Porta de Barbacã & Torre de Almedina
City Gate and Tower in Coimbra
The Porta de Barbacã was built in the 12th century, around the corner from what is now the city’s main pedestrian street (Rua Ferreira Borges), and was remodelled in the 16th century.
During the 11th century, the Arab conqueror Almansor reconstructed the walls surrounding Coimbra, allowing entrance to the citadel through only three gates. Today, all but one of these walls have disappeared. The Almedina Arch, which includes the Almedina Tower, is the only remaining medieval gate.
The arch consists of a tunnel and vaulted arch, with “Almedina” deriving from the Arabic word for “town”. The tunnels were strategic choke points intended to slow down any potential invaders, while the tower added another layer of defence and served as a meeting point for the municipal council.
Meetings of the council were announced by a bell at the top of the tower, which also signalled the opening and closing of the city gates. This tradition was observed until 1870. The tower once contained a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Conception, where mass was held before council meetings.
In 1835, a more suitable location for meetings was found and the tower was subsequently used for other purposes. Since 1988, it has housed the Municipal Historical Archives. Upon passing through the arch, visitors will find themselves on Rua de Cuebra Costas (Backbreak Street), aptly named for its steep and strenuous climb up to the Old Coimbra Cathedral.
Visiting Porta de Barbacã & Torre de Almedina