Several times I passed in the road to/from Spain, always saying to myself - you must get time to go up and see the castle of Marvão.
One day, I got it.
The castle is really nice, the views are gorgeous, but my strong sensation keeps connected to the view from below - the remains perched in the cliffs are a challenge to imagination, and a call to the memories of the hard old times.
However... don't skip the visit.
Marvão is a very small city, inside walls, with a very well preserved image that justified the privilege of being considered UNESCO heritage. The location, upon very steep hills, allowed it a very important role in Portuguese history, after being conquered by our first king. Disputed and temporarily occupied by Spanish and French, it was also relevant in Portuguese civil war in the 19Th century.
Worth visiting are the 15th century mother church and the Municipal Museum, open in the former church of Santa Maria and displaying local ethnological and cultural traditions and archaeological findings.
Marvão lies in the area of the Natural Park of Serra de São Mamede, with a wide range of flora and fauna due to its geological diversity and varying climate. It is the home of one of the largest colonies of bats in Europe, but also of deer, boars, Bonnelli eagles, griffon vultures, etc.
Rua do Espirito Santo, with the former governor´s house exhibiting beautiful iron-wrought balconies from the 17th century, leads to the castle, mostly built by King Dinis in 1299 and dominating the village.
Marvao Castle was built by King Dinis in about 1299, the castle dominates the village. Its walls enclose two cisterns and a keep and offer spectacular views south and west towards the Serra de Sao Mamede and eastward to the Spanish frontier.
The Santa Maria church now is a museum.
You pay 1 euro if you want to visit it.
Worth a visit, it displays local ethnological and cultural traditions and archaeological finding. It is near the Tourist Office.
The convent is situated outside the walls of the castle on the slope as you approach Marvão.
The convent was built in 1448, it belonged to the Franciscan order and it was associated with the appearance of Virgin Mary. The convent was built in Gothic style and there is a manueline "cruzeiro" (stone construction) of in front of it.
Once you enter the village you find yourself on the former Town Hall's square. This square has a pillory. Pillories are somewhat common in ancient Portuguese villages and this one is no exception. They represent the law/ empowerment of the village and its rulers.
Marvão's pillory is classified as of public interest since 1933. It was refurbished in 1940 and few was left from its original pieces and stonework.
Espírito Santo (Holy Spirit) Church is situated inside the village on the "main street", that is, the one that leads up to the castle. It is of Renaissance style, with one single aisle. Unlike Santa Maria Church, this one celebrates mass and "works" as a church.
By Santa Maria church there is a very pleasant botanical garden. Even during winter months the garden is well-kept. The first photo that illustrates this tip was shot in December 2004 and as you may see the garden is green even though it's winter. After walking down from the castle it feels very good to sit on a wooden bench and relax on this green space while enjoying the magnificent views.
A bit after this garden, walking towards São Tiago church, you may find a construction that is typical of Marvão, mainly along the border with Spain: chafurdão. My second photo is about this construction. It is round and made of stone and usually they were built on rock. Various studies have been made around this construction but no conclusions were made: there is no knowledge of its purpose or date of construction. Some were used as houses, some as animal shelters. Some say they are of Celtic origin, some say they date from the Dark Age.
Just after Santa Maria church and the garden, there is another church: São Tiago church. I found them very alike: a tower bell and identical façades. This is not an unusual situation as they date from about the same century and both are Gothic style in its origins. Also, both of them had/ have 3 aisles.
Opposite this church there is another chapel (couldn't find its name), Baroque, built in the 18th century and which contains some nice details: it was used white marble from Estremoz (another town in this area of Portugal, whose white marble is famous worldwide) and inside it is decorated with hand painted tiles (Portuguese azulejos).
The Museum is situated on the premises of Santa Maria Church. The church had long been closed to public visits so it was refurbished and since 1987 houses the Municipal Museum. In the Museum, for a small fee, you may admire collections of artifacts related to Marvão's history and people, separated in:
. Sacred Art
Santa Maria Church dominates the skyline mainly when looking at the village from the castle. It is a very simple building,yet with very nice architecture.
This church used to be of Gothic style but refurbishments done in the 16th century changed its appearance. Nowadays it doesn't "work" as a parish church, it houses the Museum.
You may visit the castle free of charge at any time. Apart from walking around the walls and ramparts and soak up the magnificent views, both over the plains and mountains and also over the village, inside you may also visit a water cistern.
The cistern still has water nowadays. In long gone days it played a very important role as a water reservoir for the village and its population. As mentioned, the village inside the castle is situated on top of a 800 metre high cliff and getting water was no easy task if it wasn't for this reservoir.