Alandroal, Évora, Portugal
Order of Avis.
Alandroal Castle is a fine example of Mudéjar art in the Alentejo, in that it is a fortification commissioned by Christian elites but built by a stonemason or architect of Islamic origin.
The building of this fortification was commissioned at the end of the 13th century (1298) by the military Order of Avis, during the reign of Dom Dinis (1279–1325). Local schist was used in its construction, although in certain places the use of brick and marble can be detected.
Its architect or stonemason was the master builder known as 'Mouro Calvo' who, curiously, was permitted by the lords of the town and castle to place in one corner of the tower to the right of one of the gates of the fortification an inscription which, in addition to identifying the builder, uses an expression equivalent to the motto of the Nasrid kings of Granada but transcribed into Latin characters. The inscription is unusual in that following several phrases in medieval Portuguese, it ends with the following statement: 'LEGALI : BI : IL : ILLALLA'. This is a somewhat disguised form of the expression 'Wa la Ghalib illa Allah' which, in the way that it has been split up, seems to have been designed to prevent its immediate identification with the Nasrid motto.
It is possible to find in this fortification some of the most significant traces of the dominant architecture of the fortifications of al-Andalus. As well as the predominance of quadrangular towers, it can be seen that the upper part of some of the towers extends into the interior, as far as the inside face of the wall – a situation which led to the need for small tunnels to be built through the tower on the parapet walk. There are towers of the same configuration in the Islamic walls of Seville, which may possibly have served as a model to the Muslim architect of this castle.
But the stonemason Mouro Calvo wished to leave another deliberately Andalusian Islamic feature. In a hidden area of the castle, in a corner that was not particularly visible, he built a small window from solid brick on the inside, which appears on the outside, in the splendour of the marble, in the form of an opening with a horseshoe arch framed by an alfiz (decorative rectangular surround), a common feature in the decorative schemes of the final phase of Islamic rule.
The keep, although different in style from towers of the Islamic period, has, especially at the level of the stepped vaults of the interior staircase, parallels with fortifications of the kingdom of Granada – an aspect that is currently being studied.
This fortification is an example of the continuing compromise, in the south of the kingdom of Portugal at the end of the 13th century, between the dominant medieval Christian world, owner of a construction on which its stamp is clear, and the power still wielded by master builders trained in the Andalusian school, who were not afraid to leave, marked in the stone, elements that reflected their cultural background. Because of this particular set of circumstances, Alandroal Castle can be considered one of the finest examples of Mudéjar art in the Alentejo.
Alandroal Castle is a good example of Mudéjar art in Alentejo in that it is a fortress commissioned by the Christian elite (AH 697 / AD 1298) from a stonemason or architect of Islamic origin, ‘Mouro Calvo’ (‘The Bald Moor’).
The builder not only employed architectural models used at the time in Seville and Granada (clearly evident in the shape of the towers and the horseshoe arch design), but also managed to include a stone inscription of a version of the motto of the Nasrid kings of Granada in Latin characters: ‘LEGALI : BI :IL : ILLALLA’, or ‘Wa la Ghalib illa Allah’.
The inscriptions to be found in the castle state the name of the builder, identifying him as 'Mouro Calvo'. However, it is from medieval documentation from the Order of Avis that the precise information is found. It can be established from extant documents that the castle was essentially built between 1294 and 1298.
Barroca, M. J., Epigrafia Medieval (862–1422), Lisbon, 1999, Vol. II, t. 1, pp.1114–18.
Correia, F. B., “Espaços Fortificados de época e Influência Islâmica na Margem Direita do Curso Médio do Guadiana”, Batalius, I, Madrid, 1996, pp.77–88.
Lobo, F. S., “Alandroal, Terena e Juromenha (Três Sistemas Defensivos)”, Castelos do Alandroal: VII Séculos, Alandroal, 1998, pp.23–65.
Rei, A., “As Revoltas Mudéjares no 'Algarve' Ibérico em Meados do Séc. XIII e a Divisa dos Násridas de Granada na Zona do Médio Guadiana”, Callipole, nos. 10–11, Vila Viçosa, 2002–2003, pp.19–26.
Fernando Branco Correia "Alandroal Castle" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;pt;Mon01;24;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 DD