Fort of Graça,Elvas

Elvas, a Portuguese town that was the beneficiary of a great deal of defensive effort for many centuries, had an issue in November of 1644. The heavily fortified town was under siege by the wicked Spanish as part of the Portuguese Restoration War (1640-1668), and while the Spanish, under the Marquis of Torrecusa, would give up and slink back over the border after nine days without having gotten into Elvas, it had been a near thing…mostly because of a strategic hill just to the north of Elvas, which the Spanish had cleverly occupied.

Plan of Elvas fortification

The Fort of Graça occupies an important strategic position near the Portuguese border town of Elvas. Elvas was strongly fortified during the Portuguese War of Independence in the seventeenth century, and two major forts were later constructed on hills near the town, offering a strong position from which to defend against attack.

In 1658-1659, Elvas was besieged by the Spanish and the inhabitants also suffered an outbreak of the Black Death.  Until the start of the 19th century the fortress was on the frontline during the wars between Spain and Portugal.  In 1807 Napoleonic troops took the fortress, although a year later, a combined effort by Portuguese and English troops won Elvas back from the French. A few years later, in 1811, Wellington used the fortifications here as a base for his attack on the Spanish in Badajoz.

Porta do Dragão

 It later served as a political prison until 1974. Note the striking main entrance, the Porta do Dragão (Dragon Gate), complete with carved stone dragon over the passageway.

Today, hidden behind these endless defences is a delightful Portuguese town, with an unhurried ambience and numerous fascinating tourist attractions.

The location of Elvas on the far east of Portugal means that few tourists will visit, but those who do, will be rewarded with a captivating town steeped in history and character.

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