Obidos Castle is a castle in the town of Obidos in Portugal, also known by the name of “Polygonal Castle.” It is classified as a national monument and it currently houses the Castles Museum. The Castle of Obidos is definitely worth a visit if you are visiting this part of Portugal – it’s one of the best things to do in Obidos. And it certainly has an interesting history….
The castle was built around 1425 by King John I. The original architect is unknown but there are theories that it may have been Afonso Domingues or Bernardim Fernandes. King John ordered its construction to try and keep the Moors from advancing into Portugal through the area’s narrow mountain passes. The castle had two levels with five towers each on two opposite sides, making for a total of ten towers with six square and four round. Each tower had a narrow doorway, no more than half a meter wide, and was used for archers to fire from. There were also arrow slits that ran along the outer walls of the castle.
Around four years after its construction, King John died and many people outside of Portugal believed that he had been cursed by God as a result of his cruelty against both family members and enemies during his reign. One such person to hold this belief was King John’s son-in-law, Edward The Black Prince of Wales (son of King Edward III of England). In 1385, Edward returned to the castle with an army intent on capturing it but was unsuccessful in doing so though his army destroyed much of the town in retaliation.
The castle was attacked numerous times throughout history, most notably by Napoleonic forces in 1809. It was captured and used as a base for Napoleon’s troops until the Portuguese were able to regain control of it in 1811.
One of the most famous residents of the castle was Prince Henry the Navigator, son of King John I and founder of Portugal’s maritime exploration efforts during his time as governor of Porto Santo Island (1419-1430). Historians believe that Henry lived in one of the towers during this period. The castle remained occupied by Portuguese forces until 1832 when it was abandoned.
The castle was heavily damaged during the earthquake that struck Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon in 1755. It had been abandoned before then and, as a result, did not receive any significant restoration efforts in the immediate aftermath of the quake. It began to fall into disrepair due to neglect and vandalism but, in 1884, King Luis I ordered that it be restored.
The reconstruction was designed by French architect Jules Henri de Sibour. The original plan was to build a new castle, designed by Belgian architect Charles Girault, but De Sibour convinced him otherwise and convinced King Luis I to allow him to continue with his restoration while incorporating Girault’s designs. The castle was finally restored to its former glory in 1896, with a newly built chapel along the western wall of the courtyard.
The castle, along with the town of Obidos, was provided with a new coat of paint in 2015 for its “400th birthday.” The castle had previously been repainted in 2013.
The castle is currently home to the Castles Museum (“Museu dos Castelos”). The museum exhibits both various artifacts from the area and art work dedicated to certain areas of study, including science and art. A new addition to the museum was opened in 2015 featuring “a three-dimensional model of Portuguese territory reconstructed by topographers and geomorphologists from open data published by the Instituto Nacional de Estatistica (INE). The model reflects the current situation and changes in the territory and the ways of occupying it over time.”
The castle is open to tourism. It is located at an elevation of 609 meters above sea level.
If you enjoyed this article you might also like to read about Things to do in Obidos.