Almohad control in 1191. As king, he dedicated much of his reign to political and administrative organization of the new kingdom, and created several new towns and villages and took great care in populating remote areas in the northern Christian regions of Portugal (notably with Flemings and Burgundians), hence the nickname "the Populator".

About the stamps
The stamp is part of the series Portuguese Traditional Festivities 3rd, about which I wrote here. 

Castle of Silves - Wikipedia
Castle, Cathedral, cobbles and Medieval charm - Spotlight on Silves - Algarve Blog
Sancho I of Portugal - Wikipedia

Sender: Marius Vasilescu
Sent from Silves (Faro / Portugal) on 08.05.2014
Photo: Michael Howard

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