Sortelha, an historical village
The village of Sortelha is an amazing place that brings us to the Middle Ages, when the defense of the borders from the Spanish was essencial to Portugal.
Today I invite you to join me in a journey to the past. Our destination is Sortelha, a boarder medieval village, that belongs to the Guarda district.
As we cross Porta da Vila (Village Gate), it seems that time stood still. The buildings made of sound granite, with red roofs, embraced by the walls of the impressive Sortelha Castle, leads us to times when life was harsh and the Portuguese were always vigilant against a possible spanish invasion. Here rurality has not yet given way to modernity. And what a refreshing feeling it is to walk along the slightly bumpy streets of the village, pass by hundred-years-old houses, go up to the Castle Walls and enjoy the amazing bucolic view ahead us!
The name Sortelha
There are several theories concerning the origins of the name Sortelha. Yet the one that seems to congregate more votes in favor, defends that this toponymy cames from a ring called Sortija or Sortela, used during a medieval game.
A bit of history
The origins of Sortelha are unknown. However, traces of the Bronze and Iron Ages were found in the parish, as well as some evidences of the Roman presence.
Sancho I gave orders to populate the area, but it was Sancho II who chartered this village in 1228.
However, the most important mark of Sancho II is the edification of the Castle, promoted not only to defend the site, but also, and mainly, to maintain the border with Castile, which was, by that time, the Côa River.
Under the regency of Manuel I, the Fortunate, the Castle is renewed and the Pillory and the Former town hall and gaol are built.
Photo by Samuel Santos
Sortelha lost its municipal status during administrative reorganization done by the liberal status in the 19th century. The establishment of the define boarders with Spain also contributed to the decline of the village’s importance. Nevertheless, the Castle became national monument in 1910.
Today´s rural charm of Sortelha exists mainly due to the Historical Villages of Portugal Programme, which embodies the goal to develop the interior region, promoting its differentiating resources such as History, Culture and Heritage. Thanks to this Programme Sortelha is now preserved and one of the most visited and beautiful villages in Portugal.