Ode to Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moor)


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The Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors) is situated on a top hill overlooking the village, it is part of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra, recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Head to the edge of the hill and walk along on the pathway inside the wall for views of the surrounding area and marvel at the construction itself.

Over a thousand years of sun, moon, rain
have kissed the rocks, moistened and misted the
turrets of The Castle of the Moor.
Atop the hill are
Breathtaking; we are
Here, in Sintra, Portugal.

You walk along
and feel
it; romance from the time when
Moorish monarchs summered
here (Was it a summer place for Moorish royalty or just a military stronghold?)
With the Reconquista the Castle traded Islam for Christian rule.
Then there was a period
when the Jews of Sintra recited ancient prayers within
the space.
Another type of worship, all within one

And then, my friend,
There came
A great shake in Lisbon which
was felt as far as Sintra, a quake
of the earth and the old stones trembled. They shook
to the very foundation — yet
they held.
It is a fortress;
it is meant to hold.

And then there was –
Neglect. Disrepair. The gentle
the tear
of the elements.
A champion arrived in 1840. Ferdinand II of Portugal brought
the attention
and craft
to shore up this magnificent carapace.
He wrought
workmen to shore up, to gather –
Oh the dusty bones!
And caused a tree,
a tree, to bloom, in the courtyard to honor the
the passing of time, which had seen
Kings and conquerors,
lovers and warriors, worship and walk in meditative
And us –
by a modern light and an ancient sun.

Oh what land!
Changed hands
And hearts,
which pounded At
the view
from the crest — the great heights of
the Sintra Mountains.
From the pinnacle,
you can…
across the way
on a day clear, to Mafra, Ericeira and
Further out, the sea

For us, to be here now.
For us to be –
In friendship
our own familial bond as we look upon
the twining,
snaking walls –this is
a monument, a
fortress, castle, sanctuary.

We are the
ones who walk now upon the paths
cleared by
helping hands
clasped in –

Castelo dos Mouros,
The Castle of the Moors
It is
a site
for sight into the distance
and back into time.
Reflecting upon, and honoring, those who brought this
Place into being.
And we are here and that is part of
the story of our hearts and spirits.
Souring from the views, from the heights
which are not for the faint
of heart
but were built as

We are here now,
walking in this sunshine
which paints
We are not conquerors
we come in
We come in excitement and love and curiosity and gratitude
to walk these sinewy paths and to play;
to pray
that the memory of
the extraordinary beauty of
The Castle of the Moor in Sintra, Portugal,
stay with us –
and that we be strong
and beautiful
and noble.
Cared for in the memory
of such

A history
That we add to with each step
we take
upon the path.

© Moira G. Gallaga

In 1147, after the conquest of Lisbon by King Afonso Henriques, the Moorish garrison of the castle surrendered to the Christians without resistance as part of the liberation of Portugal from the Moors.

Walking up to the top of the castle is not for the faint of heart. The steps are very narrow and there’s no handrails.
Light as a bird & loving the freedom from up here! It was fun going from one turret to another. If somebody was coming from the opposite direction, one of you will have to flatten yourself against the wall to give way to the other.
Its position at the very top of the hill makes it a perfect defensive position. The slope will make life very difficult for any attacker centuries ago.
The hills that surround are thick, lush, and green. In the sun or the fog their views are serene.
The trail up to the Moorish Castle is part of the same beautiful forest that surrounds the Pena Palace. The air is sweet and cool and a surprising number of species make up the forest. The remains of the castle are scattered along the trail and sort of blend into the landscape.
We did a zip line that took an hour the first time we visited the Castle of the Moors. It was fun “zipping” from one platform to another along the forest canopy around 35-40 meters above the ground.

© Moira G. Gallaga