10 Interesting Facts About Sao Jorge Castle
Castelo de São Jorge, or St George's Castle, is an architectural wonder in Lisbon. It sits on top of the city's highest hill, providing incredible views of Lisbon and the beautiful Tagus River. Inside the castle, you'll discover the site's remarkable history; from ancient courtyards to battlements and an old Moorish wall, Sao Jorge Castle holds significant historical and archaeological value. Given below are a few interesting facts about the attraction.
10 Interesting Sao Jorge Castle Facts
1. It sits on top of Lisbon's highest hill
Sao Jorge Castle is an excellent location to admire Lisbon. It is located at the top of São Jorge hill, Lisbon's highest hill. Like the castle, São Jorge hill also has a remarkable history; the fortifications built on it served as the home of several early civilizations, including the Romans, Carthaginians, and Moors. The Romans built the fortifications as part of their municipality in 48 BC. The Muslim Berbers, the indigenous ethnic group from the Maghreb region of North Africa, rebuilt São Jorge hill's fortifications in the 10th century, including the walls.
2. Named after a Saint Patron of England
The English crusaders played a pivotal role in helping King Alfonso, nicknamed the Conqueror by the Portuguese, evict the Moorish rulers and win back Sao Jorge Castle. Following the victory, both the castle and the hill were named after the Saint Patron of England, Saint George. Legendary tales about the patron, especially the one wherein he allegedly saved a virgin from a dragon, became popular among the Portuguese soldiers and may have influenced the castle's christening. Centuries later, King John I, who married Princess Philippa, dedicated the castle to Saint George as the patron's legend grew bigger.
3. One of Lisbon's precious archaeological sites
Sao Jorge Castle holds the same archaeological value in Lisbon as Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (National Archaeology Museum) and Museu Arqueológico do Carmo (Carmo Archaeological Museum). It is widely considered the first known human settlement that developed through time and made the city what it is today. Once inside the castle, you'll see ruins of three separate periods in Lisbon's history: the first known settlement from the 7th century BC, the second from the Moorish era residential area from the mid-11th century, and the third from the last palatine residence in the former alcáçova.
4. The former residence of Lisbon's royalty
Given its location and grandeur, Sao Jorge Castle made the perfect residence for the rulers of Portugal. Alfonso III was among the first to use the castle as his home. He lived during his term as the governor when Lisbon became the capital of the Kingdom of Portugal in 1255. King Denis I was the next to occupy Sao Jorge Castle. He made it his home in the 14th century, carrying out significant renovation to transform the castle into a Royal Palace. King Ferdinand I and King Manuel I was the next to use Sao Jorge Castle as their official homes.
5. Struck by two earthquakes
Nature hasn't been kind to Sao Jorge Castle. The earthquake that hit Lisbon in 1531 left the castle in massive ruins. It was left as is for over three decades until King Sebastian commissioned it and ordered rebuilding of the royal apartments. He used the reconstructed castle as his official residence. A few years later, in 1577, Filippo Terzi made his own adjustments to the castle, bringing down one of the walls. The second earthquake destroyed what was left of the castle in 1755.
6. It was renovated in the 20th century
Each earthquake took a giant piece of Sao Jorge Castle. The castle could be barely seen after the first earthquake hit in 1531. It was left as is for centuries until the second earthquake hit the site even harder, destroying everything. The Portuguese government, however, bankrolled the castle's reconstruction to restore unity and celebrate the country's independence. The remaining old structures in the castle were demolished, and new structures were erected. A new monument dedicated to the legendary Afonso Henriques, aka King Alfonso or the Conqueror, was built in 1947.
7. Martim Moniz died at the Gates of Martim Moniz
The Gates of Martim Moniz is legendary, but few know its story. Moniz was a Portuguese knight who led the attack on the castle during the four-month siege in 1147. The Moors were protected within the castle's impenetrable walls, but Moniz noticed one of the side gates was still open. As the Moors realized their mistake and began closing the door, Moniz lodged his body between the two doors. His sacrifice helped his fellow soldiers find a way inside the castle and win the battle. The entrance is known as The Gates of Martim Moniz in his honor.
8. Houses age-old objects
Sao Jorge Castle is a wonderful attraction because it brings you close to ancient settlements. You'll find various ancient objects in the permanent exhibition, which is part of the buildings from the former Royal Palace of the Alcáçova. Through these objects excavated from the site, you'll learn about the Romans' lifestyles and other settlements near the castle. You'll also learn more about these cultures and what daily life looked like for them. Special focus is given to the Moorish period, which lasted from the 11th to the 12th century.
9. Free entrance for locals
Living in Lisbon comes with privileges. One of them is free entry to Sao Jorge Castle. Yes. People living in Lisbon can enter the castle without cost, although they must present proof of residence. Portugal citizens can also enter free of cost, but only on Sundays and holidays between 9 AM to 2 PM. Children under 12 years of age can also access Sao Jorge Castle and its beautiful gardens without paying anything. Everyone else must purchase tickets to enter the castle complex. However, senior citizens, i.e., those over 65 years and individuals with special needs, can get discounted tickets to the attraction.
10. It is possible to organize an event in Sao Jorge Castle
Sao Jorge Castle is an iconic attraction popular all over Portugal. But that doesn't mean you can't organize intimate affairs or celebrations in the castle complex. Thanks to its fantastic location and world-class urban landscape, it is an excellent place to celebrate an occasion with your family or hold important meetings with colleagues. You can also hold concerts, exhibitions, seminars, theater performances, promotional and awareness-raising events, and film shootings in Sao Jorge Castle. Additionally, if you invite guests to an event, they will receive a guided tour of the castle.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Sao Jorge Castle Facts
Sao Jorge Castle is an iconic attraction in Lisbon. It is among the oldest castles and archaeological sites in Portugal.
Two earthquakes struck Sao Jorge Castle on separate occasions. It is one of the most interesting facts about the castle.
Sao Jorge Castle is located at the summit of São Jorge hill, Lisbon's highest.
The Muslims built Sao Jorge Castle in the mid-11th century.
Sao Jorge Castle is over 1000 years old.
Yes. Two earthquakes destroyed Sao Jorge Castle. The first came in 1531, while the second hit the castle in 1755.
Yes. You can get 360º views of Portugal inside the Black Chamber. The optical system of lenses and mirrors inside the room offers real-time views of the city. You can see monuments, rivers, and popular areas of Lisbon from miles away.