Crato, Portalegre e Castelo de Vide

March 8th, 9th and 10th, 2019


Castelo de Vide

HISTORY OF CASTELO DE VIDE

It has been lost in time and in legends the reasons for the creation of a strong fort at this location. The doubts, which may well only be clarified by archeology, could possibly be related with adequate relief together with the territorial strategy for securing newly conquered lands which made necessary to create a defensive location to allow for settlement of existing and new populations.

It is known from Rui de Pina that in the year 1299 Castelo de Vide was still “lugar etã maís chão q forte” although from that date on called “Castel de Vide”.  Afonso Sanches son of King D. Afonso III started the reconstruction of the strong walls that were continued by his brother D.Dinis. The reconstruction was ended by the time of King D.Afonso IV.

The improvements gave this strong fort better defensive condition. At the same time widened the walls to include inside them a water well which was initially outside and provided additional protection by forcing the access through the village. A new line of walls surrounded the citadel and the houses built outside. An important tower was also built on the outer walls and outwardly for better defense of the southern side which was the easiest access for an attack. All these reinforcements of the defensive system point out the growing strategic importance of Castelo de Vide. Its defensive walls have more than once experienced the assaults of war machines from Castilla during many conflicts occurred during the Middle Ages and also for maintaining its municipality after independence from Marvão in 1276.

 

Slowly, but surely and already during the 15th century occurs the growth of the urban area towards outside the castle walls. Unlike the northern and western slopes which were much more windy and rocky, the southern slope conditions with good solar position and gentle sloping determined the expansion towards its outskirts. The creation of various churches and small chapels outside the strong walls established the main development directions for the humanized landscape. Thus the main access to the castle entrance was extended towards the holy chapel of Santa Maria, founded in the year 1311 were now stands the main church. This expansion direction was surely one of the most ancient and nowadays still divides the two slopes of the hill and other urban outskirt were a water fountain already used during peaceful periods by the village inhabitants determined the development towards this area despite its higher sloping and less favorable solar position. It not well known which one of the outskirts developed first, but most likely they developed simultaneously during the same period of time. This last outskirt was widely searched by Jews from Castilla and Aragon while seeking sanctuary during their escape from these realms due to official expulsion. Many established themselves in Castelo de Vide because of the proximity to the border post of Marvão. The already existing Jewish population increased rapidly thus contributing to the development of the village.

It is possible to have an idea of the level of urban development of the village during the 16th century by looking at the drawings made by Duarte d’Armas. These are the most ancient pictures of the village that are known. By them it is possible to verify that both slopes of the hill already had constructions during the 16th century.

The population was composed mainly of farmers growing vineyards, linen, olive trees, fruits, cereals and also cattle. The grinding was also part of the activities with several flour water-mills working along the water courses of Vide and Nisa. Wool spinning was also developed due to the existence of cattle raised within the outskirts of the village. From the end of the 15th century to the beginning of the 16th century wool spinning became so important that even before king D. João III (1521-1557), was one of the main occupations in Castelo de Vide. Its inhabitants were known as “Cardadores” (Wool spinners).Between the years of 1527 to 1572 the 885 inhabitants grew to 1400 and reached 1600 in the year of 1603. This growth was mainly fueled by the agricultural excess production, textile industry and trade with the kingdom of Spain.