Loulé castle, also known as Castelo de Loulé, is a medieval castle located in the town of Loulé in the Algarve region of Portugal. Built in the 10th century, the castle has a long and rich history, having served as a military fortification, a royal residence, and a cultural and recreational center. We can trace the history of this castle through Roman, Moorish and Christian times.

The History of Loulé Castle

Loulé Castle under the Romans

Although Loulé Castle was built in the 10th Century, it’s history goes back way before then. This location was actually a Roman settlement in 2nd Century AD. The Romans arrived in Iberia (the Spain and Portugal peninsula) in 218 BC doing the second Punic War against Carthage – the second of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage (Tunisia). Portugal was part of the Roman Empire from 45 BC to 298 AD. The Romans most probably transformed the remains of an old ‘Castro’ (a pre-Roman settlement) into a Roman military fortification.

Loulé Castle under the Moors

In 715 the site of Loulé castle was occupied by the Moors (people from the ancient Roman province of Mauretania – present day North Africa). It wasn’t until 1143 when Portugal finally gained independence and was recognized as a country in its own right. This period bought an end to the Moorish occupation.

Loulé Castle under the Christians

Loulé castle was conquered from the Moors in 1249 by the knights of the order of St. James, which was commanded by D. Paio Peres Correia. The castle was incorporated under the Portuguese Crown by King Alfonso III who granted its charter in 1266.

The castle as it now stands was built as a military fortification to protect the town of Loulé from invasions and attacks. It consisted of a Citadel with turreted high walls with battlement crenellations, three towers, and an internal courtyard (previously used for the town). These buildings can still be seen today. The castle has undergone several renovations and expansions over the centuries, and has served a variety of purposes throughout its history.

The Christian Mayorship possibly originated in 14th Century and was remodeled in 18th Century. It was visited by King Pedro I in 1359, by Alfonso V in 1458 and Sebastiao in 1573. After the restoration of independence the castle lost its defensive status and the city began to grow outside of the castle walls.

The castle was used as a royal residence by the Kings of Portugal, and it was a popular retreat for the Portuguese royal family. The castle was also used as a cultural and recreational center, hosting events and activities such as festivals, banquets, and tournaments.

Visiting Loulé Castle Today

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the castle underwent further renovations and restorations, and it was opened to the public as a tourist attraction. In January 2009 the ramparts and the three turrets were completely renovated.

The castle is now open to visitors and home to an archaeological museum. The museum contains a reconstruction of a 12th Century Portuguese kitchen and several other exhibitions – including Triassic reptile bones from the area (Phytosaurs) and artifacts from the Bronze Age and early Islamic period.

Every summertime, Loulé Castle is central to ‘Festival Med’ – a local music festival that comes to the city every year. Today, Loulé Castle is a popular destination for visitors to the Algarve region, and it is a symbol of Loulé’s cultural heritage and history. I highly recommend a visit!

The featured image at the beginning of this post is from the Bextrel of Wikipedia.