Elvas, Portugal

General Information

Regional secretariat

Administrative status

Municipality of Portalegre district

Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications

Registration Year

2012

Historical function

Bulwarked dry-ditch defensive system

Location and site

Guarding the key border crossing between Portugal’s capital Lisbon and Spain’s capital Madrid, in an undulating, riverine landscape, the Garrison Town of Elvas was extensively fortified from the 17th to 19th centuries. It 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.

Urban Morphology

The town was supplied with water by the 7km-long Amoreira Aqueduct, built in the late 16th and early 17th centuries and a key feature enabling the stronghold to withstand a lengthy siege. Within the walls, the town contains extensive barracks and other military buildings, as well as churches and monasteries, some adapted to military functions. The property includes seven components: the Historic Centre, the Amoreira Aqueduct, the Fort of Santa Luzia, and the covered way linking it to the Historic Centre, the Fort of Graça, and the Fortlets of São Mamede, São Pedro and São Domingos.

Registration Criteria

Criterion (iv): Elvas is an outstanding example of a garrison town and its dry-ditched bulwarked defence system, which developed in response to disruptions in the balance of power within 17th century Europe. Elvas can thus be seen as representing the universal aspirations of European nation States in the 16th-17th centuries for autonomy and land.

Historical Reference

The historic centre with its castle, remnant walls and civil and religious buildings demonstrate the development of Elvas as three successive walled towns from the 10th to the 14th century and its subsequent incorporation into the major fortification works of the Portuguese War of the Restoration period (1641-68), when a wide range of military buildings were built for its role as a garrison town.

As the remains of an enormous war fortress, Elvas is exceptional as a military landscape with visual and functional relationships between its fortifications, representing developments in military architecture and technology drawn from Dutch, Italian, French and English military theory and practice. Elvas is an outstanding demonstration of Portugal’s desire for land and autonomy, and the universal aspirations of European nation States in the 16th-17th centuries.

Contact

Dr. Nuno Miguel Fernandes Mocinha

Mayor
Municipality of Elvas

Rua Isabel Maria Picão Apartado 70
Elvas, Portugal

geral@cm-elvas.pt

Ms. Vitória Branco

Councillor
Municipality of Elvas

Rua Isabel Maria Picão
Elvas, Portugal

vitoria.branco@cm-elvas.pt

Ms. Isabel Pinto

Heritage Technician
Municipality of Elvas

Rua Isabel M.ª Picão, s/n
Elvas, Portugal

00351-268 639 740
isabel.pinto@cm-elvas.pt