Pax Julia

Pax Julia, Beja Castle and the São Francisco Convent

Beja has a long history. There are prehistoric traces of human occupation, in the 49nd century BC, but the fortification of the city was made during the Roman occupation. Hence the Beja Castle was born. This was the place chosen by Julius Caesar to make peace with the Lusitanians (XNUMX AD) and this is the reason why it became known as Pax Julia. The legend of the Convent of San Francisco.

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Ancient history and Julia Pax

After this Peace Agreement, it is believed that the defense walls of the Roman Pax Julia were completed around the XNUMXrd and XNUMXth centuries.

It is believed that the walled belt that protected the urban core, integrated more than forty towers and four doors, in a circular structure.

The information that exists gives note of the struggles between Visigoths and Suevos, near Beja, in the XNUMXth Century and, also, we know of the subsequent Muslim occupation.

The primitive Roman wall was destroyed and rebuilt several times, making it difficult for archaeologists to work.

Beja Castle and the Keep, former Pax Julia
Castle of Beja

The Towering Castle of Beja

It was D. Afonso Henriques who freed the city from the occupation of the Moors in 1159, which would only last four months. Reconquered in a surprise operation, conducted by horsemen from Santarém, in December 1162.

The old Pax Julia was again attacked by a new Almohad offensive, which won back Silves and headed north, in yet another attempt to win back then Portuguese territory.

The legend says that he lost his life, in defense of Beja, the already nonagenarian and right-hand man of Afonso Henriques, Knight Gonçalo Mendes da Maia, the Lidador.

Caliph Abu Iacube Iúçufe, father of Iacube Almançor, in 1184, on his way to win back Alandaluz, besieged Santarém, under the defense of King Afonso Henriques. Yúçufe had to withdraw his troops and was mortally wounded. His death was covered up and only recognized after the arrival in Seville where his son Almançor, the new Caliph was proclaimed.

Keep of the Castle of Beja, former Pax Julia
Keep of the Castle of Beja

This Caliph of the Almohad dynasty, Iacube I Almançor (or Almançor only) became legendary. In a new foray into Portuguese territory, from Silves, he arrived in Tomar on July 5, 1190 and surrounded the Templar Castle for several days. The Templars, commanded by Gualdim Pais, resisted and won.

Tower of Menagem

The first restoration of the walls and the Castle of Beja, takes place in 1253, by D. Afonso III.

D. Dinis, continued to rebuild the walls and towers in 1307 and started the construction of the Keep in 1310.

The imposing Torre de Menagem, is forty meters high and is considered one of the most beautiful pieces of Portuguese military architecture.

Duchy of Beja

In the reign of D. Afonso V, the town was raised to a duchy, with its 1st Duke being Infante D. Fernando and later D. Manuel, the future king of Portugal. In the reign of D. Manuel I, Beja was elevated to city in 1517.

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D. Manuel I, succeeded D. João II, after his death in Alvor, in the Algarve.

The 1640 Restoration War

In the context of Restoration War it was the Castle of Beja reinforced with bastions, to better resist the possible Castilian incursions.

It was during these times that a French Regiment that supported Portugal parked in Beja. The young French officer, the noble Noel Buton in love with Sister Mariana Alcoforado, starred in a story that was immortalized in the “Cartas de Amor”.

Franciscan Convent of San Francisco

Probably built in November 1268, it was a Convent that belonged to the Order of Friars Minor.

Convent of San Francisco
Convent of San Francisco

Friars Minor, of the Order of Franciscans, are not monks but religious who live in fraternities with a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. For this reason, the places in which they live are called Convents and not Abbeys or Monasteries.

The cells of the São Francisco Convent
The cells of the São Francisco Convent

Today it is possible to have a meal in the former refectory of the Franciscan friars, currently the Pousada de Beja restaurant. The cells where the friars lived were converted into rooms and the entire environment was restored in order to maintain historical characteristics but with the comfort of modern life.

Access to the Cistern, São Francisco Convent, Beja
Access to the Cistern
Tunnel for the Cistern, Convento de São Francisco, Beja
Tunnel to the Cistern

Preserved is the water well where the friars were supplied and the tunnel that leads to a tank and that the legend says to have a connection of this Convent of São Francisco, to Conceição Convent and Beja Castle.

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