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Saturday, October 1, 2016


A wonderful day today at a guided tour to a military facility - the Fort of S. Julião da Barra (Saint Julian of the shoal line). Something rare to happen, only under special permit, this guided tour was organized by http://caminhando.pt/ , more so by Mr. José Rodrigues and being our guide Drª Catarina Macedo from the Cultural Department of the  town hall of Oeiras.
As if this wasn't a great opportunity already, we were graced by one of the visitors being a masters in military fortifications and she did the explanations. Soon to become a PhD - Drª Sofia Macedo. Wonderful! 
I have spoken about this fort in the past, that it belonged to the protection of the Tagus' river mouth and shoal line, that it was the principal protection of it together with the Bugio tower (see blog post). It was also the 3rd line of protection against the invading French, being the two 1st at Torres Vedras and the fourth on the other side of the Tagus.
I hope you enjoy the photographs and the information underneath them.
(All images taken by Sara Seydak)

The fort of S. Julião was also called the shield of key of the kingdom, because it was the key protection to the defense of Lisbon. Lisbon was never taken by sea, always by land.
The original fortress,  of which nothing remains today, was built under the reign of D. João the 3rd in early 16th century, alongside other fortifications like in Cascais and Setúbal. But today's star formation of the fort, with its triangular bastions, was introduced one century later, during the Spanish reign. And successive transformations after that.
Today it serves as the official residence of the Foreign Affairs Minister.

Although today this is the entrance to the fort, it isn't the original one.

The ravelin, or outer "walls", was added later, as said above.

I'm not bale to understand all of which is written on this but something like:

(The serene king of Portugal D. João the 4th ordered this fortification built (...) the count of Cantanhede D. António Luis de Meneses being one of his commissars of state and war (?) (...) and of arms of Cascais to which the post of this fortification of the shoal of Lisbon in the year of 1650)

Some old access by boat. The moat was filled with water that came from the ocean, because the fort would stand on water.

Inner "walls" of the fort. The difference between a fort and a castle is that the 1st one hasn't walls, it has a curtain. Only castles have walls. These walls, vertically and straight up, showed to be ineffective against heavy artillery, such as gunpowder driven cannons. So, fortresses were built with walls that where thicker at the base and slightly inclined ("jorramento" in Portuguese).

This is the "magistral" line of the wall curtain of modern fortresses. It measures the length of them.

The natural conditions of the maritime exposure of the fortress don't allow any docking.

The pulling up or down mechanism of the doors is called "sarilho" (big troubles and the mechanism was the origin of the expression) in Portuguese. In English, windlass, reel, winch.

This was the original entrance to the fort- the Cardinal Gate. From the right side, form the beach at Carcavelos, there would be a road that would detour to this side. There was also a drawbridge.
There are only 2 ways to take a fort: or by an inside help, or by siege. And this is how the Duque of Alba took the fort from land during the succession crisis of the Portuguese throne.

The angled entrance allowed more control over the invader.

And the battlements allowed attack from the inside.

Erosion on a corner stone.

One of the fort's kitchens. Today just as a display.

Saint Antony's bastion.

Carcavelos beach, from where the original road would come from. These thinner curtains were used by shooters, such as riflemen.

NATO, where de Duque of Alba formed the siege in 1580 and where the body of Gomes Freire de Andrade is buried - the Portuguese officer that during the French Invasions was accused of treason, imprisoned in this fortress and executed.

About 1200 people lived here at ne time. Babies were born, people died here and were buried, masses were given in the fortress' church, even a hospital existed on this spot on the photo.

The Marshals' bastion.

Although the Fort of Bugio seems to be very far away, in tactical terms it isn't because fo the river conditions. The Tagus has very strong currents and ships have to move inside water channels, which forces them or to approach the Bugio or S. Julião.

During the French Invasions the British had their ships at this beach - Praia da Torre (Tower beach).
The 3rd defensive line was there to ensure the troops an escape, since the French military strength was land based.

The old trading post (white buildings) and a smaller fort - Catalazete - from late 18th century which had a small garrison (yellow building) which today is the local youth hostel.

The Tagus bridge.


Tower of S. Gião, which was the original tower built and which is not this one. It isn't known if this is the exact location but the name then originates the actual - S. Julião. Today it serves as a light house.

It was in this tower that the Portuguese officer Gomes de Andrade was held in prison after being accused of spying for the French during the Invasions.

The church. In 1950, during the dictatorship, it was rebuilt with propagandistic painting still inside, with tile that depict religious and historical national scenes, including the Salazar himself.

Some hand carved pillars brought to Portugal from the Orient probably during the maritime discoveries. In my opinion, these would look better in a proper museum and not here.

More propaganda tiles.

The cistern, built at the same time as the fort, stored drinkable water. The ceiling openings not only served as ways to lead water into the cistern, but also for light to peek in enough to kill the bacteria.

John, the Baptist.

The prison.

The prison's chapel.

The outer cell with small window, which would lodge dozens at a time.

The inner cell without window or light, which could lodge dozens more.

The door that separated the 2 cells.

All other cells are built the same.

The ramp that leads to the ocean, from where supplies would come and bodies of prisoners be would thrown out.

Some tomb stones of the cemetery that once existed inside the fort.

Cannon balls.

The beach that would lead to the ramp.

"Ruins" of an old swimming pool that once existed here (1970's and earlier) and that could be reached from the beaches outside. There were even changing rooms here.

Must be my favorite photo of them all!

On one side of the fortress the view extends as far as Belém, place of the last (or 1st) of a line of forts defending this side of the Tagus. At the front you could see Bugio and the fort on the other side of the river. And to the other side of the fortress you could see the mouth of the bay of Cascais.

There was no maritime defense strategy in Portugal until the end of the 15th century. There were no skills, knowledge or money to do so. Castles were still the basis of defense in Europe, gunpowder was not part of the war scene yet, construction skill of fortresses came from North Africa and from the Turks, and in Portugal, money came in with the maritime discoveries.

The End.


carojon said...

Thanks for posting Sara, very interesting, I have toured the first and second lines of the Torres Vedras lines but had not seen the third and final strongpoint which as you say was there should an evacuation of British troops have been required, and would also serve to protect the anchorage and entrance to the Tagus. Great stuff.

Bill Slavin said...

Thanks very much! A great photo tour of the fort and very informative. Love your blog!