We love to visit the Alentejo castles, because we always find friendly people and hospitable and the various meetings castelejos has happened to us all good, in Alter do Chão Castle, we found ourselves surrounded by good men, with smiles and occasional conversations and we played almost one trump card. Rita and wanted to stay there, who knows maybe forever, but finally had to continue our journey guided by the head of Alter do Chao Tourism, Maria Durão and follow to the remarkable Quinta do Alamo.
History of Alter do Chão Castle
Here's a little history of Alter do Chão Castle Castle, Located in the town center, or at least what we think is the most interesting for travelers. It is known that the Romans lived here, of which there passed one of three roads linking Lisbon (Olissipo) Mérida (Emerita Augusta), where he built the most beautiful bridge of the empire in Portugal, the Vila Formosa (read it here). The town was named Abeleterium. Along the wall there at the base of the castle Roman or Muslim stone. At this point, the Alter do Chão village was to be a defensive position and organization of al-Andalus.
In the context of Reconquest Christian da Iberian Peninsula, this region was occupied by the forces of Portugal since the second decade of the thirteenth century: D. Alfonso II ordered its restocking. Aiming further increase its settlement, o rei D. Afonso III and Dinis give you and renew the charter to the town. In 1359, the village charter was reworked by D. Peter I, and this king, had built the castle, (it must be assumed that in the same place there was a ruined fortification), as can be proved by epigraphic plate of marble on top the main gate, mentioning dates from 22 September 1357. Because of this recasting of the charter, in the second half of the fourteenth century, o rei D. Ferdinand I gave the fields of the village Constable D. Nuno Alvares Pereira. Later, the Alter do Chão castle would for the D daughter. Nuno Alvares Pereira, who married the Duke of Bragança, so that, the Alter do Chão castle now belongs to the areas of the house.
With the ascent to the throne of D. John II 1481, that with their desire to strengthen the real power and the steps he took against excessive perks of the privileged classes, led the Duke of Bragança, Dom Fernando II, to make a protest involving mayors of their strongholds, declare it affecting their dignity and overly strict, being, this attitude, accompanied by the brothers and the Duke of Viseu (future King Manuel I), Alter do Chão Castle, was one of the fastest protested. Later, this argument would be used against you, when he was accused of rebellion and conspiracy, which led to his being sentenced to death, in 1483 by king John II. The town and its castle were conquered and occupied by Spanish troops under the command of D. John of Austria (1662) but quickly moved to Portuguese rule. In 1910, the Alter do Chão Castle was listed as a National Monument, having changed hands again, until, por fim, would be purchased by the Foundation of the House of Braganza, that remained in their possession until today. At Present, the Alter do Chão castle is in good condition and is a worthy monument to be visited.
Had initially residential functions, later commander's residence and prison, being used in the century. XX as store Farrier, carpentry workshop, barn, mews, olive press and trash. As part of a restoration and upgrading project, carried out by the city of Alter do Chão, were created an interpretive center and exhibition halls.
The Alter do Chão Castle Structure
This is a pure Gothic castle with six towers, four square and two cylindrical. The battlement runs along the top of the walls, protected Ameias, is still in the merlons square towers with loopholes. The keep is in retracted position in the parade, an angle, as quadrangular, raises-is to 44 meters, with the parapet crowned by truncated pyramidal battlements. Internally, is divided into two floors. In the main tower you can only access through the battlement that runs throughout the room, which shows how important was the tower, in case of a possible invasion of the 1st floor.
Also is the slender tower quadrangular, that protects the entrance to the castle grounds. Here the castle gate, in pointed arch, as stated above is topped by the royal coat with a description epigraphic: ERAMILÉSSIMA: CCC AND NINETY YEARS V XXII DAYS OF SEPTEMBER MUI NOBLE KING DON PEDRO HAD THIS MAKE YOUR CASTLE D'ALTER THE FLOOR For this gate you access to the parade in which the open pit and the tank. This interessante gatehouse, little war, did not allow flanking the door from the towers, but only the possibility of vertical shot to neutralize the entry.
Adjacent to the Keep the Alter do Chão castle, is the facade of the former commander's residence and other outbuildings, demonstrating have had this castle the residential function. Over the door of the commander's residence, is another inscription epigraphic, which reads: THIS WORK HAD TO DO FERNÃO RODRIGUES veedor DON FERNANDO DEL KING AND GRANDSON CONDE D’ ARRAIOLOS ERA jjjjc THOUSAND YEARS OF WORLD and X ". The year in the inscription corresponds to 1372.
Function of Alter do Chão Castle
The Alter do Chão Castle today lies surrounded by the village of the same name, who grew up around it. This site stands out in an environment of little steep reliefs, the most striking elevations are located north of Alter. By the way north, This Northeast and the surrounding land have higher quotas than that in which it develops Alter do Chão. For South and West opens a flatter area, that develops Ribeira Alter. To the east of Alter do Chão is the castle of Alter Pedroso. So, monitoring the surroundings would be limited, given the higher elevations north. The Alter do Chão Castle was a local occupation castle, and not a border conflict Castle. Their main concern is to protect, defend and secure the territory, but it was not meant to intense conflicts. The building of the commander's residence was built in the initial project design, which from the beginning, makes this castle a castle-residence. The Alter do Chão castle is a charming place. Its proportions and its interior make it a pleasant place. Easily imagine ourselves here to reside. It has a touch of southern castles, a certain romanticism, but where history is revealed with bloody episodes, that small-scale echo what evil still exists in Portugal in the XXI century.
