Forte de Nossa Senhora da Graça
Castle in Elvas
The Fort of Nossa Senhora da Graça, also known as Fort Conde de Lippe, is a historic fort located in the parish of Caia, São Pedro and Alcáçova, approximately one kilometer north of Elvas, Portugal. The fort was built on the Monte da Graça and played a vital role in defending the Stronghold of Elvas and City – Elvas Border Headquarters and its Fortifications. The site was classified as a National Monument since 1910 and was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2012.
The fort’s strategic position was crucial during the Restoration War when Spanish troops occupied it during the siege of Elvas in 1658, which was followed by the Battle of the Lines of Elvas on January 14, 1659. Later in the Seven Years’ War, the city was again besieged in 1762, prompting the Marquis of Pombal to call upon Marshal Wilhelm von Schaumburg-Lippe, Count of Lippe, to modernize the stronghold.
Construction of the Forte da Graça began in 1763 and was completed in 1792 during the reign of Dna. Maria I, who inaugurated it with the name of Fort Conde de Lippe. The fort resisted Spanish troops during the War of the Oranges in 1801 and the Peninsular War when the troops of General Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult bombarded it in 1811.
The structure has a quadrangular plan measuring 150 meters on a side and is completed by pentagonal bastions at the vertices. Four ravelins cover the curtains, with the monumental gate (Porta do Dragão) and three posterns inserted in the middle. The central body of the square has an elevated redoubt, circular in plan, with two floors and a parapet, opening embrasures for three orders of batteries in casemates. A circular tower with two vaulted floors, consisting of a decorated chapel and the Governor’s House, stands above the redoubt, with its central lantern. Below the chapel, excavated in the living rock, is a cistern, one of the fort’s most notable features.
The Fort of Nossa Senhora da Graça served as a military prison in the past and was in conditions close to ruin until its restoration and rehabilitation in 2015, costing almost 11 months, 220 full-time workers, and 6.1 million euros. Today, the fort has been transformed into a functional military museum, providing visitors with a glimpse into Portugal’s military history.