Castle of Leiria

Probably the cultural and historical highlight of the Portuguese city of Leiria, the hilltop castle can be seen from virtually everywhere in the city.  The castle has a long history, when the very first king of Portugual, Afonso Henriques, had the castle built as defense against the Moors, who still controlled the south, including Santarem and Lisbon.

Over the centuries the castle has seen many changes and has been the site of many historical events.  It was the home to Dom Dinis and his wife, Saint Elizabeth of Portugal.  Dom Dinis was the king who declared the “language of the people” as the language of the state, making Portuguese the official language of the country.

Dom Dinis earned his “Farmer King” nickname when he founded agricultural schools to improve farming techniques in the country.  He also ordered the creation of the Pinhal de Leiria, a huge pine forest, as a barrier against encroaching ocean sands.  The forest also became an important source of raw materials for the building of the Portuguese naval fleet which, in the coming centuries, would help turn Portugal into the most powerful country in the world.

Leiria Castle 2