The Cidadela de Cascais is the 15th century fort that guarded the western end of the Tejo estuary and the minor fishing harbour of Cascais. Today the castle overlooks the exclusive Cascais marina and the complex has been transformed into an exclusive hotel.
The castle and marina of Cascais
The vantage point of the Cidadela de Cascais both out across the Atlantic Ocean and the mouth of the River Tejo was clear to king John II. He instructed that a defensive tower be constructed and the Santo Antonio Tower was completed in 1490. The Santo Antonio Tower was a key defensive position and soldiers were permanently stationed at the tower to protect from seaward invasion. The tower was solely built for the defence of Lisbon but a thriving fishing community grow around the protection that the tower provided from pirates and raiding parties.
A map of Cascais fort
The large fishing community of Cascais was the main industry of the area right up until the dawn of tourism. The Santo Antonio Tower proved inadequate to prevent Spanish invasion of Portugal in 1580 and in the bay below the Santo Antonio Tower’s vantage point, the Duke of Alba claimed Portugal for Spain. Under the Spanish king Philip II a great defensive program was devised to protect the Tejo Estuary and the small defensive position was greatly extended to include a garrison, defensive walls and the Fortalexa Nossa Sehora da Luz, Mary of the Light Stronghold. The Fortaleza da Luz (the strongholds shortened common name) was painted ochre, a light yellow/brown colour, to make the fort difficult to identify from a distance on the ocean.
The Cidadela de Cascais did not escape the destruction of the 1755 earth quake and the resulting tsunami, with both the Fortaleza da Luz and the Santo Antonio Tower’s being severely damaged. During the rebuilding of the Cidadela de Cascais the height of the tower was lowered and the perimeter wall strengthened. During the peninsular war part of the Napoleonic wars the Cidadela de Cascais was involved in numerous battles against the French.
In the 19th century Cascais became popular with the Portuguese royal family and King Luis terminated the military occupation and converted the Cidadela de Cascais into a lavish summer palace. This tradition of the Cidadela de Cascais being used as the summer retreat of the ruling president has continued to the present day. The Cidadela de Cascais was the first area of Portugal to have outside street lighting which was installed in 28th September 1878.