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THE SHIELD OF THE REALM

 "The fortress of São Julião da Barra was designed by the Portuguese architect Miguel de Arruda. He was the son or nephew of the fort builders Francisco de Arruda, who was responsible for the construction of the Belém Tower, then known as the “Tower of St. Vincent, near Belém”, and his brother Diogo de Arruda, who built the bastion of the Ribeira Palace at about the same time. Miguel de Arruda had served as the “Master of construction works of the walls and fortresses of the Realm, Overseas and in India” since 1548 and oversaw the works on São Julião da Barra between 1552 or 1553 and 1562. The fortress was already operational by 1575 and, even though the architect died in mid-1563, everything indicates that the project he had designed and which had been approved by King João III was faithfully implemented.

From the 17th century onwards the fortress of São Julião da Barra was articulated with the small Bugio fort (then known as the St. Lawrence Tower on the sandbar at Cabeça Seca), and continued to play a pivotal role in the defence of Lisbon’s harbour until the mid-18th century. However, from then on it was somewhat sidelined owing to the need to create larger, more flexible and articulated defensive complexes. In the mid-20th century it acquired new representative functions, as the emblematic, historic and fortified seat of power. The fortress was also restored and remodelled to meet the new needs that resulted from Portugal’s entry into NATO. It was first chosen to be the official residence of senior allied officials visiting Portugal and later became the official residence of the Portuguese Minister of Defence.

São Julião da Barra is one of the most important Portuguese fortresses of the modern age and perhaps the most important fort ever to be built in mainland Portugal. However, no monographic study had been prepared until now that articulated it with the age in which it was built and later incorporated the various changes that resulted from the military practices that prevailed in subsequent periods. Thanks to modern technology, it was possible to exchange views with various specialists throughout Portugal, as well as in Spain and Italy, so as to resolve doubts and receive information.

Moreover, some archives and online technology have greatly facilitated the work of researchers nowadays. Especially worthy of note are the military archives of the Engineering Corps, which has already made its vast image archive available online, with provisions for cross-referenced searches, as well as the National Library in Lisbon, which likewise has a magnificent online database."



artigos | by Dr. Radut