The castle of Leiria (between truth and imagination)

I should have written this post several months ago. I really should.

Editing photos from my short stay in Leiria, however, has been particularly difficult. There is, in every photo, a strange kind of light caused by the fires that were raging in the area at the time. Far enough for us to be safe, but close enough for the smoke to be pretty much everywhere.

The dramatic effect of the castle’s ruins didn’t help, either. The combo of medieval traits and trees with fallen leaves (it was October) gives the castle that look typical from the Romantic era, which so reminds of some places in SintraThe castle of Leiria was built by order of Dom Afonso Henriques, Portugal’s first king, as a defense against the armies coming from the South. After losing the castle two years later to those same forces the recent kingdom of Portugal conquered it back. The original fortress underwent several improvements, matching Leiria’s growth.

Fast foward some centuries and most castles had become obsolete. The French invasions, in the 19th century, would cause tremendous damage to Leiria, including its castle.

Later in that same century, however, Swiss architect Ernesto Korrodi elaborated a restoration project in which he tried to keep faithful to the medieval imaginary. In reality, this meant he followed architectural clues from the casle’s remains to which he added some bits and pieces from his own imagination and aesthetic taste.

The restoration works were not always peaceful. Some believed that, becase there was very little knowledge of the original structure, the ruins should just be left alone. Portuguese writer Ramalho Ortigão, for example, claimed that “all restoration is destruction”.   The works continued, however, well into the 1990’s, although Korrodi’s original view of the castle’s restoration was, at some point, abandoned.

Enjoy!

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