Duration - 2 hours
Difficulty - Medium
Visiting the Castle of Saint Jorge is climbing the city’s highest hill, from where you can see Lisbon and the Tagus, strolling through the time in which the castle was the military and political centre of the Kingdom and the residence of the Kings of Portugal. Going through the streets and alleys of the Castle district is getting to know the cradle of the city of Lisbon.
The Viewpoint is built on the former churchyard and cloister of the Church of Santa Lucia.
Built by the knights of the Order of the Hospital, who assisted King Afonso Henriques to conquer Lisbon to the Moors in 1147. The church, rebuilt after the 1755 Earthquake, bears on the façade the arms of the Order of Malta and keeps inside a set of ten funeral inscriptions, classified by their historical value. It is the seat of the Assembly of the Portuguese Knights of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
From this square you get one of the best views of the city of Lisbon. In the center of the square, you can see the statue of Saint Vincent, deacon and martyr, the patron of the diocese of Lisbon.
Baroque church which survived the 1755 Earthquake, with an octagonal plan; on the façade, the two towers are missing, which were never completed. Its construction was orderes by King João V, to house the venerated miraculous image of the “Divine Infant”, brought from the Convent of Saint Francis of Xabregas. The richness of the decoration reflects the royal order: observe the tonality of the marbles, the decoration of the ceiling and especially the painting of the Blessed Mafalda, Teresa and Sancha, sisters of King Afonso II, by André Gonçalves.
At number 20 to 22, there is a 16th century house which survived the 1755 Earthquake.
Don Fradique, who gave the name to the courtyard, seems to have been a noble servant of King Manuel I, who had a palatial house there. Today completely decharacterised and destroyed, it is a passage from Saint Thomas Street to the Castle of Saint George. In the tunnel that leads to the Castle, watch on your left an inscription alluding to the Brotherhood of Souls, dated 1671, and observe the image of Christ Crucified on the oratory over the arch.
Look carefully to the top of the arch. Search for three inscriptions that inform you that the door was made in the reign of Queen Maria II, in 1846, and inaugurated on April 4. The panels with embedded decoration came from the extinct Convent of Lóios. Go through the arch; on your left, there is a niche/oratory with the image of Saint George, the saint who gave the name to the castle, in the 14th century. Continue to climb up and notice the stone placed in front of you. The inscription is very effaced and the acronym of the person honoured (E.C.C.P.F.) is engraved: it is Eusébio Cândido Cordeiro Pinheiro Furtado, the inventor of the Portuguese pavement. On the left, notice the old House of the Governor, today the box office.
Here was the political, administrative and militar centre of Arab Lisbon. Here lived the Moorish governor and the ruling elite, and the military garrisons were installed here.
Inaugurated in 1932, this statue evokes the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, who conquered the city of Lisbon to the Moors on 25 October 1147, the day of Saint Crispim and Saint Crispiano.
You are now on the highest hill of Lisbon. From here you can see the western part of the city and the Tagus mouth. The strategic position of this place made it the favourite of all the people who settled in Lisbon. Lisbon was born here. But the castle and the wall were built by the Arabs of the 11th century to defend the citadel; after the conquest of Lisbon in the 12th century, it was also here that the Christian forces settled and that the Portuguese kings lived from the 13th to the 16th century.
Stand in front of the entrance gate. In the tower in front of you, the royal treasure was kept and, from 1378, the archive as well. Because it was where documents were inventoried (tombados, in ancient Portuguese), it was known as Torre do Tombo. The famous chronicler Fernão Lopes worked here as the main guardian. Climb the ramp and enter. When you cross the door, you are not really inside the castle hall (the highest part of the castle). There is a corridor on your right, where the guards used to be, and a defensive wall, the barbican. Only now you will really enter. The elbow shape of this tunnel was purposeful and it aimed to hinder the massive access of a probable enemy. Go through the hall. When you leave this square, know that the gate that you have just crossed was where the legendary Martim Moniz, a companion of arms of King Afonso Henriques, was stuck to let the Christian forces enter the castle, during the reconquest of Lisbon.
In the lobby, look carefully at the prints and photographs on display. Through them you will get to know the various evolutionary phases of the castle. The large panel reproducing a view of Lisbon, dating from the 16th century, that can be found in the Library of the University of Leiden, is extraordinary.
King Manuel I (1495-1521) was the last Portuguese monarch to live in the Alcazaba Palace. He took the decision to build a new palace in the lower part of the city, near the Tagus River: the Palace of Ribeira.
It is one of the oldest churches in Lisbon, even if its façade and date engraved on it, 1776, do not announce this antiquity. Observe the bell tower built over the tower of the castle's fortress. Here was one of the mosques of Arab Lisbon; soon after the conquest of the city, in 1147, King Afonso Henriques, followed by a procession, went there to see its consecration as a Christian temple. The bishop’s palace was next to it from the 12th to the 15th century. Its churchyard was walled and was a cemetery until 1842. The Brotherhood of Saint George, of great importance in the city, had its seat here from the 18th century. Inside the church, note the 17th century panel of the main altarpiece, representing the Descent of the Cross, and the Holy Trinity in the baptistery, a 15th century sculpture in polychrome Ançã stone.
This street evokes the famous Bartolomeu de Gusmão (1685-1724), a Portuguese Jesuit, inventor of a flying machine, the “passarola”.
Legend has it that Santo Antonio was passing by here when he saw a girl crying because she had broken the vessel on her way to the fountain. Feeling sorry for her, the saint fixed it. This and three other miracles, such as that of the Mule, the Child Jesus and the Sermon to the Fish, are represented in the tile panels that decorate the first floor of this house.
Small church dedicated to these two brothers who were martyred in the 3rd century, patrons of the cobblers, celebrated on October 25. That was the day when King Afonso Henriques reconquered Lisbon, therefore they became the first patron saints of the city, much venerated since then. Currently, worship in the church is entrusted to the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Discovered in 1798 by the Italian architect Francisco Xavier Fabri, the Roman Theatre of Olisipo (the Roman name of Lisbon) is located on the southern hill of the Castle. It was built in the 1st century AD to host about 4,000 spectators, taking advantage of the slope of the terrain and the existing rock. From its benches carved into the rock, people enjoyed a breathtaking view of the Tagus. Its existence demonstrates the importance of Felicitas Julia Olisipo in the Roman imperial period.
Here was the Convent of Saint Eloy, which belonged to the Secular Canons of the Congregation of Saint John the Evangelist, better known as Lóios. The buildings crowned by battlements that you see on your right side are the remains of the former Convent of Lóios.
Over the portal, observe the attributes of Santiago carved there: sword, stick, gourd and scallop shell. There is also a date engraved: MDCCLXXIII, which corresponds to the year of the reconstruction of the church, much destroyed by the 1755 Earthquake. The primitive temple, reformed in the 16th and 17th centuries, had been built here in the 12th century, thus being contemporary of the churches of Saint Lucia and Holy Cross in the Castle. In its interior, the highlight is the altarpiece of the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Brotherhood of Carieiros, here installed since the 14th century. If you are starting the Way of Santiago from here, know that you are 610 km away from Santiago de Compostela.