The Castle of Mourão occupies a dominant position on the old medieval town of Mourão, where also is located the Mother Church of Our Lady of the Candeias.
Mourão, an Alentejo village situated on the left bank of the Guadiana River, very close to Spain border, is in a region of great natural beauty with a privileged view over Alqueva.
About the construction of the Castle of Mourão, there is a lot of information but perhaps because there are no certainties that attest to the occupation of the village until the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula.
There is information that says that it was built at the beginning of 1343, in the reign of D. Afonso IV, but there are also some who consider that it was built in the reign of D. Sancho II, around 1226. It is the doubt.
However, it is known that after moving to the Portuguese domain, this was delivered to the Order of Hospitallers.
Composed of masonry in shale from the region, marble, and granite, it has a rectangular shape, not perfect, with several towers reinforcing the wall, and with two doors, the Menagem (south) and the Torre dos Pretos (north).
The Castle of Mourão was also struck by the effects of the 1755 earthquake, not to mention the rebuilding of it, around 1661, due to the successive wars that were fought there.
After entering the fortification, a few stairs to the right invite the discovery.
It is possible to circulate around the perimeter of the Castle wall, except for the area where the main church interrupts it.
The view from the top of the wall, in all directions, is simply fantastic. With sight on the village, you can perceive how strategic that place is, justifying the construction of the Castle.
To the North and the West, the Alqueva. Although with the vegetation more in shades of yellow, probably for having visited the place in the summer, it makes the color contrast intense. The yellow contrasts with the green of the few existing trees and the vast blue of the large lake.
The brownish tones of the wall, in ruins, seem to carry us on a journey into the past, where history was written.
In the North area of the fortification, it is necessary to have some care because it is where the height to the ground is more significant because there is no protection since part of the guard wall does not exist, and it is relatively easy to give rise to accidents.
The great majority of the towers are also in ruins but there is at least one with access to the top to have an even greater perception about the size of the Castle of Mourão, and the view all around. The tower of which I speak is the one that is more to the West.
On the way, you will find vestiges of the Casa do Guarda and the old Paços do Concelho. Unfortunately in poor condition and, in my view, with too much rubble and vegetation that grew uncontrollably.
Before visiting this place I did not count on the size or the view that is lost on the Alqueva. It was a good surprise except for a few parts that seem to have been abandoned.
The Castle of Mourão is classified as Property of Public Interest by Decree published on July 18, 1957.
Schedules (free admission)
Winter: 9am to 5pm
(last Sunday in October to last Saturday in March)
Summer: from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
(last Sunday in March to the last Saturday in October)
Church of Our Lady of the Candeias
With access from outside the wall, to the left of the entrance to the Castle, we can find the Church of Our Lady of the Candeias (mother church), which began to be built in 1681 but, according to parish records, was only completed in 1692.
The building is framed and integrated between the old Gothic towers of the Castle and the work was financed by Prince D. Pedro, the future king, who appointed Engineer D. Diogo Pardo Osório for the project of its construction.
However, the local devotion is old and dates back to the appearance of an image of the Virgin in the surroundings, giving rise to the Cult of Our Lady of Tojal or Candeias. This first mother church, from the time of the medieval foundation of the Castle, was damaged by the Restoration Wars and completely devastated in 1664 with the rebuilding of the fortification.
Without access to the interior, because it was closed, it is a single nave, tall and broad, with shale in the inner lateral arches that surround, to the right the Main Chapel, the altars of St. Peter, the Blessed Sacrament, and St. John Baptist.
On the left, following the baptistery, there will be two other altars with images of Nossa Senhora do Alcance and Nossa Senhora de Fátima.
In the interior, it will still be possible to see a great painting, remade after the earthquake of 1755, representing the Allegory of Nossa Senhora das Candeias, in a scenario of classic architectural elements highlighting the Virgin.