The 12 Best Alter
We all know that our country has seen over the millennia a constant duel, now amainado, now intense, among disadvantaged (the people) and the oligarchs, associated with power, whether royal or republican.
At the age Portuguese Ages this was a remarkable fact and to understand our history, we will have a simplified manner, in forward that duality, on the one hand the people commoner, the other the Nobility and Clergy. Some kings favored the people, as Dom Afonso III, John I or John II, many of the other nobrecia. The medieval civil wars involving almost always this duality, as is the case of crisis 1383-85 where commoners won.
“Who is the Alter do Chão and are careful to place names can not fail to verify the allusion to 12 best Alter. These days, sounds in a strange way the references to 12 best, but in the Middle Ages was a common designation for the most important members of municipalities, seat of popular power. Farmers were generally, ie holders of agricultural land, employing the so-called journeymen, working to journeyman (daily), paying a tax to the King for possession of property. This phenomenon could only exist in a land that had no sir, because the land with you, it is a religious order or a gentleman, all people working in their properties, paying a pension in kind to its owner. This relationship was not without friction, as evidenced by the numerous popular uprisings against the lords, motivated by the constant abuse they were subjected to. In this context, the aspiration of the people would be, of course, see themselves free of royal power, organizing themselves in municipalities that depend only of the King, and as such enjoys much greater autonomy and prosperity, by comparison with the lands that King gave some nobleman (usually to reward him for his services) or a religious order – large landowners to the liberal revolution, especially the Cistercian, Christ, Santiago, Aviz or Santa Cruz de Coimbra.
The document which set the relationships between people and land holders were the charters. One of the duties usually enshrined in the charters that most bothered the Counties was the Law of Retirement. Since there were no hotels, when the nobles moved to a particular place and needed to rest, the people had a duty to welcome them, usually in the most important Farmers, which was a permanent source of conflict by arrogance with which the nobles treated the hosts. It was not only the nobles who were staying, was also her large entourage, usually making a series of abuses: stole the wineries, humiliated owners, abused daughters ..., Finally a number of situations that much bothered people.
Until John I Alter Alter do Chão Castle had no owner. The King of Good memory for reward Constable D services. Nuno Alvares Pereira included in its vast heritage Alter, and in this way enters the squire of possession of Bragança house, that from 1640 are the Kings of Portugal. However, the episode of 12 best Alter is much earlier than this donation, at a time in force the charter granted by Dom Diniz, and where it was stipulated that the land was exempt from paying retirement. It happens that a squire of Évora, or by ignorance or by boasting, intended to undo that right and retire in the Village. The municipal forces, evoking the leasehold land, opposed the will of the nobleman and this was very uneasy to Lisbon to complain to the King. This happened during the reign of D or. Afonso IV or his son Pedro the Cruel, (the sources do not allow us to identify the right) and the monarch, after sending consult documents, confirmed that the nobleman's claim was unfounded, giving reason to Alter municipality. The gentleman was not satisfied with the decision. Joined his entourage and went to Alter, which sends kill the Good Men of the earth, who had done him such an affront. Good Men, or the "best", as they became known, would be the most important people on earth, who ran the county on behalf of the common good, even daring to confront those who do not respect the Law of Peoples. The 12 best lost their lives, but the power of municipalities continued to increase until the crisis 1383/85, where these take the reins of power next to the master of Aviz. Paradoxically, the same King who would deliver a brutal attack on municipal power to donate half their country Constable, these goods that later would give rise to the powerful House of Braganza ". And so we come to mind the only novel phrase, de Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard, when he says that "For things to remain the same, it is necessary that everything changes ". And where we've seen it?! It is easy, just watch the BPN, BPP, BES, privatization that led to the dismantling of PT, public-private partnerships ... and are a major cause of our decline, excessive perks financial privileged classes to the detriment of the people.
The Forced Alter do Chão Castle
Another story that relates to insanity or cruelty has as main actor, Dom Pedro I, the so Ines de Castro. But attention, this story despite being in the chronicles of Fernão Lopes, does not guarantee that it has passed the floor Alter.
King knew that here there was a woman called "forced". The king was intrigued and immediately sent for the woman before him, who told her that when she was younger had been "forced" (raped) by a man she later married and had children. Immediately the king wanted to do justice and ordered the man to the gallows. Well cried the woman saying very fond of her husband, that the King was unmoved and mandated the sentence. This also attests to a topic still very current, the power of man over woman, with domestic violence and also the wickedness of the powerful towards the sudden. What would the reader if the site of King Pedro, o Cru? Do not judge without first coming to the beautiful Castle Alter do Chão and very quiet here, will be of time to think about what we are as a nation.