Almourol castle, an enchanted place
Almourol Castle is an enchanted place in the middle of the River Tagus, full of history and legends, you should visit on your holidays in Central Portugal.
Settled on a small island right in the middle of the Tagus River, the Almourol castle rises on the horizon as a mythic place, a perfect set for legends of princesses and their knights due to the romantic and mysterious aura that surrounds it.
While crossing the river on the small boat, I could almost swear I saw a fragile maiden sitting by the highest window of the tower, wishing to be rescued by a knight in shiny armour.
Its origin goes back to the Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula and it was always considered a strategic point due to its unique geographical situation. Therefore Almourol castle was disputed many times throughout the centuries, being occupied by Alans, Visigoths and Moors.
In 1129, during the Reconquista (Reconquest), the first Portuguese king took the “Almorolan” (High stone from the moor) fortress and handed it to Gualdim Pais, head of the Knights Templar, in charge of the defense of the Tagus River area. This castle was vital for the defense of the kingdom, which capital was, by then, Coimbra. However, its military importance began to fade with the progress of the Crusaders towards south.
Nevertheless, while owned by the Templars, Almourol castle played a key role on the communication between the northern areas of the kingdom and the Alentejo, namely on what concerns the trade of olive oil, wheat, wood, pork meat and fruit.
Forbidden loves at Almourol
Almourol castle, stage of bloody battles throughout times, is also linked to tragic love stories that became popular tales.
During the Reconquista, Almourol castle was owned by a feudal lord named D. Ramiro. He was fearless and cruel. One day, returning from a battle, he captured a young Moor and killed the boy’s mother and sister. As revenge, the boy poisoned D. Ramiro’s wife and planned to do the same with his daughter. However, the two youngsters fallen in love. D. Ramiro didn’t accept this love so the young Moor and the maiden fled, leaving D. Ramiro heartbroken. He ended up dying from loneliness.
The castle was then captured by a Moor prince who had a daughter named Ari. The girl was in loved with a Christian knight and to prevent her from running with her lover, her father tied her leg up to a heavy object. In Portuguese the word for that is “pear”. So, from “Ari peada” (Ari tied up) came the name Arripiada. This nomenclature evolved into today’s Arripiado, a small village by the Tagus River, nearby Almourol castle.
According to another tale, D. Palmeirim came from England to save Miraguarda and Polinarda, two beautiful noble ladies, from the hands of the Almourol castle giant, the Cavaleiro Triste, who was in love with Miraguarda. The fight lasted for hours and our hero was almost defeated when the giant Dramusiando came to help him. Finally, they beat Cavaleiro Triste and Palmeirim lived happily ever after with Polinarda.
By the way, while visiting Almourol castle, don’t miss the opportunity to explore around the castle. There is a chance you might find the extraordinary treasure people say the Romans buried on the island.