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The Moorish Castles of Silves

Adrian Fisher
 


Visitors: 318

The Moorish Castles of Silves, perched atop a hill overlooking the town of the same name in Portugal’s Algarve have become an important symbol of various factions who sought control of the region in the last century. Constructed of sandstone and tapia, a mixture of sandstone and mud that hardens into dense blocks, these Castles have played host to the Moors, Portugese nationalists, and Christian crusaders bearing the standards of Richard the Lionheart. Surviving two major earthquakes in the eighteenth century, the Castles of Silves have become a major tourist destination for both locals and foreign travellers alike wishing to study the interesting claims to power which have come to define the unique culture of the Algarve.

A mix of Islamic Military Architecture and Medieval fortification techniques, the peculiarity of the Castles of Silves are emblematic of a type of hybrid architecture which became prevalent in the region under different and various periods of rule. Entered by one of two gates, one defended by two towers; the other, the recipient of the ominous title of the ‘traitors-gate, ’ the castles boast a interesting use of ramparts and barbicans to connect and defend the eleven-towered structure from the onslaught of enemies.

While the Castles would inevitably fall and change hands several times over, the site would consequently see modifications most importantly in the fourteenth century, changing the interior to reflect prevalent design tastes of the period. A maze of gothic vaulted halls connected by elaborate arches bearing the medieval standards of the various ruling bodies, the damage received due to the major earth quakes of the eighteenth century was only attended to after the Second World War, officially seeing the site become a tourist attraction in the last eighty years.

As a day trip, the Castles of Silves offer visitors of the Hilton Portugal in Vilamoura a chance to experience a truly unique aspect of the nation’s rich history. Driving or taking the train from Faro, the region’s capital a short drive from the Hilton Vilamoura , one is likely to find captivating vistas of the Mediterranean shoreline on the journey to the attraction.

Upon arrival in Silves, buses and various taxi services are readied to taking eager tourists to the Castles receding in the hill just beyond the city centre.

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