Evolution of the Guimarães Castle
In order to understand the evolution of the Guimarães Castle since its origin by the hand of the Contess Mumadona Dias in the 10th century until our days, we resort to the texts of Mário Jorge Barroca and Luís Carlos Amaral (in Mário Jorge Barroca; Luís Carlos Amaral – Guimarães Castle: Guide Book of the Interpretive Centre. Guimarães: Associação de Amigos do Paço dos Duques de Bragança e do Castelo de Guimarães, 2016).
The Guimarães Castle was not mentioned in the division of property between Countess Mumadona Dias and her children, signed on July, 24 950AD. However, it is mentioned at the end of same year, in a document where the Guimarães Monastery is set under the Mons Latito (or Monte Largo). A few years later, in 968AD, Mumadona Dias revealed that she had it built to protect the Monastery against “Gentile” attacks (probably Normans).
1st Phase – County Phase (10th century)
The primitive Guimarães Castle, built by Mumadona Dias in the second half of 950AD, is a classic example of the so-called “County Castles”. However, we have no archaeological remains of this first structure. The Castle must have been built within the rocks, making use of them to improve defensive conditions, and built of wood, a perishable material that leaves scarce evidence.
2nd Phase – County Phase (11th century)
In the late 11th century, Guimarães Castle underwent a profound restructuring, of which traces are mostly found in the northern facade, on the side of the Filed of S. Mamede. In this phase, large stones were used at the base of the walls signalling a different phase of construction. These remaining traces indicate that the construction was originally round. At this time the Castle had no Towers or Keep, therefore it was a simple Courtyard surrounded by walls, with one or two Gateways. It was in this Castle where the Count Henrique and Countess Teresa met.
3rd Phase – Romanesque Phase (12th century)
In the 12th century, at the time of Afonso Henriques, the Castle underwent another extensive reconstruction. The new wall, which integrated in its base parts of the previous structure, used smaller ashlar blocks of stone than in the 2nd Phase. This new Castle began to assume its present perimeter, although it lacked the present eight Towers and the Keep. The Romanesque wall was crowned with a wall-walk, which was slightly lower than the current one. There are remains of this first wall-walk in almost every section of the wall.
4th Phase – Gothic Phase (13th-14th centuries)
Either in the reign of King Afonso III or King Dinis (second half of the 13th century or the beginning of the 14th century), when the City walls of Guimarães were under construction, Guimarães Castle underwent another intervention. This 4th Phase was very important: the eight Turrets were added to the walls, the Keep was built, and the walls were slightly heightened. Therefore, it was with this development that Guimarães Castle acquired the final aspect that we see today.
5th Phase – Alcalde Palace and Barbican (15th Century)
In the 15th century, two new structures were added. Inside the Castle the Alcalde Palace was built, having four floors. The first two floors added to the wall were service areas; and the two on top, supported by the wall-walk, rising above it, were the residential areas.
Also a Barbican was built outside the castle, following the perimeter of the wall in the area towards the São Mamede Camp. There are no remains of it nowadays but it is fully recorded in the Guimarães plans from around 1570. Recent archaeological works showed traces of its foundations.
6th Phase – Decay
After the early 16th century, Guimarães Castle lost its relevance and strategic importance. Because of the lack of strategic military use the Castle fell into decay. From 1664/1666 onwards, its stone was used to build new places, which resulted in the demolition of some structures, such as the Alcalde Palace and the Barbican. Between 1692 and 1895 the Castle also served as a prison.
n the second half of the 19th century, the people of Guimarães started looking at the old Castle in an other relevance. After it was categorized as a National Monument in 1881, it was subjected to a thorough renovation under the Direcção Geral dos Edifícios e Monumentos Nacionais (1936-1937). The Castle was inaugurated on the 4th of June, 1940, at the Ceremony which marked the beginning of the Centenarian National Celebrations (1140-1640). Today, the Castle is included in the Guimarães Classified Area as “World Heritage” (2001).
Re-qualification of the Castle and the creation of the Interpretation Center
In 2015, the first phase of the works was inaugurated, which included the re-qualification of the courtyard and the installation of walkways and safeguards in the wall walks. The second phase, encompassing the recovery of the Watchtower inner space and the creation of the Interpretation Center which officially opened to public on June 24, 2016.