The town of Marvao


Close to the Spanish border and situated in the northern part of the Park Natural de serra de Sao Mamede a hilly region of the Alentejo is the town and Castle of Marv„o. Outside the walls lies a 15th Century Franciscan convent.

Perched atop a mountain some 2,900 feet and reputedly the highest castle in Europe but, more like a walled town similar to Obidos, Marv„o is a splendid site the town itself is one of Portugal's most spectacular fortified villages. To get there, you must drive up a steep road with narrow hairpin bends past small groups of houses and through groups of trees.

When you arrive you will be facing a giant stone wall, up to 10 feet thick in parts. A leisurely walk around the ancient village ó best done along the top of the wide, flat ridge of the stone walls ó is reason alone to visit: It will put you high above the Alentejo regionís scrubby, sun-baked plains and offer exquisite 360-degree views. Whether you look toward Spain, 10 miles to the east, west or south toward Lisbon, you will have long uninterrupted views.

The 13th-century castle is the townís main attraction ó its mazelike passageways, a creepily dark and echoing cistern, and bartizans that jut out over the cliffs like fixed, angular wings. The bartizans offer stellar views of the Serra de Ossa and Serra de S„o Mamede mountains, and miles of tilled farm patches that blanket the earth like a crazy patchwork in various shades of jade.

The castle has stood guard here since 1299. Thatís when King Dom Dinis went into a fortress-building frenzy, bulking up towns on the border with Spain, and using them to stage military victories over the Moors.

For a more historic perspective, step into the town museum, housed in a small, white-stone church. Its scattered collection offers an intriguing look at the townís, and the countryís, past: medieval tombstones, colourful walls of azueljos (brightly-hued tiles), statues of 15th-century monks, excavated pottery and a room dedicated to the regionís significant Jewish history. Many Jews were persecuted in Spain during the Middle Ages and fled to Marv„o. (Jewish culture is even more evident in Marv„oís sister village, Castelo de Vide, a lovely side trip thatís just four miles down the mountain.)

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Local Information in Portugese.

Click on the To here link above and enter Estr. do Vale de Guisos @39.513882, -9.140643 To get directions to this location.
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