Salir, Loulé, Portugal
Hegira 6th–7th / AD 12th–13th centuries
Almohad (with vestiges from earlier occupations) and later
This fortification stands at the top of the town of Salir, forming part of the present settlement, situated in the region of the Barrocal Algarvio, between the coast and the mountains which connect with the Baixo Alentejo.
The walled enclosure is partially destroyed and hidden by the houses and gardens of this old part of Salir. From the visible remains, it can be said that the enclosure is polygonal, practically a very irregular hexagon, with walls varying in thickness between 1.8 and 2 metres.
However, what can best be seen of the walled complex are four towers, built of tabiyya (compressed dry mud) walls, all of them distinctly square in plan. One of these– built of substantial tabiyya– is distinctive. It stands in one of the areas where the land slopes most steeply, at some distance from the walled enclosure and shows traces of coating and finishing on the side facing the wall. There is every indication that this is a former watchtower which has, however, lost the part at the top that must have joined it to the wall. This and the other towers made of tabiyya still have traces of the whitewashed bands in the area where the various layers of tabiyya were placed on top of one another, which viewed from a distance make the wall look as though it was built of large blocks of stone.
The wall of a large part of the enclosure is made of lime-rich tabiyya, as was frequent in fotifications of the AH 6th–7th / AD 12th–13th centuries. However, recent archaeological work has revealed areas of wall built from blocks of stone bonded with very strong mortar – essentially the area adjacent to the aforementioned watchtower – as well as other areas in which the bond is weaker in quality.
The archaeological work mentioned above has clearly revealed the existence of remains of houses from the Almohad period, which extend into the present-day residential areas, but materials that predate them chronologically have also been found in areas where rubbish was dumped. The houses of the Almohad period are arranged around courtyards, and some of the rooms which surrounded them, such as bedrooms, kitchens and an oven, have been found. Silos for storing cereals have also been found, some of which were later transformed into rubbish heaps. Also, archaeological excavations have revealed the destruction caused by military intervention, very probably following the occupation of this fortification by the armies of the Order of Santiago.
The vestiges of the Islamic period are not confined to the fortification. Other traces from the Islamic period and from earlier periods have been found around Salir: for instance in 1968 a funerary inscription dating from the AH 5th / AD 11th century was discovered, and various smaller sites – villages – have been detected around Salir, in areas that are not so conspicuously defensive in nature. The occupation of some of these places seems to have begun even earlier than the first phases of Islamic dominion, continuing over several centuries until the Almohad rule – the period which is best documented at the present time.
This fortress sits above the town of Salir. The walled enclosure has been partially destroyed and hidden by the houses and gardens of this part of the old town. What has survived shows that it was a polygonal enclosure forming a very approximate hexagon. The most visible part of the walled complex, which dates back to the AH 6th–7th / AD 12th–13th centuries, are four adobe towers, all of which are approximately quadrangular. One of the towers, detached from the wall, is particularly noteworthy, and it seems likely that it was a flanking tower.
Systematic excavations have been carried out in the area since 1987. The walls can be dated to the Almohad period from the type of tabiyya used and from the existence of a watchtower, although the possibility of earlier vestiges should not be discounted. The archaeological excavations have brought to light ceramics also dating from the 6th / 12th century, although a tombstone dating from the 5th /11th century has been found in the area surrounding the castle.
Catarino, H., “O Algarve Oriental Durante a Ocupação Islâmica: Povoamento Rural e Recintos Fortificados”, Al-'Uliya, no. 6, Loulé, 1997–8, Vol. I, pp.452–517.
Catarino, H., “O Castelo de Salir: Escavações da Campanha de 1998”, Al-'Uliya, no. 7, Loulé, 1999–2000, pp.77–128.
Catarino, H., “O Castelo de Salir: Resultados das Escavações dos Silos”, Al-'Uliya, no. 4, Loulé, 1995, pp.9–30.
Correia, F. B., “Fortificações Muçulmanas no Algarve: Estado da Questão e Perspectivas”, in 4th Congresso do Algarve, Vol. I, Silves, 1986, pp.97–102.
Correia, F. B., “Fortificações Muçulmanas em Portugal: Alguns Apontamentos”, in Congreso de Arqueología Medieval Española, Vol. II, Madrid, 1987, pp.501–509.
Fernando Branco Correia "Salir Castle" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;pt;Mon01;22;en
Prepared by: Fernando Branco CorreiaFernando Branco Correia
Fernando Branco Correia é arqueólogo e Assistente do Departamento de História da Universidade de Évora, onde lecciona as disciplinas de História e Cultura Islamo-Árabe, História de al-Andalus e Arqueologia Árabe-Islâmica, sendo ainda, nos últimos anos, responsável pelo Gabinete de Estudos Árabes (fundado por Adel Sidarus) da mesma universidade. É autor de trabalhos sobre Fortificações e História político-militar do al-Andalus, sobretudo da região entre os rios Tejo e Guadiana.
Translation by: Gilla Evans
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: PT BB