Óbidos Castle

Óbidos is a town of around 3,100 inhabitants and the seat of the municipality (concelho) of the same name, located in the subregion Oeste and district of Leiria, in Portugal. The municipality has an area of 142.17 km² and a population of 10,875 inhabitants (2001). It is bounded in the northeast and east by Caldas da Rainha, in the south by Bombarral, in the southeast by Lourinhã, in the west by Peniche and in the northwest by the Atlantic Ocean.

The town of Óbidos is located on a hill and is still encircled by a fortified wall. The well-preserved mediaeval look of its streets, squares, walls and its massive castle have turned the picturesque village into a preferred tourist attraction in Portugal. If visiting, it is compulsory to try the local cherry liquor known as ginjinha.

The name "Óbidos" probably derives from the Latin term oppidum, meaning "citadel", or "fortified city". Roman occupation of the area has been recently confirmed by archaeological excavations, which revealed the existence of a Roman city very close to the hill where the village is located. This Roman settlement is most certainly the mysterious Eburobrittium, cited by Pliny the Elder as situated between Collipo (near present-day Leiria) and Olisipo (Lisbon). Until now the surveys have revealed the rests of the forum, baths and other buildings.

After the fall of Roman domination, the region must have come under the influence of the Visigoths, although material evidence is lacking. The Roman town of Eburobrittium was probably abandoned in the 5th century for the more secure hill where Óbidos is located. Sometime after 713 the Moors established a fortification on top of the hill. A Christian community of Mozarabs lived in the Moncharro neighbourhood.

The area was taken from the Moors by the first King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, in 1148. Tradition states that one knight, Gonçalo Mendes da Maia, was responsible for the successful storming of the Moorish castle. The retaking of Óbidos meant the end of the Reconquista of the Estremadura region, after the conquests of Santarém, Lisbon and Torres Vedras. The village received its first foral (charter) in 1195, under the reign of Sancho I.

In 1210, King Afonso II donated the village to his wife, Queen Urraca. Since then Óbidos has often belonged to the Queens of Portugal, giving rise to its informal title as Vila das Rainhas (Queens' village). Several Queens enriched the village with donations from the Middle Ages until the 16th century.

The castle of Óbidos and the walls of the village were remodelled under King Dinis I.It is made out of local limestone and marble. The village was also enlarged around this time, with settlements created outside the walls. The massive keep of the castle is attributed to a building campaign sponsored by Fernando I (late 14th century).

The Santa Maria Church of Óbidos was the setting for the wedding of King Afonso V with his cousin, Princess Isabel, on August 15, 1441, when they were both still children of 9 and 10.

The town has a magnificent castle, now hosting a pousada. The municipality is also home to the well known and prestigious Praia D'el Rey golf complex, one of the top golf resorts in Europe.

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