Sortelha, Portugal

Visit the historical hamlet of Sortelha and its powerful fortress while in the region of Guarda, Portugal.

Sortelha, Portugal
© Vítor Ribeiro

Sortelha is an excellently reconstructed historical hamlet which maintains all the charm of medieval Portuguese fortresses.

This hamlet is the oldest one linked to the strongholds that were used to defend the border east of Guarda and Covilhã.


Ruas de Sortelha
Ruas de Sortelha
© Vítor Ribeiro

Despite it’s strategic location, on top of a rocky hill dominating the whole landscape, it underwent a challenging history: first it was a Portuguese stronghold, conquered by the Moors and, then, by Alfonso Henrique, and, finally, by Sancho I.

King D. Sancho II, in 1228, endowed the city with regional code laws (foiros) and erected a spectacular fortress that remains intact. Walking around the walls, once can discover the many houses packed around its two squares (Corro and Pelourinho) and main arteries (Rua Direita and Rua da Fonte), that linked the gates of Porta da Vila and Porta Nova.

The Pelouirnho monument is Manueline in style, and the Church (from 1573) preserves a painéis style roof.

From this nucleus appeared, as the 17th century developed, a whole neighbourhood where some houses are now used for tourism.

In the surrounding area, it’s worth visiting Sabugal (11 kilometres to the East), capital of the area. This was the location of the old border of Côa during the reign of D. Dinis (1296). It features a 13th-century Castle perfectly keep. From the walls that once surrounded the city, only the Clock Tower, in Manueline style, survives alongside a single gate. The Igreja Matriz de Sabugal (Igreja de São João) Church is diocesan. The Igreja Misericórdia de São Miguel Chruch dates back to the 13th-14th centuries.

17 kilometres to the West of Sortelha, you will find the town of Belmonte, birthplace of Pedro Álvarez Cabral, who discovered Brazil in 1500. On the highest part of the town, a Castle was erected by king D. Dinis and rebuilt in Manueline style. In Belmonte, you will also have the opportunity to visit the Igreja de São Tiago Church, Romanesque in origin, that houses the burial sites of the Cabral family in its Gothic Capela da Piedade Chapel. Here, you can also visit the Zêzere Ecomuseum, that will help you to better understand the river and its geological origins.

3 kilometres north of Belmonte appears the Torre de Centum Cellas tower, a Roman building from the I century that used to be part of village, now in ruins.

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