The Romans built a settlement on this site, on the main route from Mérida to the west coast. The Portuguese town received its first charter in 1180 and a further charter from D Dinis in 1310. In return for the privilege of not supplying recruits to the royal army, the town undertook the responsibility for its own defense. D Afonso III gave the lordship of Castelo de Vide to his younger son, who promptly decided to build defensive walls around the town to establish his claim to the throne. D Dinis, the elder brother was not pleased. By chance Portuguese ambassadors on their way to confirm D Dinis´wedding arrangements with Princess Isabel of Aragon were passing through the town, and were able to settle this potentially damaging dispute.
When he succeeded to the throne, D Dinis strengthened the town´s defenses. Not before time, because Castelo de Vide, being so close to the Spanish border, suffered many attacks and the walls needed repair on numerous occasions. Tradition states that there was an enormous vine on the site where the castle came to be built and it may be that the owners of the many houses still within the castle perimeter seek its benefit.
A local historian describes Castelo de Vide as a small medieval town and modern small city. Its national importance is signified by its designation as a Centro Histórico Notável. As well as its castle, the defensive walls are 2.5 km in circumference, small sinuous streets and a remarkable Judaria. Jews settled in Castelo de Vide in the 13th century and the synagogue, which now houses a tiny museum, is reputed to be the oldest in Portugal. It lies halfway down one of the steepest streets in the country.
In the Praça D Pedro V there is a fine marble statue of this popular king and the huge Igreja Santa Maria da Devesa dominates the space around the pelourinho (or whipping post). Head north from here to the Judaria and the castle and then back south eastwards to find those beautiful coffee and cake shops before you start exploring the surrounding areas
Personal photos taken in 2012