It happened in 1810, when Napoleon’s troops entered Almeida in the municipality of Guarda, driven to invade Portugal.
A strategic defense point in our country, Almeida was like a war machine in the period when borders were disputed – first, against the reign of León, and then against the megalomaniac Napoleon. For centuries, Almeida was exemplary in defending Portugal, so much so that stories from that time are still told to this day.
The Plaza-fort of Almeida, surrounded by the Double Gates of São Francisco da Cruz, is invariably the scene for stories of fights and battles from those times, a place that expresses Almeida’s grandeur and its responsibility in the country’s defense. The French surrounded this very Plaza-fort, which resulted in the historical explosion of the Gunpowder Ravelin that devastated a major part of the village.
Legend has it that the moment the fire from the French attack consumed the village, the people ran to the parish church to try to save the image of Nossa Senhora das Neves, the patron saint of the inhabitants of Almeida.
Meanwhile, the people prayed to the skies for it to rain, in order to put out the fire that was destroying everything in its path. And, right in the middle of August, to the delight of Almeida’s inhabitants and the Portuguese soldiers, it began to snow. A snowstorm covered Almeida’s walls and put out the fire in the parish church. From the ruins of that place, they discovered the intact image of Nossa Senhora das Neves. Today, every year in August, Almeida celebrates the Nossa Senhora das Neves party, in memory of the miracle that saved the village.
Beyond its defensive role, of the myths and legends that are told about that plaza-fort, it was also essential to urban and institutional expansion in Almeida, around which the Artillery Barracks, the Watchman’s Post, the Court, the Church, and the Hospital da Misericórdia emerged. An example of Baroque military architecture, this plaza-fort is not only the birthplace and main protagonist of Almeida’s History, but it’s even one of the more monumental plazas of the country, on the same level as the Plaza-fort of Valença and the Plaza-fort of Elvas. Thus, it’s the village’s business card and a required place to visit for us to remember who we are: Our essence, as a people, is in the plaza-fort of Almeida, a unique example of the courage and resilience of the Portuguese people.
But this is just one of the reasons to visit this village that is one of 12 historical villages of our country, where we realize that there will always be yet another story and another place to discover in our country…