woensdag 29 januari 2014

Portugal, Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications

The site, extensively fortified from the 17th to 19th centuries, represents the largest bulwarked dry-ditch system in the world. Within its walls, the town contains barracks and other military buildings as well as churches and monasteries. While Elvas contains remains dating back to the 10th century ad, its fortification began when Portugal regained independence in 1640. The fortifications designed by Dutch Jesuit padre Cosmander represent the best surviving example of the Dutch school of fortifications anywhere. The site also contains the Amoreira aqueduct, built to enable the stronghold to withstand lengthy sieges.

The fortifications of the city of Elvas have their origins in the Arab period; these were substantially upgraded during the Christian period up until the 16 th century. From this medieval military architectural period all that remains is the castle and the two city walls, known as the “Muslim” walls.
In the 17 th century, and as a consequence of the War of the Restoration (1641-1668), a third medieval wall, the “Fernandina”, constructed in the period between 1340 and 1369 -- and of which we have as testimony the beautiful drawings by Duarte de Armas (circa 1509) - was demolished to provide building material for the imposing bulwarked fortification of the historic centre (construction: 1643-1653).
The advances in artillery and actual experience with the Battle of the Lines of Elvas (1659) demanded that all risings that surrounded the city be strategically occupied by forts and fortlets, thus forcing the enemy that lay siege to the city to considerably disperse its forces and not directly threaten the city in its first approach-trenchWhence the creation of the entrenchment field which is still in existence today (Fig. 2.a.3), also known as the Lines of Elvas – since the aforementioned battle. This system is further fortified by the fortifications of the historic centre, which also includes the Fort of Santa Lúzia (construction: 1641-1648), the Fort of Graça (construction: 1763 – beginning of the 19th century)and three of the four fortlets that were built in the beginning of the 19th century, in the form that they present today: Fortlet of São Mamede, Fortlet of São Pedro and Fortlet of São Domingos or of Piedade.
In addition to the fortified system, the historic centre presents a monumental richness in buildings that are mainly of a military function and attest to the uniqueness of this city. The complete urban fabric of the city was designed as an enormous garrison that defended the main natural entry point into Portuguese territory.
Historical Description
Elvas is one of the rare cities about which an abundant historical literature exists. It has been written ever since the 17th century, but has been particularly extensive since the first half of the 20 th. The histories of the city and its fortifications have been mixed together, and we will henceforth concentrate on the city's relationship with the frontier, a pairing that is fundamental to an understanding of the country's main battle site.
The history of Elvas is indeed indelibly marked by a sequence of events which have each in its turn left a clear division between the city before and after, all of them directly or indirectly connected with its frontier location, at the natural point of entry onto Portuguese territory.

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