Europe

A walk through Olivenza, a town on the border

Olivenza is a town in the province of Badajoz that is located on the border with Portugal. In fact, this beautiful municipality was Portuguese from 1297 to 1801. In it you will find a rich historical and cultural heritage in which the castle is the protagonist. Are you coming with us to walk through its streets?

The history of Olivenza, a border town

The history of Olivenza is marked by the continuous disputes between Spain and Portugal over their lands. Until 1297 it was part of the Crown of León. Previously, the Order of the Temple had settled there, which had created a rich encomienda. But this would entail a series of problems and envy and soon they had to hand over the lands of Olivenza to the bishopric of Badajoz.

Thus, at the end of the 13th century, a convulsive period began in the history of the Kingdom of Castile, a fact that King Dionysius I of Portugal took advantage of. This, seeing the constant disputes between Juan de Castilla and the regent queen, María de Molina, supported the first and achieved that in the Treaty of Alcañices the village of Olivenza was ceded to Portugal.

from that year Olivenza begins to grow, it is granted the title of town and its walls are built. These will be reinforced little by little, while in the 16th century their magnificent bridges are built. But soon the conflicts between Spain and Portugal would begin to redefine the border between the two.

In this way, the town would pass back to Spain in 1801, after the so-called War of the Oranges and through the Treaty of Badajoz. Since then, Olivenza has been the subject of dispute by some social groups, despite the fact that Portugal and Spain have reaffirmed their borders.

What to see in Olivenza

The castle of Olivenza and its walls

The castle or fortress is the star of the architectural heritage of this town in Extremadura, as it encompasses practically the entire historic population. And it is that Olivenza is a fortified town whose origin dates back to the 9th century and that we owe to the Order of the Temple.

However, it will be the different Portuguese kings who reinforce the site. Thus, Dionisio I walled it and in the 14th century it was fortified with imposing towers with machicolations. The tower of homage stands out with its 36 meters high. Its construction is due to King Alfonso IV of Portugal and in the fifteenth century it was reinforced thanks to the order of King Juan II.

 

Its access is the most unique and is done by means of a ramp covered by a vault. The whole complex had three monumental entrance gates: Alconchel, Los Angeles and San Sebastian, which was rebuilt in 2006.

In the fortress you can visit the González Santana Ethnographic Museum. It is a museum dedicated to showing the customs of the town, so you will find numerous objects of daily life, tools for making crafts, etc.

The picturesque streets and its other monuments

Walking through them you will find examples of both Spanish architecture and Portuguese architecture. And, in addition, you will find double signs in the streets: one with its Spanish denomination and another with its Portuguese denomination.

Walking you can find the convent of San Juan de Dios. It is a convent built between the 16th and 17th centuries. Originally it was inhabited by Poor Clare nuns and its construction was due to the generosity of a noblewoman named Leonor.

Another attraction is the church of Santa María de la Magdalena. It is an example building of the Manueline art that was developed in Portugal. Its origin dates back to the 16th century and it is a mixture of late Gothic architecture and the use of historic tile decorations typical of areas such as Lisbon or Porto.

Also we must mention the church of Santa María del Castillo, a temple built on the original church of the thirteenth century. The current one is the work of André d’Arenas and was built between 1584 and 1627. On its main altar you can see historiated tiles that reproduce the taking of Jericho and the defense of Gibeon.

Finally, you can see the bridge of Ajuda. It is a bridge built by order of the Portuguese king Manuel I in 1510 and that crosses the Guadiana river and connects Olivenza with Elvas.

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